How small financial changes could make a big difference

Small Financial Changes

by Gary Foreman

In 2016 the presidential election demonstrated how small changes can have a big impact. It's reported that just a few hundred thousand votes in a couple of swing states would have turned the election and made a significant difference in the direction the country.

The same is true of your finances. Small changes in your daily habits could have a major impact on your financial future. And, unlike politics that can change direction quickly, once these habits are in place, the results are all but guaranteed because they're based on the facts of life and mathematics.

First, here's a fact of life. People who lend money charge interest. If I loan you $100 for a year, I expect to get more than $100 back. Perhaps, it'll only be a dollar or two. The interest might not seem like much, but it becomes more important because of the mathematics rule.

That rule has to do with cumulative nature of math. It says that small amounts add up over time. There's no rocket science involved, but it is profound. The greater the time, the greater the cumulative effect.

Let's create two examples to prove our point. We'll suppose that you borrowed $1000 on your credit card and continued to carry that exact balance.

We'll also assume that you pay 15 percent interest (just a bit above the current average rate of 14.58). Since you're not repaying the principal, you'll be paying $150 each year in interest. In just ten years, you will have paid $1500 in interest. If you borrowed the money when you were 30 and didn't pay it back until you were 60, it would cost you $4500 over those years. That's four and a half times what you borrowed. Whew!

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Our second example will look at the opposite side of the coin. What happens if you had $1000 to invest? We'll assume that you earn a steady 8 percent per year on the investment. That's less than the historic average going all the way back to 1928.

That $1000 investment will be worth $2159 in ten years and $10,063 in 30 years without any additional money or work on your part. That's quite a big difference. Instead of working hard to earn and pay $4500, you can relax and collect $10,063. That's a swing of nearly $15,000!

This raises an obvious question. If you're $1000 in debt, where will you get the money to pay off the debt and make a $1000 investment?

Start saving for your future today. Consider these 11 ways to save $1000 while living paycheck to paycheck.

This is where the little change comes in. Saving just $2.75 a day or $19.25 a week will produce $2000 in two years. That's an amount that most of us can find in our daily expenses. Think of losing a latte a day or making a change in your daily lunch habits.

Suppose you've already cut everything but the essentials out of your budget. Consider taking a part-time job until you manage to save $2000. Even a minimum wage job will pay that in a fairly short time.

You may think that your financial station in life is fixed. You're broke now and always will be. That's not true. Little things can make a big difference over time.

Reviewed December 2017

Take the Next Step

  • Make sure you know the Rule of 72. If you're not careful, it could easily double your debt.
  • Don't miss these 10 things you need to know about compound interest.
  • Start saving for your future today. Consider these 11 ways to save $1000 while living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!
Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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