The key to managing your finances so that you can sleep well at night is straightforward: earn more than you spend.
Most Americans find that hard to do. The end result is that most people have very little in savings. Last year, the Federal Reserve published the results of their most recent survey of the financial status of American households. The authors reported that forty percent of American households have less than $400 in liquid funds – meaning that they would be challenged in a financial emergency.
What kind of plan do people have? Northwestern Mutual says that 34 percent of the individuals they surveyed had no plan at all. One in five told the Consumer Federation of America that their retirement plan was to win the lottery. ING is famous for talking about a retirement “number” – but unfortunately, most people don’t have one. We are asleep at the savings wheel.
In spite of what these numbers say, most people will tell you that they are excellent savers and also that they understand how to manage their money.
The point, as I said, is to spend less and earn more. Charles Dickens made the point in David Copperfield:
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings, and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
Our incomes tend to be somewhat fixed. Hopefully, we receive a raise every year at work. The new opportunity to find a #SideHustle can help as well. But expenses can be very volatile.
Count me in the same boat as everyone else. Last month, I had a $920 car repair. Christmas is coming up, too. I know my expenses will spike in December.
Bottom line – the best solution for most people will not be to earn more, but to spend less.
To that end, I have collected some advice from various financial gurus. Here is a list that may be of some value. These are certainly not the only ideas that will make a difference. I hope that a few might make a difference, or that reading them hear will inspire you to find other ways to build a nest egg.
• Sell stuff you aren’t using anymore.
• Sign up for rewards programs at grocery stores.
• Make your own gifts – or do services for people as a gift.
• Wait 30 days before you make a big purchase
• Buy used stuff, or make your own.
• Buy staples in bulk
• Compare prices.
• No fast food.
• Use a shopping list.
• Drink water.
• Cook big portions – eat leftovers. Brown bag it.
• Make your own dressings
• Entertain at home.
• Use the library.
• No cable television, or at the very least, reduce your plan. Same with your cell phone subscription – buy a finite number of minutes.
• No magazine subscriptions.
• Peanut butter is your friend. Beans and rice are also your friends.
• Turn off the lights. Install energy-efficient light bulbs (get them for free).
• Turn off your television
• Cut your hair yourself.
• Learn how to make your own cleaning supplies.
• Live in a smaller apartment
• Change your air filter.
• Inflate your tires.
• Use public transportation if possible.
• Drive efficiently.
• Don’t drive through shopping areas.
• No gym memberships. However, do exercise because you will feel better.
• Don’t smoke!
• Safety razors – replace them rather than buying a new razor.
• Wash your hands
We know what happens when people do not save enough: they do not retire. For the first time in history, the majority of Americans think they will have to work past age 65. The most common reason is not that they want to work, either. Almost three in four plan to work because their financial situation requires them to continue to earn a living.
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