I have a quirk, a kind of brain glitch that annoys me to no end. I cannot easily distinguish left from right. My brain locks up and gives me that infamous "404 Page Not Found" message.
Of course, I blame this on Mrs. Sailor. It goes back to that day in first grade when she called on me to answer a simple "left or right?" question. I froze. I did not know the answer.
This was not good for a child who feared punishment for even the slightest infraction. Worse still, I didn't know how I would ever figure it out. No one else in the class had a problem with left and right.
My 6-year-old self concluded that the class had learned left from right on a day I was home sick, and Mrs. Sailor forgot to get me caught up when I returned. I would go 35 years attributing my problem to a missed lesson. Imagine my relief the day I learned the whys and wherefores of my personal struggle. I have directional dyslexia, a type of learning disability that can be treated quite successfully with a series of simple exercises.
If I'd only had the courage to say I didn't understand and to ask for help back then, I might have spared myself a lot of grief.
Perhaps you feel this way when it comes to managing your money. It can't be that difficult because everyone around you seems to handle their money just fine. It's as if you were out sick the day everyone else learned the rules of personal finance.
I have just the relief you need: seven simple rules of personal finance to live by. If you will take them to heart, make them your own and exercise them daily, I promise they will make things better. You will save yourself a lot of grief and be empowered to take control of your personal economy.
Spend less than you earn. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? But the truth is that it's as logical as it is misunderstood. Many people miss it. Without this first rule, you cannot master the next six.
Save for the future. Always save part of your paycheck and all other money that comes into your possession. Do it as if your life depends on it. It may.
Give some away. Greed is your enemy; it will ruin your life. Giving is the antidote. Even though you don't have it all, you have enough. Giving some of what you have to someone who has even less is the way you prove it.
Anticipate your irregular expenses. Just because your car's tires are holding air and getting you around town doesn't mean they'll be that way six months from now. Anticipate. Start setting aside a little every week to replace them. Now apply that to every irregular expense you know is coming down the pike.
Tell your money where to go. Give every dollar that comes into your life a job to do before you allow yourself to spend it. Then, make sure those dollars do as they've been told. That's called a budget. You need one.
Manage your credit. Like it or not, you live in a society that rewards those who are creditworthy and punishes those who are not. You need to know how to improve and protect your credit score so that it remains high.
Borrow only what you know you can repay. The only safe way to borrow money is to have a means to pay off the debt in reserve. That pretty much rules out unsecured debt. If you have it — pay it off as quickly as possible.
Want to learn more about these seven simple rules? Read my book "7 Money Rules for Life: How to Take Control of Your Financial Future," now in paperback. You can get it at your local bookstore or online.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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