And here we are, once again, on the cusp of the start of a new year. I love this! It feels like a clean slate, a fresh start. It's like opening a new box of crayons, and not an ordinary 8-pack. I'm talking a brand-new 64-pack with built-in sharpener. It's fresh and unspoiled, and it even smells good.
Whether you did great in 2018 or blew it altogether, the news is good. You've been granted another opportunity. And have I got a great formula for you to begin following right now — today!
RECORD YOUR SPENDING. Sounds like a silly instruction, especially if you feel overwhelmed and underdeposited. Nonetheless, if you begin keeping a written record of every expenditure, I can promise you a couple of things: You'll hesitate before making silly, impulsive purchases. You'll start taking control back once you see where all of your money goes.
GIVE BACK. I know. You're broke. You have mountains of debt, and some idiot is suggesting you give money away. And it's OK; you can call me an idiot. Giving is a mysterious, miraculous activity that when practiced will transform your life. I can't explain it. I just know that with an attitude of thankfulness for what you do have, if you give away a portion of your income in faith, you will invite God's supernatural involvement into your finances. Giving is the antidote for that wretched trend toward excess and self-indulgence.
PAY YOURSELF. Ideally, you should pay yourself 10 percent of what you earn. If you can't start with 10 percent, start with something. Even if it's a dollar a week, start saving. Even if you are heavily in debt, start saving. Saving money is a great attitude booster, so if you're discouraged and down in the dumps, start saving money!
DON'T SPEND WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE. There are only two ways to do that. 1. Steal. 2. Borrow. If too much of the latter has landed you in financial bondage, there is a way to get out. Do the following:
STOP "DEBTING." Just stop. Determine from this moment on you will not go one more dollar into debt. You may need to part with some credit cards and even shed a few tears, but you can stop. No one can force you one dollar further into debt.
REDUCE EXPENSES. If your income is less than your outgo, reduce the outgo. There's no better way to make money than to cut expenses. The results are immediate, and the proceeds are tax-free.
From this moment on, pledge to cut expenses any way you can, a little bit in every area. This way, you will see dramatic results with the least amount of discomfort.
RAPIDLY REPAY DEBT. If you continue paying your creditors according to their payment schedule, you may never get out of perma-debt. Incurring no more new debt and prepaying the principal is the key to rapid debt reduction.
SELL ASSETS. Selling assets to raise funds to get out of debt may be a wise choice for you. If you own things of value that are unnecessary in your life or could be replaced at a later date, selling them could ease your financial situation.
SEEK SOLVENCY. Solvency means being content with the money you have. Solvency is that feeling of confidence and being prepared for any circumstance, of living with joy and peace — of living beneath your means.
If you are approaching 2019 with determination to get rich quick so you can fix your current situation, I have bad news for you. Unless you are destitute and below the poverty line, more money is not going to fix anything. Until you learn how to control and care for the money you already have, more money will only exacerbate the situation because, just as you have in the past, you will see more money as the down payment on what you feel entitled to have.
There you go: a foolproof financial-fitness formula for 2019 that you can take to the bank.
So what are you waiting for? There's no time to waste.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.