Is money a little tight? Hoping a raise will come through soon? I hate to burst your bubble, but even if the raise is exceptional, it probably won't do much good.
By the time a raise is adjusted for taxes, you'll be lucky to see half of it in your bank account. And if that's not bad enough, nearly everyone who earns more automatically spends more. Reckless spending can consume a lot of cash, fast.
The degree of reckless spending seems to rise in direct proportion to income. It won't be long before you are back in your old financial rut just barely getting by. Sadly, until you get serious about your spending, more money will never be enough.
The secret to getting cash inflow to exceed outflow is to reduce the outflow. That is a solution available to almost everyone.
Cutting expenses is not at all difficult once you understand it is like giving yourself a tax-free raise. Every dollar you do not spend is another dollar in your wallet. Or bank account.
The challenge is to find realistic yet painless ways to trim spending without creating drudgery or removing the fun from your life.
Even if you do not have a job, you can give yourself a raise.
LIVE WITH CASH
Except for payments you must send through the mail, living with cash is a good way to curb mindless spending. It is not easy. In fact, it's hard. But if you are willing to teach your brain and your attitude to treat this move as you would a job, it will become a very useful challenge.
Surveys indicate cash customers are more mindful of what they're doing and therefore spend a lot less than those paying with plastic.
LIMIT ATM TRIPS TO WEEKLY
Frequent trips to the ATM and or frequent swipes of that debit card tied to your bank account are like a small hole in the bottom of a boat. That constant leak can quickly lead to capsizing. Plug the leak by developing an envelope system for areas that can get out of control like entertainment and fast food.
Place the amount you have allotted into an envelope, and label it accordingly. As you go to lunch or a movie, take the money from the corresponding envelope. When it's empty, that means no more spending until the next fill-up.
Hint: A $100 bill stashed in your wallet will give you an uncanny sense of security and willingness to leave the plastic and checkbook at home. Chances are great you will do just about anything to not break that C-note for some impulsive purchase like fries and a Coke.
Unless you have a specific need and the money to pay for it, don't wander aimlessly through the mall or surf the internet just to see what looks good. Remember this: A true need is never discovered while in a store. It is realized during normal, everyday living.
Hint: As you identify a need, write it on your "To Buy" list for your next planned purchasing trip.
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Have you taken a look in your pantry and freezer lately? You may be surprised to see just how much food you have that is already paid for. Use it up before you make another trip to the supermarket.
Before you buy anything new, you should stop long enough to ask yourself this question: Do I already have something that will do just as well for now?
You'll be surprised how many times the answer is yes.
MAKE IT AUTOMATIC
There is a solid principle of life that says if you don't see it, you won't miss it. Use that principle to your advantage in building a nest egg. Fill out an automatic-deposit authorization form at your bank to automatically move $25 or $50 each week or two from your checking account into your savings.
You might feel the pinch the first or second time that money disappears from your available balance, but soon you will not notice.
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.