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Think about what you’ll have to show for it if you start saving for retirement now and … Read the rest of this entry »
Does your employer have a 401K or 403(b) retirement savings plan with a company match? If so, read on to find about the FREE money you may be missing. Read the rest of this entry »
When you’re in the planning mode, be sure to think about the things that could keep you from reaching your goal and what you can do to head off those problems.
If you decided to save money by taking your lunch to work one day a week, you might forget to make it the night before or forget to get it out of the refrigerator when you’re leaving the house. With the automation available today, this kind of problem can easily be avoided.
First, plan to take your lunch on the same day every week. Monday is a good choice because you can make your lunch after dinner on Sunday night. Next, put a repeating note on your electronic calendar to pack your lunch every Sunday night at 7 pm. Put another repeating note on your electronic calendar for 7:00 am each Monday to get your lunch out of the refrigerator before you leave home. Be sure and set the electronic reminder for each note so you will receive an email or an SMS message on your phone when it is time for you to make or get your lunch. Once you’ve set these electronic reminders, you can forget about your lunch project until you receive the automatic reminders.
Now, suppose you have decided to call your cellphone company and your cable company to switch to lower cost plans. How do you make sure you don’t forget to do these things? The answer is to “make an appointment with yourself” to call these companies. You can do this by putting the appointment on your electronic calendar along with an electronic alert that will remind you about the appointment 15 minutes ahead of time. Save yourself some time by including in your calendar note the phone numbers of the companies you need to call and the account numbers and other information you will need to make the calls go quickly and smoothly.
One of the most powerful things you can do to keep your savings plan on track is to have your bank automatically transfer a certain amount of money from your checking account to your savings account each week. This is easy to do online if you have both accounts in the same bank. But, it’s not that hard to do the same thing when the accounts are in two different banks and I will explain that in a future post. The key point is to have a plan that will keep you from forgetting to make regular deposits to your savings account. A very good solution is to set up an automatic deposit and then forget it.
The planning process gives you a chance to think about things you could do to reach your goal. Continuing with the emergency fund example, if your weekly grocery bill is $100, you could plan to cut that bill by 10% or $10 a week using tips like those described in the following post: http://wp.me/p1gAhb-4m. If you normally buy your lunch, you could probably save at least $10 a week by making your lunch at home and taking it with you to work one day a week. (Dinner leftovers make great lunches a day or two later.) At this point, you have a plan that will get you halfway to your savings goal of $42 per week . You can close the gap by another $10 per week by planning to switch your cellphone or smartphone to a lower cost plan. Most people are paying $12 a week more than should be because they are paying for more minutes than they are using. Source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-20055380-94.html. Now, you’re just $10 a week away from your savings goal of $42 per week. You can close this last little distance by planning to switch to a lower cost cable TV package — e.g., by cutting one or more of the premium channel you don’t use very much. Here are some more tips for reducing your cable TV bill: http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/family-money/how-to-cut-your-cable-bill-now/.
At the beginning of the planning process, you should set a goal for yourself and start thinking about the steps you can take to reach your goal. If the goal is too big (e.g., become a millionaire) or too hazy (e.g., get rich quick), you will figure it out very quickly because it will be hard for you to come up with actions you can take to get there or the necessary actions will be very difficult and very scary. This will force you to select a very specific goal (e.g., create a $2,000 emergency fund in 12 months) which can be achieved with a series of small changes in your life (e.g., saving $42 per week for next 12 months). This simple exercise will dramatically increase your chances of success by giving you a clear and reasonable goal that can be reached in a series of small steps.
When you’re in the mood to work on your personal finances, it is tempting to just dive in and start swimming. Doing something … anything … gives us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment even if we aren’t getting anywhere or we’re going somewhere that doesn’t matter. This is an example of mistaking “motion” for “movement.” If you want to make real progress with your finances, you need to plan before you act and make planning a regular part of your routine. You also need to give yourself a pat on the back for making a plan because having one is a very important steps on the road to financial security. Stay tuned for future posts describing the great things a plan will do for you.