Knowing the Limitations of Using Your Credit to Leverage Your Finances

It is a common custom for Americans to resort to credit when we are in need financially. However, we still are running out of money. This is because most people don’t understand all of the limitations associated with credit and the credit system.

Because the credit system allows most people to make purchases when they don’t have cash, people tend to spend more money than what they can afford. This results in a whole bunch of debt and very little money to pay for it. Even though most banks strictly enforce their credit limits, a lot of people seem to slip by them. And, with the over the credit limit fees, you can be sure that someone who is at or near the credit limit, when coupled with interest, be sure to incur extra fees on top of their purchases.

You need to be aware of all of your limitations when you use credit because using credit will affect not only your debt, but your credit score. And, a credit score is very vital in making sure that you are successful financially. Most people still remain ignorant to this fact.

There are many types of credit scores. But, the basis of them remained the same. Credit scores only show your credit worthiness as it relates to borrowing money and handling your finances. When coupled with your credit report, your credit score has just about all information on you about your past credit experiences: your payment histories, how long you’ve had each account, how many times you’ve been late on certain accounts, etc.

When lenders look at your credit score, they actually make determinations based upon comparing your credit history and payment experiences with other borrowers that have similarities. Each time you have certain factors that are above average your credit score is given points. When these factors are below average points are subtracted. At the end, these points are added up to give the lender a brief synopsis on how well your credit history is. Usually, your credit score is a three digit number ranging from 352 850.

In order to maintain a good credit score, it will take hard work. That is why it is very important to know your limitations upfront so that you can avoid any type of complications in the future. Also note that you are bound by the terms in your contracts, whether they be installment loans or credit cards. Look at the limitations and determined how accepting the terms of this credit will affect your overall credit score.

Simple Ideas that Will Improve Your Finances

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” (Source: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki) When you find yourself repeatedly overspending and not able to pay off credit card debt at the end of the month, put the credit card away and stop spending. You must change your spending habits.

“It’s your money!” (Source: ABC Nightly News) Yes, it is your money. You should be in charge and not let anyone else tell you what to do with your money. You can listen to advice, but you must make the final decisions.

“Never buy a financial product recommended by someone who makes a commission on the sale.” (Source: the Money Coach) A financial advisor should provide unbiased advice; when the advisor works for a commission, the advice could be unfair.

“If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.” (Source: Fed Chief Bernanke used this term to describe growing federal deficits.) This also applies to those who spend more than they make each month. Don’t deceive yourself that you can continue doing the wrong thing, and the problem will go away by itself.

“Things will cost more in the future.” (Source: the Money Coach) I rarely make financial predictions, but I am pretty sure that this one will come true. A very simple example is the first class stamp. When I first started collecting stamps, it cost 5 cents to mail a letter. Buy “forever” stamps now if you plan to mail anything in the future.

“When you are educated, it’s harder for people to take advantage of you.” (Source: The Best American Travel Writing 2004, story “Faces in a Crowd”) The more you learn about family finances and investing, the better off you will be.

“Stop, Look, and Listen” (Source: Beardstown Ladies) Before you buy something, think “do I really need this?” and “can I afford to buy it?” Look before you leap – find out as much about the product as possible. Listen to yourself; you know best what you should be spending your money on.

“A winner does more than the job requires. A loser says, I only work here.” (Source: Attached to a bulletin board in an American Express Office from No Kids, No Money and a Chevy by Chuck Mansfield.) Do more than your neighbor or your co-worker when it comes to managing your money. Go the extra mile.

“Don’t worry about the economy.” (Source: Warren Buffet) Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Worry about your own budget; don’t worry about the world economy. Do the best you can in whatever economic circumstances you find yourself in.

“Look both ways before you cross the street.” (Source: your Mom) Be careful when investing; there are a lot of reckless products and clueless salesmen out there.

How a Woman Can Maintain Her Finances After a Divorce

Sometimes, we don’t even think far enough in the future or even consider things like a divorce affecting our livelihood. Now that we are faced with this situation, we feel alone and out of order. After all, you and your spouse were each responsible for specific responsibilities. Now you find yourself doing them all alone. How can a woman survive such a dramatic change in her life?

First of all, you’ll want to take control of your emotions. You must believe that you have the ability to make right choices and lead a happy life, because you do. Reality is that you control your emotions by what you think about.

You can view this situation as negative and positive. Of course, the negative part of the situation may be that your marriage has ended, but the positive part is that you may now take control of your finances.

The second thing you want to do is make a list of all of your current assets and liabilities. If you are planning to receive more money after the divorce proceeding, you can calculate that amount in later. At this point, you just need to have a clear view of what you have in your possession right now.

Once you’ve reviewed your assets. You’ll begin to create budget for yourself. It’s not as difficult as many would have you believe.

Just write down you total income for the month.

Next, write down separate amounts of all your monthly bills. For example, you would make a list which would include different headings such as rent, light bill, phone bill, etc. you should also include a topic to put into a savings account that you will contribute to once a month.

Once you’ve done this, subtract your total amount of monthly bills and savings from your monthly income.

The remaining amount you should subtract food, miscellaneous spending, which is money to spend on an unexpected event, like a birthday or craving for a specific food, or a spontaneous night on the town. Money should be used to supply your daily needs and to have some fun with every now and then.

Your Monthly Review may look like this:

Total income for the month – $1500.00

Rent – $750.00

Light bill $60.00

Phone Bill $75.00

Car payment $200.00

Savings $50.00

Total – $1135.00

Then subtract the total $1135.00 from the total income, $1500.00.

You have $365.00 left for groceries and your miscellaneous spending. You’ll want to put at least $100.00 a month in an envelope for emergencies that may come up unexpectedly.

If you find that you have a substantial amount left over after you completed your monthly review, you may want to put it in a Roth Ira or talk to a clerk at a bank to find out what other options you may have available to you.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take charge of your situation. If you don’t feel comfortable about making a quick decision at a bank, ask to take some paperwork home to read it at your own pace and call them from home with your inquiries.

If you find that you are coming up short every month. You may want to get a job or use your skill or talent (everyone has one), which will allow you to earn more money every month. You could baby-sit for the neighborhood children, style hair or give manicures for a small fee. Whatever your talent, it can be used to get wealth. If you’re unsure what your talent is, feel free to ask a friend what they think you are good at, they’ve probably already noticed it.

Above all, don’t fret. You are not the first person that has faced this situation. Remember that many others exactly like you have faced this situation and have overcome.

It has always been beneficial for an individual to take control of their finances whether they are married or not. It affords them the ability to organize their money and their well-being.

Realize that you are a wonderful person with talents and abilities. If a person does not want to be with you or around you, it’s their loss. Never forget that.

Refinance Homes: It Should Be Approached with Caution

There are many companies that can be readily found which offer great rates in order to refinance homes. Whether you are in need of money for a major upcoming expense or are seeking to make significant home improvements or simply want to pay off your high interest credit card debt, refinancing your mortgage might be an option worth considering. If this is something you are considering be sure that you shop around, study your options, and find the best possible overall situation for your personal and financial needs.

For the average person, a home is the single largest investment he or she will make during the course of his or her lifetime. As such, the decision to refinance and place your home in further or prolonged risk should not be taken lightly. There are many things you should consider before deciding to refinance your home. The first and possibly most important thing is whether or not there are other options that might require less personal and financial risk?

No one really likes to hear the word sacrifice, but in order to avoid the financial risks involved for those who refinance their homes. If giving up Starbuck’s, taking the lesser cable package, and resorting to dial up for a while will help you get your finances back on track those are far superior options than choosing refinance your home loan.

Some other things to keep in mind when considering whether or not to refinance home loans is whether or not you are willing to go through the process of application fees, points, closing costs, and private mortgage insurance all over again? Also are you willing to give up the equity in your home and the security that equity provides? Another thing to keep in mind when considering refinancing your home is that your interest rate will probably be a bit higher on your second mortgage than on your original loan. This means that you will pay considerably more money over time.

There are however times when refinancing homes is a great option. One time when this is a perfectly wonderful idea is when you refinance your home in order to pay off your high interest credit cards. Of course, this is only effective if you “go forth and sin no more” as the saying goes. If you pay off your high interest credit cards only to go out and spend madly, you’ve defeated the purpose and no longer have the equity in your home for security.

Another time when refinancing homes is a wise decision is on one of those rare occasions when the average interest rate is lower than your current interest rate, or when your adjustable rate honeymoon is about to be over and you would be wise to find a fixed rate mortgage rather than paying the adjusted interest rate, which could be much higher. The important thing is that you find a lender that you can build a rapport with and that is willing to not only discuss your long and short term financial goals as a result of the refinance of your home, but also willing to work with you in order to make sure you have the foundation to achieve those goals.

Very Easy Ways to Earn Supplemental Income

The current state of the economy is looking grimmer and grimmer by the day. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck – and even more alarming – unemployment check to unemployment check. If you are one of the many American’s struggling right now due to the economy, there are ways to increase your income.

  1. Get a part-time job. If you are working 9-5 now, consider taking on another job. Waiting tables at a restaurant is an excellent and fast way to earn some extra cash. The job can be difficult at times, but the money is well worth it on a busy Saturday night.
  2. Sell your stuff. Ebay and Amazon.com are great online marketplaces to sell things you don’t use or need anymore. Their websites get a high amount of online traffic, so your listed items will most likely be noticed by potential buyers.
  3. Write online articles. Websites like Helium.com and AssociatedContent.com pay writers of all levels for articles on various topics. While the pay may not be enough to cover the monthly mortgage, it can certainly pay for a week’s worth of gas for your car.
  4. Consider temping. If you are jobless, this can be especially beneficial to you. There are numerous temping and staffing agencies across the country that place individuals with companies. Skill-sets of any kind are usually welcome. I went through a temp agency and was placed with a company that same week. A few months later, I was hired as a permanent employee by that company and now receive great benefits!

Try to avoid using credit cards to save money. Many people rack up debt by putting small purchases such as groceries and gas on their credit cards. This could be detrimental to your finances.

Do try to save money when you can. Avoid shopping excursions, dining out, and getting takeout for lunch.

Your Personal Finances and “The Broken Window” Theory

Managing my family’s finances and investment portfolio, I enjoy applying abstract economic theories to everyday decision-making. I came across renowned economist, Henry Hazlitt, twenty years ago. In his seminal book, Economics in One Lesson, he lays out a theory that I encounter in my personal finances every day.

The Broken Window Theory looks at every economic transaction in three steps instead of two. There’s the seller and the buyer, of course, engaging in trade. But there is also the third person, the one who wasn’t there, the trader whose goods the buyer didn’t buy because he bought something else.

In my personal finances I make buying decisions every day. Will I buy organic milk or regular milk? Apples or oranges? Meat or chicken? I make these financial decisions because I need these products and because I have a limited amount of money to spend on food. Every time I buy organic milk, the regular milk vendor loses a potential sale.

In a free market environment, The Broken Window theory is even more interesting because competition offers you a range of vendors and products to choose from in the same field. In that case, The Broken Window Theory relates both to the item you buy and the person you buy it from.

The Broken Window theory becomes even more relevant to your personal finances when you consider financial decisions that are forced on you. To use Hazlitt’s example, if someone throws a rock through your window and breaks it, you find yourself suddenly forced to spend money on a new window. You gain nothing that you didn’t already have, and yet you spend money in the transaction. If the window hadn’t been broken, you might have bought a new coat or gone out to dinner instead.

In my personal finances I come across the Broken Window theory in several ways. When I make a bad financial decision, for example buy a beautiful dress even though I have several in the closet, I end up with less money to spend on the things I truly need.

If I buy the dress on a credit card because I don’t really have the money anyway, I not only wipe out the potential for buying something useful, but I commit my future earnings to paying off both the dress and the interest on the loan.

Thinking of my financial decisions with the three-layered perspective of The Broken Window theory keeps me from getting tempted to buy things I shouldn’t. This is especially helpful when I see items on sale, which increases the temptation to buy even more.

The Broken Window theory also applies to my personal income. My salary takes me a fixed number of hours to earn. I could be spending these hours doing something else. This leads me to question whether my lifestyle is too expensive, whether earning the livelihood I need is consuming too much of my free time.

In short, The Broken Window theory keeps me on my toes when it comes to my personal finances. That something else, the unidentified commodity that I lose when I choose one path over another, always reminds me that every decision wipes out a slew of alternative options. I have to make sure that I don’t break windows in my life. In other words, that I don’t end up spending my limited resources on things I already have and don’t really need.

 

College Financing: Budgeting Without Boredom

Truth #1: College is meant to be fun! Truth #2: Too much fun can totally ruin your finances! Fortunately, there are several ways for you to preserve your finances without limiting your fun to the point that college becomes a bore! Here’s a look at some great ways to manage your money, and have fun at the same time!

  1. Know Your Funding

The first major way you’ll save money in college is by knowing what money you have to begin with. A lot of college students use their Work Study positions as a personal Entertainment Fund. That’s all well and good if all your college expenses– from tuition to the outfits you’ll need big presentations– are already paid for. But there’s nothing worse than spending all your cash on fun and games, only to have a professor spring a new required reading or class trip you now don’t have the money for. Figure out how much of your earned money, and savings, you can put towards paying off any outstanding school balances, if it’s worth it to use your job payment that way (which it almost always is, even if you’re not making hundreds), and what you can stand to put to more personal use, like checking out that new Blockbuster your friends want to see this weekend!

  1. Set an Allowance

A great way to keep yourself from spending more than you can afford to in college is to set an allowance. Whether it’s setting aside just twenty dollars for a weekly entertainment and recreation fund, or splitting your paycheck in half to pay for necessities and luxuries, figure out how much you can allow yourself to spend without putting yourself in the hole. It may sound weird to set an allowance for yourself, but even some major banks are starting special programs for college students that only allow account users to charge certain amounts to their accounts. Setting your boundaries yourself helps you both keep track of your money, pick and choose what you really want to spend it on, and make sure you’re not spending more than you can really afford to. And don’t cut yourself too much slack; if you overspend your allowance one week or month, cut back on your allowance the next time! It might help to have a trusted friend keep you accountable by reminding you you’re on a “fixed income” when you’re talking about going out to dinner again!

  1. Learn to Say No

When I was in college, friends were constantly suggesting day trips, dinner outings, and other fun activities I just couldn’t afford. Unfortunately, I had not mastered the art of saying “No” to them; on several occasions I spent money I knew could have been put to better use on trips that were fun but costly. Learning to say no to your friends, and yourself, helps you to keep from spending more than you should just because you can. Friends will always want to spend time with you, and may not think about the fact that you’re pressed for cash if they can afford to do whatever it is they’re suggesting! On some occasions that I said no to activities, some friends mistook my inability to afford those activities for an unwillingness to hang out with them. Though it’s not your job to explain to your friends that you either don’t have the money to do certain things or are trying to put your money to better use, it’s also good to let them know that as much as you like hanging out with them you like taking care of your finances a lot, too!

  1. Pick the Right Meal Plan

This suggestion seems a little out of place in the midst of the rest, but trust me when I say picking the wrong meal plan can be costly when it comes to paying the college bill. Let’s say you have one meal plan that’s $2000 for unlimited access to the cafeteria and includes $100 flexible spending dollars for meals in other on-campus restaurants or cafes; you have another meal plan for $1500 that offers just 10 meals a week in the cafeteria and $600 in flexible spending. If you’re a student who always has time for a meal in the cafeteria, the first meal plan is a better deal because you get all the meals you want in the cafeteria with a little money on the side you can use for movie night snacks or the occasional quick snack between classes. If, on the other hand, you’re never around during the cafeteria’s meal hours (many have set hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), the second plan is better for you because with the first plan you’d wind up with more meals than you’d ever use and no way to eat! Look at your class schedule to see when you can eat, and compare that to the times different places on campus are open for you to eat. Check your work schedule, too. You’d be amazed at how much you can shave off a tuition bill by picking a cheaper meal plan without starving yourself! And make sure you use your meal plan; if you opt for a plan that offers unlimited meals in the cafeteria, don’t let friends convince you to eat off-campus every other night!

  1. Living Expenses -vs- Livin’ Expenses

This is basically to say: know the difference between what you want and what you need. Sure, that new iPod might be really cool, and can hold your entire three week collection of music. But is it really more important than getting the supplies you’ll need for your Chemistry and Computer Science classes? Probably not. Don’t waste money on things you want when there are plenty of things you need to spend your money on! That includes trips to amusement parks that could have been trips to the museum to research for your Art History class, or renting that multi-disc classic version of Pride and Prejudice starring your future husband Colin Firth when you could have been watching the version of Romeo and Juliet your professor recommended as a great external resource for your English class.

  1. Find it for Less

What applies for buying clothes in college applies for buying just about anything else. Learn to search for the best bargains on everything you buy, from dorm decorations to appliances. Make sure you’re buying the things you really need. Is that flat screen television a necessity? Could you get away with using your parents’ spare floor lamp instead of buying a new one? Many of the common dorm necessities you’ll need can be found at thrift shops; just make sure the things you buy work before you get them home! Check out online sites that offer discounted prices, item swaps, et cetera. Does your campus have any public billboards where students and organizations post flyers? These will often be filled with advertisements from students looking to unload some unwanted goods. Check these out during the first week of school (when many students realize they’ve packed too much and can’t keep it all), at the end of the semester (when students will unload their books, class supplies, and other items), around the week students will receive notification of their acceptance to a study abroad semester (that’s usually between the last week of one semester and the start of the next), and at the end of the year (when many students want to get rid of anything from unwanted books to refrigerators and televisions they can’t take home). Trust me when I say that those campus billboards are your friends; people advertise everything from clothing-swaps to CD and DVD sales. Every once in a while when I was in college, I’d see an advertisement for the sale of a used car when a student either received a new one or had no more use for it. You’ll find just about everything you could ever want advertised on those boards.

  1. Limit Your Address Book

Lots of college students fill their cellphone address books with contact information for just about everyone they’ve ever met. This leads to the temptation to send text messages to just about everyone you’ve ever met. Limit unnecessary spending like text messages to people you really need to get those messages to. Usually the same information students will send via text message could have been sent in an email, by way of another friend, or the classic sticky-note-to-door maneuver. Take advantage of the free services your campus offers: free calls to different dorm room extensions, email, etc. Instead of running up your cellphone bill, use these resources to save yourself some extra money during the semester. Let friends know the times you can be reached on your dorm room phone verses your cellphone. If you have free nights and weekends, try to limit your talk time to then. Save up your minutes for that long distance call to your parents every weekend. Let friends know if they’re sending you too many messages that you’re paying for. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries concerning when people can call and/or message you. Even if you’re only paying a few cents per text message, believe me, after a while those nickels and dimes can really start to stack up against you. Limit your messages to important things. (In other words, no, “I see u!” texts from across the room in the library.)

  1. Thrift is the New Black

Isn’t it great when college savings and fashion align? Well in the case of thrift shopping, we’ve stumbled upon a dream come true! On colleges across the United States, thrift is officially the new black. It’s cool to buy used. I can’t count the number of times I heard the following exchange on my college campus: “I’m headed to Sal Val [Salvation Army].”/ “Oh, can I come?!” College students are quickly becoming the prized possessions of Good Will and Salvation Army workers across the nation! If you just have to get a new shirt or pair of jeans, trying buying a used pair from the thrift store before you fork over some hundred dollars to a place like Urban Outfitters to simulate that used, worn-out look!

  1. Beat the Books

I once had a college professor muse, “You know, if you were really smart, and really wanted to save money on your text books, you could just check the book out of the library before we start using it. The check-out period lasts for longer than we’re even going to be using the book!” That is so true it isn’t even funny! This clearly doesn’t work for all your classes, but it doesn’t hurt to check. Find out if the library on campus, or a library close by off-campus, has any of the books you need for classes. Plan ahead so you can check those books out of the library before your class starts studying them, and you’ll save potentially hundreds of dollars on books! Another way to beat the bookstore is to find friends or fellow classmates who have the same class with the same professor at a different time, even if it’s only five minutes apart. Split the cost of your books with people taking the same class at a different time (note: it’s important to be sure you’ll actually be using the same books). You can debate who gets to keep them later; for now, you’ve cut back majorly on the cost of your text books!

  1. “Let Us Entertain You”

Lots of college campuses campaign for your attention on the weekends; try opening your eyes and seeing what they’re offering before you go gallivanting off-campus! Many colleges have dollar or $2 movies, sports events, free dances, and even free concerts. Colleges host these events over weekends and even during the week. And it’s all usually dirt cheap! At my college, the Student Activity Board brought in some amazing performers like Rosie Thomas, Regina Spektor, and Nickel Creek for anywhere from $15 to free admission. Most of the things you’d like to go off-campus to do can be done on campus for next to nothing. Instead of running to Blockbuster to rent movies for the weekend, check if the campus library has a copy of the film you’re interested in. Why pay to go to a sports emporium when you’ve got a baseball field, tennis and basketball court, track, and more right there on campus? Find things to do on campus instead of leaving the campus and increasing your chances of spending money on things you don’t need.

Refinanced Your Home Lately? Be Prepared for the Unexpected!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you’re heard that home mortgage rates are at all-time lows. But unless you’ve recently refinanced, what you may not have heard is that the process can be nothing short of a nightmare-for you and your Loan Officer. That’s right-money may be cheap these days, but ‘easy’ it is not.

Let’s start with the obvious, your home’s value. Gone are the days of the “Do you have a pulse and can you fog a mirror?” loans, where stated values were used. And back in the ‘old days’ when lenders did require a licensed 3rd party appraiser to inspect and photograph your home inside and out and analyze a multitude of data to determine the price your home would fetch in an open and competitive market–the appraiser’s opinion of value was generally accepted, with few questions asked.

But no more! With the housing market crash, no matter how much an appraiser justifies value, chances are it’s not going to be accepted. In a lender’s foreclosure, it’s this always changing difference between your home’s value and what you owe that can literally ‘break their bank’.

Whether it’s before your loan closes or after you default and your lender forecloses, they want to make sure your home can be sold for enough money to pay off your mortgage balance and all associated costs they’ll incur in getting rid of your home-which costs, according to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress-can average a whopping $77,935!

THIS is why your home’s value is critical -can your equity absorb your lender’s cost to foreclose? And the nightmare in today’s market? No one can figure that out! It’s like trying to appraise a pile of crumbling rock during earthquake after-tremors. Lenders need more valuation proof. They want more “comparables”-recent sales of nearby homes like yours-as many as 5 and 6 rather than what used to be the standard 3. And if you’re watching “For Sale” and “Foreclosure” signs proliferate in your neighborhood for months on end, then you’re right in thinking appraisers must be having a difficult time finding 3 cookie-cutter open and competitive market sales.

Lenders also want more neighborhood data like foreclosure and short-sale trends in the ‘hood’. They want more ‘desk reviews’ (that’s when an appraiser in NY City sits at a ‘desk’ and reviews a local South Carolina appraiser’s opinion of value on a quaint little country home in the Low Country), and more “AVM’s”, an automated valuation model using scientific measures and computer decision logic, versus a human’s inclination and actual details of the home or transaction.

Here’s a real example of a recent refinance my Loan Officer colleague had to deal with:

His borrower was refinancing to a lower rate where the first appraisal came in at $287,000. The homeowner knew his home’s value was low-balled. So another appraisal was ordered, which came in at $345,000. That’s a big $58,000 difference, his equity. Next, the lender ordered the “AVM”, which is like selecting a spouse from an on-line dating site based on nothing but physical stats. And what happens? Well, of course, the “AVM” result was that it can’t support the $345,000 value. Next came the dreaded desk review, performed by an appraiser who wasn’t familiar with local market conditions and who didn’t physically inspect the property, neighborhood or comps. So naturally, the desk reviewer (who’s also covering his ‘backside’) goes conservative at $284,000. And which figure did the lender use? $312,000. Are you scratching your head yet? And, you want to hear the worst part? The cost for determining value is the borrower’s responsibility. In this particular case, what should have been a $400 appraisal cost ended up being over $1,100!

To summarize, if you’re thinking about refinancing, brace yourself. Yes, take advantage of today’s low rates if you can, but be prepared in today’s market that if you ask 5 experts what your home is worth, chances are, you’ll get 5 very different opinions.

How I Stopped Fretting About Finances and Learned to Manage My Money

Growing up in my family home taught me a lot about living frugally. I have early childhood memories of the abundance of food our family enjoyed. All of this food largely came from my family’s farm. I remember the rows and rows of potato plants rising up from mounds of newly tilled soil. Tomato plants, green peas, cucumbers, onions, squash, there were so many delicious foods that came from my families garden every year. My parents didn’t seem to worry about financial success when they had all this abundance of nature’s bounty around them.

My father contributed to our family’s finances on a daily basis by doing a variety of home maintenance and car repairs. He chose to do this himself rather than pay someone else to do this work. My Mother sewed many of our clothes. Growing up in my family should have prepared me for many skills to live frugally. I had to wonder though if there is a difference between living frugal and knowing how to manage money. It seemed to me my parents never had any money to spare.

I realized only after I lived on my own for awhile that I had depended on my family’s resources, without really learning how to put those resources to use in my own life. I was different than my parents. I wanted to buy my clothes from a store. I wanted to live in town. I wanted shopping trips. I also wanted to manage my money with enough to go around to the end of the month, and from one day to the next. I wanted to have financial intelligence.

Here is What I Learned About How to Manage My Money:

— Keep a daily record (Mundis 94). I vowed to track my spending. I would carry a small notepad with me everywhere. Anytime I spent even .05 cents, I would write it down in the notepad. My record included what I spent my money on. I would find out where my money was going and how I was spending my money. I would stick with the daily record and not add anything to it until I was sure that I could track all of my spending. I would know exactly what I was spending my money on each and every day.

— Keep a weekly record (Mundis 97). In my weekly record I review where I have spent my money. For example, 5 dollars on coffee, 50 dollars on clothing, I made a weekly form to fill out tailored to my own needs. This is a form I could understand since I made it myself. This form would allow me to see my spending habits for one week. Along one side I put the areas where I had spent my money, such as, clothing, coffee, laundry, entertainment, groceries. I put columns all the way across with a total for each area of spending at the end. Once I had my totals for each area then I could add these combined totals for a complete total of spending for the entire week.

— Keep a monthly record (Mundis 98-99). The monthly record is an overall view of spending for the whole month. Again I made my own form, which was easy for me to read, for recording the amounts. I wanted to be able to see my spending habits, but I didn’t want to spend hours on a complicated budget sheet someone else designed. I wanted a financial plan simple, and tailored to my own needs. Once I had completed my first month of record keeping, it was easy for me to see many areas where I could make changes in my spending habits.

— Stick with a financial plan (Mundis 128-134). After reviewing my spending habits, it was time for me to decide how much money to spend on individual areas for the upcoming month. With my record in hand I was now prepared to make better decisions. For example, I lived one block away from a convenience store. After reviewing my monthly spending record, it was easy to see I spent close to 40 dollars a month at this store on snacks alone. I could cut back on some of these snacks and also I could purchase these snacks at various retail stores in the area, where the prices for these items would be much lower. Finally, this included my last form showing my financial plan for the upcoming month. At the end of each month I could compare my financial plan to my actual spending. Sticking with a plan would allow me to create a money surplus.

A Word About Spending Areas

Since this was my money, I decided how to spend it. I decided to have an area for entertainment, and shopping trips. Maybe I didn’t want to be rich, but I did want to enjoy life, not all fun costs money, but I couldn’t forget about the shopping trips. I would set some money aside for just the fun purchases, a new pair of shoes, or blue jeans, flowers, a vase, or a book to read, things I would personally find pleasure with.

Debt

I decided to be consistent about paying off debt. No matter how much or how little I could pay, I would never miss a payment. I would not make any new debt. If I couldn’t pay cash or figure out a way to save my money for a larger purchase, then it would have to wait. “Just for Today, One day, Do Not Incur Any New Debt. Not one. Don’t borrow $ 2 from a friend. Don’t accept a service you plan to pay for later. Don’t take a loan from a bank. Don’t charge anything on your credit card” (Mundis 83).

Plain Speaking on the World’s Cash Crisis!

Global cash crisis! We hear this screamed from headlines and news channels every day, but to the layman the language used is so confusing, it becomes lost in a meaningless gobblygook of deficit, and spending to return ratios, a concept for most of us that muddies exactly what is happening in terminologies beyond our normal understanding.

Let us speak plainly about world debt so we can perhaps learn by the lessons put before us. The more we spent – with offers of buy now pay later or interest free credit – the more in debt we became to banks and money lenders! To continue funding our drive for more and more credit the banks had to borrow from each other until they too ran out of money. Now a country can not survive without a stable banking system so in steps the reserves, lent to banks by governments to strengthen the deficit until these too ran dry. The only option left to countries was to borrow from other countries like a flue virus it was airborne! Now every country on every continent in the world is in debt!

So what can we do about this crisis? We could turn to charts and graphs and analyze the hell out of the problem until it becomes so vast and incomprehensible that we will end up analyzing the analyzed, or we could just simplify it all in ways we can understand.

Lets pretend each country is a person, and we have ten people owing each other money! The first thing to do is work out who owes what to who. We might find that number one person owes number two, and number two owes number three who owes money to number one, then it becomes a closed system where everyone is waiting for the first person to pay up so they can pass the money on to whoever they owe, a little like three people being locked in a room with a flue bug and passing it around forever without end. Like passing the parcel around and around, holding it for a moment and feeling rich but then having to hand it over to the next person, an endless circle of “I am owed what I also owe!”

How can we break this system? How about just saying? “Look you owe me, I owe him, he owes you, lets forget it and get back to making money!” It has been done before, many countries have been in debt to us, and others, and for concessions or trade agreements we have wiped the debt to move forward, we just need to talk to each other.

The only real problem is in the possibility that we all have ended up borrowing from the same person! If this is the case then we would all have to pay this person back, making us weaker then we already are, and them stronger, but that could never happen because especially in the world of finance, being the only lender creates a little thing called monopoly, and after all that is illegal!