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5 tips to take control of your money

I grew up in a family that did not manage their money very well. We were always lead to believe that money was scarce, it didn't grow on trees, and that we ought to just appreciate what we had. Now, I have no problem with appreciating the things I have. In fact, I believe that having an attitude of gratitude is one of the most important things you can do in order to achieve true happiness in your life. 

I do, however, have a problem with the weak minded, negative idea that money has some kind of a life force, and somehow that life force is hard to come by. 

This kind of thinking is toxic and dumb. 

The way I think about money now is completely different than it was when I was young; and far more helpful. 
  1. Money is a tool. Like a hammer in a tool chest, it is neither bad or good. It is simply a neutral and inert object. Only in the hands of a person can that tool be manipulated to do good or bad things. 
  2. Money is obedient. Once you take control of it and tell it where it needs to go and what it needs to do, it obeys. 
Unfortunately, many young people today are graduating high school and college with little education in regard to handling personal finances. Inevitably, they wind up living their lives earning money only to spend it.

So what is the solution? 

Discipline! Once you introduce discipline into one area of your life, it naturally spreads like a wonderful and glorious wildfire.

Below are 5 simple tips that have personally helped me take control of not only my finances, but indeed my entire life.

[1]  Budget.

It took me until the age of twenty-four before I finally took the time to sit down and write out a basic monthly budget. It wasn't pretty at first, and it definitely was not easy, but by the time it was complete, I knew that I had just finished something that was going to positively impact the rest of my life.

For those of you who might not know how to create a budget, I will keep this simple.
  1. Print out a blank calendar.
  2. Write down the days you get paid, and how much money you will get paid on those days.
  3. On a separate sheet of paper, write every single expense you have for the month. Rent, gas, etc.
  4. Assign every dollar you earn each paycheck to every individual expense until you have no more.
  5. Every time you get paid, pull out all your cash and deposit it into an envelope for each specific category.
Whatever is left over, you simply need to tell that money where it needs to go on your budget before you spend it.

That doesn't mean that you can't ever have any fun! All it means is that you are preemptively making a conscious decision to deliberately spend a specific amount of money on whatever type of fun you want to have before you get paid!

You want to save up for a cruise? Start stashing money away into a cruise envelope. You want to go out to a restaurant every weekend? Well, simply make a category on your budget called "restaurant" and when you get paid, place that specific amount of cash inside that envelope; then go out and spend it!

[2]  Have multiple sources of income.

This tip is short and simple, never put all your eggs into one basket. One thing I have learned over the years is you always want to spread things out so that you do not have to rely on just one source of income.

How easy would it be for your boss to tell you today, "You're fired."? How much easier would that be to handle if you had say, three or four additional sources of income to fall back on? 

Think about it.

[3]  Save for what you want.

For some people who had proper upbringing, this might be one of those statements you hear and immediately respond by saying, "Well, duh!" However, many businesses nowadays are set up to entice people into "buying now, and paying later." And as harmless as these little scams may seem, they are actually very harmful once you get sucked into them. 

Do yourself a favor, and stay away from credit. Instead, learn how to procure the necessary funds that are required to purchase the items you desire on your own

Too often we see things we think we want (or need), and we become impatient. By saving up before you buy however, you reap the rewards of delayed gratification!

In the weeks or months that it will take to save up for whatever it is you would like to purchase, you are also giving yourself ample time to think about whether you actually want (or need) to purchase that item or not.

Then, by the time you have finally saved up enough money, you might change your mind and decide that you would rather put the money into a savings account instead. If not, then you get to experience the satisfaction of trading in your hard work and discipline for the item you so desired.

Can you see how this would be more rewarding than swiping a credit card and making payments for twelve months?

[4]  Live below your means.

It took me a long time before I learned about the magic of living life below my means. For many years I overextended myself, and I wound up unhappy, overweight and in debt.

Once I learned how to assess my income and properly balance out my budget, my entire life turned around. According to Dave Ramsey, this is how much the typical American should be spending each month in their budget:

  • Charity – 10-15%
  • Saving – 5 – 10%
  • Housing – 25-35%
  • Utilities – 5 – 10%
  • Food – 5 – 15%
  • Transportation – 10-15%
  • Clothing – 2 – 7%
  • Medical/Health – 5-10%
  • Personal – 5 – 10%
  • Recreation – 5 – 10%
  • Debts – 5 – 10%

Remember that this is not an exact science. Instead, learn to look at these percentages as a guideline that will help you achieve your financial goals.

If you are above in any of these areas, you may need to think about scaling back a little (or possibly scaling back a lot!). If you are below in a few areas, then feel free to ante-up in a different category; who couldn't use more savings?!

[5]  Exercise.

I know exercise sounds like it has no business being placed in a list designed to educate people on how to best control their finances. But throughout my journey, I have learned that taking care of your body is by far the number one way to ensure that your finances and your mind remain under control.

Now, whether you choose to believe it or not, you have two options in the world we live in today: either take care of yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you.

Regardless of whether you live or die, or whether you are healthy or unhealthy, nobody cares more about your overall well being than you do. So why then are so many of us choosing to believe that somebody, somewhere, is going to somehow do a better job of taking care of us than we can?

It's absurd!

How many people today are forced to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every month just to "maintain their health"? Now, imagine living in a world where instead of flushing that money down the toilet each month, we chose to eat healthy and exercise for an hour every day. How much money would we save? How much better would we feel?

The way I have come to understand it, eating healthy and exercising every day is the best and most important investment you can ever make in your life. No amount of money and no prescription drug will ever be able to replace the feeling you get when you consciously decide that you are going to take control of your destiny.

And now, no matter how much money I earn and no matter what I do, I live with the satisfaction of knowing that I am in control. Finances, health and all.

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