Recent studies show that money is one of the main causes of stress for many people. But then, most of us don’t need researchers to tell us that! Especially, not now.
Today, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress in his bi-annual report that there are ongoing indications the economy is slowly recovering. However, most of us are still painfully aware of just how fragile our economy is and how painfully not in control we are. So in reality, what can we do?
Remember the play The Music Man? A slight paraphrase of the lead song might go something like this: Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here on Main Street! “Trouble”, with a capital ‘T’ that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for Pool.
Yes, much like the song and Professor Hill who sings it in the play, there’s a bit of flim-flam about the whole topic of money. There’s always that sense of fear that we can easily fall into regarding money. Oh we got trouble. We worry about it. We stress about it. Right here on Main Street. But all too often we don’t take the proven steps that can lead toward financial peace of mind. With a capital “T” that rhymes with “P” and that stands for … Peace of Mind!
Organizing and simplifying our finances goes a long way toward reducing our stress, improving the overall quality of our life, and providing peace of mind. Here are eight simple things you can do to improve your financial peace of mind … starting today. They are all relatively easy to do, and they really do work!
1. Establish a budget. Yes, it’s true. Establishing and sticking to a realistic budget is the number one thing you can do to actually reduce financial stress in your life. This is not as difficult or odious as you might think. Just sit down with your checkbook and debit or credit card statements and determine your primary, repeating expenses. Do a little math to find the difference between what you make and what you spend each month, and then make the appropriate adjustments. Voila!
2. Work to eliminate debt as fast as you can. Begin with your highest-interest debts first. Typically your home mortgage will be the last debt you eliminate because it’s so big. BTW: By adding even $50 to $100 each month to your mortgage payment, you will reduce the overall amount you pay by several thousand dollars and shorten the life of the mortgage.
3. Get rid of all but one or two of your credit cards. Use them for airline and hotel bookings or prudent catalog and online buying. Try to make one a debit or airline mileage card. And this is important, be sure to pay off each one every month! That will have the added advantage of improving your credit score.
4. Focus on savings.There are two basic components that help to increase your savings and net worth: increase your income and reduce your expenses. Easier said than done? Not really. Just consider each purchase carefully. Do you really need it? Will it be one more thing you have to maintain? If you do need it, get the best so that it might last longer. Remember:This is not about quantity, it’s about quality … of life!
5. Consolidate your investments and checking accounts. Put them into a single brokerage account, available through most banks for a nominal fee, or free in some cases. This way it’s easier to access a current overview and stay on top of things. Simpler is better, period.
6. Look into automatic bill paying. For people who maintain high balances in their checking accounts, this is a great time and energy saver — not to mention the postage stamps you’ll save. But if you don’t maintain a sufficiently high balance in your checking account, automatic bill paying might cause more headaches — and expense in returned check charges — than it’s worth.
7. Restrict the number of your donations. Choose 1 or 2 charities that are especially meaningful to you, and focus all your giving on them.
8. Reevaluate extra expenses. Reevaluate how much you actually use your second home, boat, time-share, or camping trailer. If you can’t justify the expenses, sell them and bank and/or donate the money.
With a capital “T” that rhymes with “P” and that stands for … Peace of Mind!