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Financial Tips

from One Generation X'er to Another

"All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy."

DISCLAIMER: The recommendations given on this page are not from a financial advisor. I am just a regular consumer who has experienced both sadness and joy when it comes to money. I don't pretend to be a CFP, CPA, or even an MBA. These tips are some tried and true advice. Why do I consider them to be tried and true? I PERSONALLY tried them, and they turned out to be true. Use whatever you feel will work for you.

Money. Dinero. Cash. Moolah. Filthy Lucre. Whatever you call it, we need it. Here are some tips to keep more of your money and stop working for Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way. Life sucks enough, but it sucks EVEN MORE when you're poor. Read on, and hopefully, learn something.

Q: Cheryl, How do I keep more of my money for me??

A: By saving. Plain and simple. How do you do that?? I suggest starting out with three different accounts:

  • Account One: The "Financial Independence" account.

    We all want to be independently wealthy. With time, we can achieve this goal. It means putting aside at least 10% of your income for yourself and your family's financial security. Can't scrape together 10%?? I feel for you. Try starting with 5% or 3% AT FIRST and slowly build up to 10% or more. JUST START!! Even if you have to start with $0.50 in a sock, that's still $0.50 closer to financial freedom, than you were just a second ago.

    When you've accumulated enough money into this account, consider investing this money into an IRA, an Individual Retirement Account. There's a little bit of magic to it. It's called compounded interest. You can learn all about this magic by checking out this nifty retirement calculator. IRAs are also really cool because they are tax-deferred, which means your money can grow, without having to pay taxes every year. You just pay the required taxes when you take the money out. There is a catch, however. You can't touch your money until you're 59.5 years old or you will end up paying a hefty 10% penalty on your money. Plus, you will have to pay taxes on it. In a way, that's good, so you can think twice before withdrawing your "Financial Independence" money.

    Q: But what will I do in case of an emergency, Cheryl??

  • Account Two: The "Emergency Future" account.

    This is your "sleep well at night" account. Let's face it. S*** happens. We lose our jobs or get sick for a prolonged time. THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BREAK YOU. Every paycheck, set aside a certain amount of money to help you when these things happen. Experts recommend that you have enough money to cover 3 to 6 months living expenses. Sound like a lot of money?? Sure it is, but it is SO important. Start small. Strive for one month, and keep saving. Money has a funny way of accumulating itself. When you have enough money, consider transferring your "Emergency Future" stash into a "Money Market Account." It has the benefits of being liquid and earning some interest (not a lot, though). Look into them at your bank or local credit union.

  • Account Three: The "Emergency Now" account.

    Damn!! A flat tire!! Where am I going to get the money for a new one?? This is a scenario that happens when you least expect it. What do you do?

  • A. "Hello, Dad?? Can I borrow some money?"
  • B. "Charge It"
  • C. Write a check from your "Emergency Now" account.

    I hope you picked "C." The "Emergency Now" account is for life's irritating little surprises. A flat tire, your microwave breaking down, et al. The procedure is the same as the "Emergency Future" account. Every paycheck, just set aside a certain amount of money for this important account. I can't tell you how good it feels not having to run to mommy or daddy whenever I need help.

A lot of you are probably thinking "Three Accounts??? Surely ye jest. That sounds like way too much money." Like I said before, start small. Even if you have to save $30.00 a month ($10.00 per account), at least you're on the right path!

Q: Ok, Cheryl, that sounds doable. Got anymore hot tips for me?

A: Of course I do. One of the ways you can keep more money, is to live within your means. We come to the subject of "credit cards."

  • Credit Cards
  • They're a necessary evil. Try reserving a hotel room, or renting a car, without one. Overall, my opinion of credit cards are that they are "TOOLS OF THE DEVIL." I have ran up my balances as high as $5000.00. Boy, did that SUCK. I was constantly worrying about money. I would wake up in the middle of the night, worried about money. Let me tell you: THAT IS NO WAY TO LIVE YOUR LIFE. Then, I got this book called, The Cheapskate Monthly Money Makeover, that literally changed my life. I learned so much about my financial situation, and how to improve it, from the author, Mary Hunt. She even has a website devoted to The Cheapskate Monthly. As a result of reading her book, and appplying her advice, I have about $1000.00 left in unsecured debt. Not bad, when you compare it to $5000.00 and a lot of sleepless nights. Even though I'm still paying for some fancy dinners I ate 2 years ago, , *pathetic, no?* I am on my way to being debt free. YAY!!
  • Try to limit yourself to using your credit cards only for dire emergencies. That cute sweater from The Limited is not an emergency. Better yet, don't use your credit cards and rely on either your "Emergency Now" or "Emergency Future" accounts. That's the ideal way to go, baybee!!

A: Another way to hang on to your money is to know exactly where it's going. You do this by making a budget.

  • Budgets
  • Even the word sounds scary, but having a budget, or a "spending plan" is an absolute necessity. It's relatively simple. Some money goes for food, some money goes for gas, some money goes for entertainment, etc. If you have it written down, and set aside money for each category, you'll know where your money goes. This way, you won't be getting paid on Friday, be BROKE by Monday, and eating Top Ramen and saltines everyday until your next paycheck, just because you didn't set aside grocery money. It's about freedom. Knowing where your money goes is very liberating. For a more detailed explanation about setting up a budget for yourself, check out this really cool website, Household Budget Management. There is an example budget, and some really helpful tips. If you're all revved up and raring to go, check out Tripod's Interactive Budget Calculator. It only takes a few minutes, and you will be getting a buffet of knowledge--how much you can save, where you need to cut back, etc. Go to it, baybee!

A: Another way to keep more of your money, is to become consumer savvy.

  • Buy things that you need on sale and comparison shop! Also, don't overlook thrift stores. I can get some of the coolest retro clothes really cheap there. For tips on being consumer savvy, try ConsumerWorld. It's your HARD-EARNED money. Don't you owe it to yourself to spend it wisely?

Q: Cheryl, this is starting to sound like you want me to be some kind of tightwad. Is that what you're suggesting?

A: Oh, hell no. I firmly believe that life is too short and should be enjoyed. If there is a special concert you want to go to, a weekend trip you want to take, or whatever, GO FOR IT!!! It doesn't hurt to bend the budget every once in a while. However, remember to PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Go to that concert, take that weekend trip, have fun!! Just remember your everyday responsibilities, like having to eat after you get back from that groovy weekend trip!

A: Another way to counteract that "tightwad" stereotype is to give generously to your favorite charity or house of worship.

  • Why Do We Give Generously?

  • A funny thing happens when you give. You start receiving blessings. You attract more money. Sounds silly, but it's true. When you give back, it's saying to the Universe, "Thanks! I have more than I need."

  • How much should I give?

  • Most people say "10%," based on the guidelines from the Bible. It's a good number to strive for. If it's too much for you to handle right now, start small, and do what you can. You'll be glad you did!

I hope I provided you with some helpful information.

I wish for you PROSPERITY--in your financial affairs and in your life, as a whole!!