How to Make the Most of What You’ve Got
No matter where you are now, your financial goals might be closer than they seem. Here are seven solid ways to keep moving toward them.
1. Know yourself.
So you did the basic calculations for your financial goal and the math doesn’t add up. You’ve still got lots of options. Trimming your spending is one place to start. You might also want to tweak your plan.
2. Question everything.
If you aren’t making as much progress as you’d like, take another look at your income and spending. Your monthly bills might appear set in stone, but there are still ways you can save money each month—often without changing your standard of living.
When was the last time you shopped for a new cellphone contract? Could you refinance your car loan for a lower interest rate—or get rid of your monthly payment altogether by replacing your car with a slightly older, used one?
Make a habit of looking over your expenses and you might be surprised at how fast your savings add up to hundreds each month. That’s money that could help you meet your financial goals faster.
3. Avoid “lifestyle inflation.”
So you got a raise, a bonus, or your tax return? Found $5 on the street? Don’t just spend it. Instead, keep one specific financial goal at the top of your mind (like paying off a credit card or funding your IRA for the year). When you come into some extra cash, put it toward that goal automatically. It will add up faster than you think.
4. Don’t overpay your paycheck withholdings.
Sure, it feels great to get that big tax return in the spring. But if that money hadn’t come out of your paycheck in the first place, it could have been earning interest for you. This year, make sure the correct deductions are listed on your W-4. Compare your new paycheck amount to the old one, and put the difference to work in a high-yield savings account.
5. Use all the tools you’ve got.
Chances are you’ve got an abundance of at least one resource. Maybe you’re short on money but not time. In that case, take the extra time you need to save money wherever you can-or use the time to increase your income by picking up extra hours at work or taking on an extra part-time job.
6. Don’t fear the math.
Get comfortable with calculating interest. Keep a calculator with you to figure out the “unit price” of your groceries. Learn the basics about income taxes. It can save you big money in the long run. Many people shy away from doing math, and instead choose whatever option sounds best. Make math your buddy and you could find extra money to put toward your goals.
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