Financial Discipline


         Times are hard. Wallets are thin. The American family is struggling. Sound familiar? You’re probably one of them. The writer of this blog sure is. The news is filled with reports of families taking drastic steps to just keep their heads above water. A father dumpster dives for food and things he can sell to feed his family. The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread into protestors targeting the homes of rich people. Some of our very own citizens are so stressed by the lack of employment that they are considering moving to the other side of the planet just to find a job. And these are just things happening within our own shores. The once coveted U.S. Dollar is growing less valued which is in turn causing turmoil in the European market. Financial structures within a multitude of countries are all collapsing on themselves. Governments are weakening as the voice of the poor is heard ringing throughout every land. It seems the recession is not limited to just the Red, White, and Blue. We are all feeling the backlash of failing big business, government bailouts, and corrupt politicians.
         Incomes are down and the workforce is dwindling, even though most experts claim the recession is over. For a lot of the average, 40-hr-work-week employees, the prospect of financial security seems like a joke. Most people fortunate enough to have a job are working paycheck to paycheck, bending over backwards to try and make the ends meet. So what should we do? As a typical citizen, unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to get the government in functioning order. Things are bad. It feels like no matter who we vote into office, the bottom line isn’t met and we still suffer. It can be overwhelming and daunting to imagine change on a nationwide or global scale. Instead, look within your own self for change. Just because the government is horrible with their money and bad at making financial decisions doesn’t mean you have to be. You can stop, right this moment, and move forward with a new focus on your money. Here is a simple set of guidelines to help add the discipline to your finances.

 

  • Avoid Credit — A lot of financial advisers will hiss and moan at this. However, the economy has not recovered. The dollar is down, and interest rates are on the rise again. Cut up your credit cards, pay off loans, and do not take anymore credit out. Forget about your credit score for awhile. Pay off your debt, starting with the smallest sum and keep going until you don’t owe a thing to anyone. Right now you want to get out of a debt and save up some cash. It might be wise to invest in long-term, high-value items as well. Purchase some pure silver and gold coins. Stock up your pantry with foods and supplies that have long shelf lives. Don’t follow in the government’s footsteps and continue increasing your debt. Stop borrowing, stop owing, and be self-contained. Save up for big purchases. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.
  • The Golden Rule — You need to go back to the basics of finances: spend less than you make. It’s that simple. If you over extend yourself, you set your whole financial picture up for failure. Another golden rule to follow is to save 10% of your income. Regardless of how much you make, every time a paycheck comes in, put 10% away and save it for an emergency.
  • Cut Wasteful Spending — There are huge lists of things you can do to save money. Just doing a Google search for “Ways to Save Money” will get you a hitback of 28 million pages. You can save money on your grocery bill, on the utilities, on car maintenance; any and every possible aspect of your life probably has a list to cut back spending. Cook at home and pack your lunch instead of eating out. Maintain your oil and tire pressure to lower the frequency of needing gasoline for your car. Purchase generic products at stores instead of name brands. Look for sales and coupons in weekly advertisements. Keep a budget and stick to it. Make a list of everything you spend for a month and then examine the list for areas you need improvement. Just by making several small changes in your spending, you can save hundreds –if not thousands– of dollars a year.
  • Avoid Life Changing Decisions — If you are in financial hardships, be honest with yourself. The economy isn’t getting better anytime soon. Now is not the time to have a child, adopt a pet, buy a house, or take a lease out on a car. Put those types of plans back on the shelf for a year or two. Give the country time to bounce back and make sure you get your own finances in a stable place. If you are already in debt, big life changing decisions will dig you in even deeper.
  • Make Substitutions — If you are used to constantly going out or spending money on things that would be considered wants and not needs, then it’s time to buckle down and make some tough decisions. There are lots of places out there with cheaper or even free ways to still continue doing the things you love. There are $1 movie theaters out there. Libraries are a great place to borrow movies, cds, and books for free. Museums are constantly doing free admission days. Public parks and hiking trails are generally free. If you are use to paying $100 a month for cable, try switching to a service like Netflix or Hulu. You can save hundreds a year while still getting all your favorite shows. There are substitutions out there for virtually anything. You just have to want to save money and be willing to put in a little time to do a bit of research.

         Financial discipline is your own responsibility. The government and big banks want you to make careless mistakes. They grin from ear to ear when people come in to request a big loan. The government wants you spending what you don’t have so they can take what you don’t own and use it against you. It’s a cat and mouse game and sadly the consumers are the mouse. This isn’t a Tom and Jerry cartoon either. In the current state of economic depression –let’s call it what it is, we’re all depressed– the government is pouncing on people in debt. Free yourself from the cycle. Relieve the stress of high spending expectations. You don’t have to have an 800 credit score in order to be happy. You don’t even need a credit card to be happy. By unlatching yourself from the chains of debt, you relinquish the fear of the unknown. You take away the strength of the fear of losing your livelihood. Empower yourself and your pocketbook by disciplining your finances from this point on. The government doesn’t have any bailouts for ordinary citizens. Don’t count on assistance and don’t follow the example of big corporations. If the government and big business knew what they were doing, the country wouldn’t be in dire straits. Best of luck and remember that anybody can change for the better. You just have to be willing to accept change.