Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.

~William A. Ward

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

12 Ways to Make Saving a Habit!

1. Spend less time feeling poor. Flipping through catalogs and going to the mall will make you feel like you need things. Instead, do things that offer a sense of well-being. Invite friends over. Walk in the park.

2. Retrain your brain. When you start to feel that "I'm deserving so I'm buying" feeling, visualize a smaller credit-card bill or higher savings-account balance.

3. Look around you. Are you happy with what your hard-earned dollars bought? If not, shift your spending to those things that bring greater long-term satisfaction, including retirement savings.

4. Choose your extravagances. Here's mine: I eat out about once a week. An extravagance I do without: Cable television.

5. Assess weaknesses. "If you were thrifty, how would you look different?" says Gary Buffone, a financial psychologist in Jacksonville, Fla. Identify what you want to change; then shoot for specific targets, such as a six-month hold on buying new tech gadgets.

6. Make trade-offs. Substitute small, free pleasures for those that cost. Have a movie night at home with friends -- you'd be surprised how many people are equally eager to cut costs.

7. Set goals. Meet weekly with family to discuss the spending plan (don't call it a budget) for the months and years ahead. This may involve tough choices, such as forsaking a family vacation. But think of the guilt-free trip you can take after saving the necessary cash.

8. Resist your children. They're going to find it hard to change their expectations. How can you help? Stand firm. The next time they clamor for the latest videogame, remind them of the bigger prize (that family vacation), and tell them their choices here and now are, say, a picnic or a movie rental. Offer options, but don't give in to their push for more consumer goods.

9. Enlist other people. Many people are reticent to talk about money worries, but almost everyone has them, so open up and tap your allies. Hold a contest with friends to see who can save the most in a month, or agree with your spouse to talk before spending more than $100, Mr. Buffone suggests.

10. Post it. Remind yourself by putting post-it notes on your wallet, mirror or steering wheel with the mantra of your choosing: "I want to go to Hawaii in January." "I want to pay off credit-card debt."

11. Automate it. Divert money monthly from your checking account to savings. It will force you to budget, based on what's left in your checking account. If you do nothing else in this list, please take this suggestion! Believe me, you will not realize the money is gone. It forces you to adjust your spending based on the remaining balance in your checking account. Start small and work your way up!

12. Rethink rewards. What are some of your happiest memories? Those are the true rewards. Next time you're about to buy something because you deserve it, ask yourself whether there isn't something you deserve more, such as time at home cooking with your teenager, or a stroll with your husband or best friend.

"We've been conditioned to think that spending the money on clothes, at a restaurant, is going to be the reward," Ms. Gurney says. "But what is the ultimate reward that we want from working hard, in the end?"


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