Getting Ahead for the Financially Challenged
By: Tom Chatham
It’s easy to get ahead in life if you have a good paying job and everything always goes your way but for most people that is not the reality they have to live with. Most people take prosperity as a given and put little effort into controlling where they are headed. Most just assume that if they get a job then they can have everything they want and life will somehow just work out fine. For some people that seems to work but these people are not in the majority, at least not anymore.
The times are changing and most will have to reduce their dreams to something more realistic in the coming years. Having a smaller paycheck does not mean you have to suffer from lack of necessities, it just means you have to be more thoughtful where every dollar goes in order to get the most from it. With fewer dollars to draw on it may be necessary for you to redefine what you consider a good quality of life and work towards those ends. The following are some of the things you need to consider that will help you make the best use of limited funds and insure a good life.
Have a long range plan-
Deciding where you want to end up in life will make your journey far easier. Even a simple plan will help keep you on track and moving in the right direction. Having a written plan will reinforce your desires and help motivate you to stick with it. Modify your plan as time goes on but always keep it realistic.
Buy used and save-
Part of life is the accumulation of stuff. Some things will be necessary while others are just trinkets to be looked at. Get ahead and fulfill your long range plan sooner by buying used items that you need. This will make your limited funds go much further and allow you to shop around for good deals.
Live on a budget-
Make a spreadsheet and list all of the expenses you experience during the year. Across the top of the page have 12 columns, one for each month of the year, and one column for a total. List the recurring expenses for the entire year and estimate the rest. Things like rent or insurance will be fairly regular while things like power or gas for your car will be variable. List everything you might possibly spend money on during the year so you can see where your money goes. This will help you to identify areas where you can reduce expenses. It will also show you what you can expect to have left every month after paying for your needs so you can plan for future purchases or implement a savings plan. This is helpful especially when you have large bills some months and must set aside funds during prior months to help make all of your payments.
Be as self sufficient as possible-
Those with the least needs and wants have the most money. If you can reduce the amount of food you buy or the amount of fuel you use, that money will be available for future needs. Having the ability to produce some things for yourself can make a big difference in your financial bottom line. Instead of giving that money to others you will essentially be paying yourself for those things you can provide.
Don’t try to keep up with the neighbors-
The fastest way to get in financial trouble is to try to have everything that your neighbors have. It may be fine for them but you have no way to know if they can really afford it or are setting themselves up for bankruptcy in the future. You do not want to follow them to the poor house just for the sake of envy. They may have financial assets that you don’t and can afford it while you cannot. Don’t fall into this trap. Live within your means.
Cultivate cheap tastes-
Having a good quality of life does not have to be expensive. A walk in the woods or a picnic beside a lake can be relaxing and rewarding if done with someone special. Playing board games or going bike riding can occupy kids for hours at little expense. Developing a hobby such as gardening or wood working can provide relaxation and a feeling of accomplishment when your task is done so don’t overlook productive endeavors. The further you remove yourself from our technologically advanced world the more real enjoyment and savings you can realize. The expensive stuff is nice but don’t let it rule your life.
Pay with cash instead of plastic-
It is so easy today to see something you want and just buy it without thinking. When you have to pull cash out of your pocket to pay for something the act of spending your money is much more personal. When you see the money you are handing over it makes you realize you now have that much less where using plastic is very impersonal and your finances are reduced to nothing more than a figure on a balance sheet that means little. Using cash makes you think before you buy.
Reduce, reuse and repair-
Reduce your wants to a realistic goal so you are not wasting money you will need in the future. Reuse things you may normally throw away to save and make you more aware of the money you are wasting every day. Try to use items you can repair when they break instead of buying a new one. Learning a skill such as sewing, appliance or auto repair can help you a great deal in the long run.
Save on a regular basis-
This does not have to be a lot of money. If your finances are tight, start with 5 or 10 dollars a week. Once you are in the habit of saving it will be easier to increase the amount over time. One way to help you save is to make it inconvenient to use the saved money for impulse purchases. Storing your savings in rolls of coins or gold and silver coins will make it more difficult to carry and use and provide you with the time to reflect on the purchase and determine if you really want to buy it.
Develop a hobby or skill you can trade on-
Learning a skill that can yield some type of production asset is a good way to help you get ahead in life. Having tools and knowledge to do auto repairs, a sawmill to mill lumber or gaining the expertise to lay bricks and stone are just some of the things a person can do to occupy their time, earn extra money or trade for needed services. When you have a skill that will fill your need and can also provide for others needs, it is a winning combination.
The best way to eliminate health costs is to exercise and eat healthy. Little things can compound to cause lifelong problems so prevention is the best medicine. The simple acts of eating more fresh vegetables and doing a few push ups or going for a walk every day can have a major impact on your health.
Be happy with yourself-
You may not be where you want to in life but this is where you are so deal with it. Having a positive attitude and laughing at yourself once in a while will put you in a receptive frame of mind and allow you to see opportunities that may have been missed. Good mental health has a great bearing on physical health as well.
Getting ahead in life when your financial means are limited is a challenge but not impossible. It requires you to put more thought into your actions in order to get the things you need and want. With a well thought out plan and the proper attitude even someone with limited means can have a good quality of life and an enjoyable future.