Living Well With The Money You Have

Author and syndicated columnist offers straight forward financial advice for people looking to take control of their money

Be honest with yourself. Sure, it looks easy on the infomercial to prepare banana nut bread, but are you likely to become Martha Stewart? Are you really going to slice and dice a bunch of vegetables for your children? I know. You worry that your children live on cheese curls. You want them to eat healthier. But start first by buying fresh vegetables and fruits before you spend three easy payments of $19.99 to buy some machine to slice and dice them.

Give yourself a time-out. Make it a habit to wait at least 24 hours before making a purchase, no matter how small. This is especially true for items you see on infomercials. This is going to take discipline. I’ve been there before. You’re sick or bored or depressed, and you turn on cable TV. You see the commercials for Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts. It’s funny. The deal sounds so reasonable. You can start your collection today with the roast of Frank Sinatra for only $9.95 (plus $3.95 S&H), the voice-over says.

About every other month, you will receive two individual full-length roasts on a videotape for $19.95 each plus shipping and handling. You can cancel anytime! But you know what always happens. You don’t cancel the order, and now you’ve spent another $40 or $50 on something you don’t need. How funny is that? Not very.

Remember that when you use your credit card, you are getting a loan. Each time you reach for your credit card, ask yourself if you would go into a bank branch and ask for a loan for whatever it is that you’re about to buy. Really, do it. When you pick up a shirt, ask yourself, “Would I sit down with a bank loan officer and ask him or her to finance a shirt and pair of pants?” Would you fill out a loan application for bath beads? For your 10th pair of pumps, would you run down to the local bank and fill out those long forms, listing your former address, current employment, salary, and all the other information needed to get a loan? Of course you wouldn’t, and yet that is fundamentally what you are doing when you charge purchases on your credit card.

Go cold turkey with your credit card. For two months at a time, try to avoid using credit (even if you pay the bill off every month). You will be surprised at how much you save.

Find yourself a “saving sponsor.” In Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, people are encouraged to find a sponsor to guide them along their road to recovery. I encourage you to do the same if you need to save. My sponsor happens to be my husband. Together we keep each other on the saving path. A saving sponsor helps keep you on track. Think of this person as the angel on your shoulder who will help you become a saver, not a spender. This person’s main job is to talk you out of buying

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