In the wake of the Republican National Convention, it seems appropriate to lay out some steps ordinary Americans can take to make their financial lives great again – or, if yours has never been particularly strong, then at least make it better.
- Stop spending. In my books on personal finance, I’ve often recommended a Go To Zero strategy for managing your money. Here’s how it works: Imagine all of your expenses on a table. Now, take your arm and wipe them all off. You’ve now got a clean slate, and you can put expenses back on the table in the order of importance: Shelter, utilities, food, transportation, etc. When you run out of cash in your budget, you simply stop spending.
- Start saving. Another strategy is to stop spending well before you run out of take home pay and use that extra cash to start saving. Or, if you are carrying debt, simply use the extra cash each month to pay down your debt faster. Remember, every dollar of debt you prepay effectively earns you that interest rate. So, if you prepay $1 of debt at an interest rate of 14%, you’ve effectively earned 14% interest on that dollar.
- Make paying off non-deductible debt your top priority. If you’re paying to service your debt, you’re not going to get rich. You’re not going to have a great financial life. And, you’re not going to get rid of the anxiety that comes along with having crushing debt. So, start prepaying your non-deductible debt as fast as possible. In addition to feeling more in control of your financial life, you might just notice that you’re sleeping betterl.
- Practice “deferred gratification.” One thing about today’s world, everything happens instantaneously, almost miraculously. But when it comes to money, nothing good happens instantly. That why practicing deferred gratification can have such a positive effect. By simply pushing off a purchase (even one you think you must have), you’ll quickly see you can live without it. And if not, then at least you know you’re making a truly “can’t live without” purchase decision.
I’ve noticed that if I just say “no, for now” I generally don’t miss whatever it is I’ve done without. And, 9 times out of 10, I never get around to purchasing the item. Even if it’s on sale. I just figure out a workaround or do without. If you make all of your purchases thoughtfully, instead of gratuitously, that’s how you’ll make your financial life great again.
And, as Americans, living the financially great life should be an inalienable right.
Ilyce Glink is the Founder and CEO of Best Money Moves. She is also the author of 13 books on personal finance and real estate and the CEO of Think Glink Media, a digital content agency.