Understanding how to manage money, credit and debt is, in my opinion, one of the most important and lasting types of education you can get, and yet we’re generally not taught these lessons in school, college, church or even at home. This leaves many of us to learn the hard way, about what’s needed to become “responsible” with money.
Following are a few tips, tools and techniques that’ll support you in saving more, spending less, paying off your debt and becoming financially savvy.
We’ve all felt the “pressure at the pump” as gas prices skyrocket north of $2 and in some states as much as $3 per gallon. To use less gas and save a few dollars, consider car-pooling to work and other areas you frequently go to. Or better yet, if and take public transportation when you can- especially if your car is just going to be parked anyway.
I know it might be tempting to apply for a gas card to “help” you cover the cost of soaring prices but before you say, “Fill ‘er up” consider this:
An average tank holds 14 gallons, at $2.67 per gallon you’ll pay $37.38 — now add the 23.9% interest that most gas cards charge and you’re looking at spending $46.31. That’s a $8.93 “helping” hand.
WILL THAT BE CASH OR CREDIT?
One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned about money is how deeply emotional it is. No matter how much I have of it when I enter a store, the urge to pull out plastic over cash still haunts me. Retailers, convenience stores and even fast food restaurants have clued in on this and are making it easier for us to say, “Charge it.”
Making the choice to always pay cash for items under $50 is a radically different attitude from the, “Never leave home without it” credit card mentality; but if you do, you’ll notice a significant decrease in your “miscellaneous” spending. Plus, this works great with debit cards too.
Online banks such as INGDirect.com operate almost exclusively on the Internet and have some of the best interest rates on traditional savings accounts around. Earning as much as 3% — more than seven times the national average — has been a big incentive for many to start a virtual piggy-bank.
In addition to the great return on your money, you can use a virtual bank as a way to get access to high-yield CDs; and it removes the temptation of running to the ATM whenever you get the urge to splurge. That leaves your money to grow and work harder for you.
YOU’RE FINANCIALLY GROWN-UP WHEN…
As I got into my late teens and early twenties, more than anything I wanted to prove my independence; ironically the more I tried to make “grown-up” decisions the more dependent I became. I declared myself officially grown-up when I embraced these simple truths:
You Can’t Afford Not To Save – If you start saving at graduation when you’re about 22, and save for just 10 years earning 8% you’ll have almost $500,000 stored up by the time you’re 65 – even if you never save another penny!
Giving In Doesn’t Mean Giving Up – If you’ve ever had to do something really hard like loose 10 pounds in two months or save $500 in a semester you know how difficult and daunting it can be. You also know that even the most determined among us can get discouraged and sidetracked. The same is true with money matters. If you bust your budget in a moment of weakness don’t throw your hands up and “go for broke” –acknowledge the misstep and get back on track again.
Credit Isn’t “Priceless” – The amount of credit you’re given isn’t always the amount you can “afford” to spend. “Afford” should mean having enough cash left over after paying your basic living expenses and bills to put something towards your savings and still have enough left over for a movie and popcorn.
According to the president of Psychology of Money Consultants, the final mark of money maturity comes with the knowledge that “financial freedom and success go not to those who have the most, but those who need the least.”
Sanyika Calloway Boyce is the author of four books. She travels nationwide to educate, empower, entertain and enlighten students about money, credit and debt. This former debt-strapped college student shares real and relevant money messages that young adults can relate to and understand. Visit her online today at www.financialfitnesscoach.com.
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