When it comes to money and personal finance, always start with the end in mind.
Here are 14 smart money things you can do starting today:
1. Pay off debt - Nothing will get you further along in the game then erasing debt out of your life. Debt is a destroyer of wealth. Learn to despise it and your financial well being will flourish. There are two sides to your wealth equation: assets and liabilities. Debt falls on the liability side of the equation. When you lower your debt, you automatically increase your net worth!
2. Live below your means - People over stuff. Consider downsizing. Materialism is an addiction and a debilitating habit of middle class America. Live frugally and begin to train yourself to require less stuff. If you earn $80,000 per year, dont spend $80,000 a year. Find a way to get comfortable living on much less than you make or everytime you get a raise, don't spend more! Easier said then done, but it's very doable.This is one of the absolute easiest ways to end up with more money in your pocket at the end of the month.
3. Start a business - Figure out what you are good at or have experience with, and monetize your skills. Notice the word "skill". Take your God given gifts (what you do with ease better than anyone else that you know), hone it, refine it, specialize in it, and make money doing it. You don't need a business plan or a loan. Starting a business is not rocket science, and it can be done on a shoe string budget with some serious ingenuity, beast-like persistence, and a steady diet of google and YouTube. I started selling shoes on eBay by watching YouTube videos! Anything is possible with the right amount of desire and focus.
4. Become an expert in your field - There is nothing more valuable than a subject matter expert! Work on becoming the "go to" person. When you add value, the chances of increasing your compensation drastically increase. How do you add value? Get a job, stay on the job, get good at the job, learn more about the job then they pay you to know, and willingly help others on the job! If you've been on your job more than 2 or 3 years, you should be absorbing lots and lots of information on a daily basis that will qualify you to be an excellent at what you do. If you've been on the job 10 years, then you should be an expert at what you do.
5. Read books - Self development and growth are key. Commit to reading a book a month. First, turn the TV off. Second, buy a book, or finally read the book you've been meaning to read for the last 5 years.. Third, commit to reading it. Don't listen to it via audiobook, read it. The dendrites and synapsis in your brain react differently when you read from a book. Sit down, lay down, walk on the treadmill, or whatever it takes to find quiet time, and actually read. Read a little non-fiction from a book each day. Start with a book a month and go to a book a week.
6. Create a household budget and follow it - Organize, organize, organize. Put demands on YOUR money to do what you want it to do. Create a written monthly budget on paper that is unique to the month you are in, and follow it like law! Don't deviate and don't play with this incredibly powerful tool. This is super important to get control of your money. Half the battle is to stop allowing your money to push you around. A budget works only if you make a conscious effort to work it through discipline and consistency!
7. Invest your money - The sooner you start, the more "time" will work in your favor. Compound interest is a beautiful thing! Let me say that again. Compound interest is a beautiful thing! Contribute the max that your job matches, purchase real estate, consider index funds and other managed funds, and invest your money. The best time to start to invest, is NOW!
8. Put aside an emergency fund - Everyone needs one. Murphy's law will come knocking, so be prepared with 3 to 6 months of living expenses. You need to desperately be sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way. The furnace will go out, the carpet will need replacing, the car will break down, and the washer will die. Be ready.
9. Volunteer/Tithe/Help others - The more you give, the more you will have! If you aren't giving, you are losing. What you give and how much you give, is your choice, but if you aren't contributing your money to something other than yourself, you're missing out of one of the greatest joys of life! I could quote about 75 scriptures here, but just remember this: Every one that's been granted the gift of life, must grant the gift of something to someone else. In other words, if you aren't giving, then you are, by no means, living. The gift of life was given to you so that you can gift the gifts of light to others, and if you aren't doing this, you are literally stifling your blessings.
10. Cook at home instead of eating out - This saves money and it's more healthy for you, and its a very effective thing to do if you are trying to get a handle on your finances. A simple modest average of $10 dollars a day eating out adds up to nearly $300 per month, which is $3,600 per year, which is $36,000 in 10 years. Add in the interest if you had invested that money, and the compound interest that you failed to gain on it, and you just squandered $150,000, or more, over a 30 year period of spending an average of $10 a day eating out. Stop it, today!
11. Cut up your credit cards - No explanation needed. Credit cards are bad on so many levels. If you have a properly funded emergency fund, you don't need a credit card for an emergency! You spend more freely when you swipe a credit card. If you can't afford it cash, don't buy it. Credit cards are literally designed to drag you in to the perpetuity of a life of debt. Leave these things alone!
12. Create written short and long term money goals - Vital. Short term is 1 to 12 months, and Long term is 3 to 5 years, or more, down the road. Don't just write it, commit to it and put it somewhere in the house where you can see it daily. Be creative here. Put it on your phone, put it in your car, put it on your screensaver on your computer at home and at work. Whatever you have to do, do it. Goal setting, with practical and specific action steps to reach those goals, are huge. Dream Big! Try it. You will be surprised.
13. Get life insurance and Get a will - If you have money to eat, then you can afford good Term Life Insurance. If you can save $500 for your vacation next year, then you can certainly save that same amount of money for a will.These two pieces are the first and most basic pieces of personal financial planning. If you don't have life insurance, you are doing a disservice to your loved ones. You can get life insurance quick. Go through an online broker so that you can get the best rates. This stuff is on sale now folks, so there is no excuse to not have a good Term Life Insurance policy. You can actually get a will for $75 online. Once you get these things, then you can delve into estate planning.
14. Be Accountable - You go harder, when you answer to others. Ask a track athlete what makes them run faster. When you are being challenged and pushed, you usually do better and put more intensity into it. A spouse, a friend, or a family member. Someone you trust needs to be on the journey with you.
YOUR PERSONAL BEHAVIOR AND YOUR INDIVIDUAL CHOICES WITH YOUR MONEY TODAY, MEANS MORE MONEY FOR YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES TOMORROW.