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Spring Cleaning Your Finances to Make Life Easier

The Money Nerve

There is something refreshing about the advent of spring; it’s officially time for reviewing and renewing! This week, we take a look at spring cleaning your finances.

Ask, “WHY,” before spring cleaning your finances

Why do you budget, save, spend, insure, invest and plan the way that you do? Are you happy with how your finances are working for you? Write down some clear and definitive ideas to sweep away old habits and create a more satisfying result.

Review your budget

Balance all your bank accounts and take a second look your past six months of credit card charges to see if all adds up correctly and that there are no billing errors.

What??? You don’t have a budget. Today is a good day to write down your income and your expenses. With that knowledge, you can now plan and direct your dollars into more focused streams!

Set a few primary, short-term goals

For example, you could set a goal for paying off the credit card with the lowest balance. Set yourself up to hit your new objectives. As you achieve success with your smaller financial projects, you gain confidence to complete larger intentions! And that is a win-win for you and your wallet!

Clear Out the Clutter

Take a serious look at everything you own. Give deep thought to want you want to be most important in your life. Set up actions steps to turn that visual intention into reality. Too much stuff? Distill it down. It’s easier to take care of less. And you keep what is most valuable to you. Too many accounts to manage? Pare down to three accounts, now you have more money at each institution and have created more “klout” for yourself. Utilize direct deposit and automate a small percentage to savings each week.

Streamlining your efforts help to clear your mind, and allow you to focus on creating a proactive life. You will find that spring cleaning your finances, and stating goals result in intentional living.

Find more #moneynerve tips – Enjoy this new vodcast: Funny Money Talks!

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Gratitude

3x3-gratitude-thank-you

Where is your “Gratitude Meter” set? Do you find something to be thankful for each day or do you rush through life unaware and unhappy? The action of being thankful, appreciative or expressing gratitude can be a powerful tool for living a meaningful life. Studies show that we can deliberately pursue an appreciation for the goodness in our lives, the result is an increase in our well-being and happiness.

Focus on the goodness in your life, and you retrain your brain to look for abundance. Try this instead of dwelling on the lack of “things.” Scientific studies demonstrate that fear and negativity increase cortisol.  This “fight or flight” hormone narrows your perspective because you perceive danger in your life. Developing a positive mindset increases the mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine), in your body. A positive mindset also encourages people to “broaden and build” life skills. Begin to actively seek new opportunities and utilize your small successes to achieve a more abundant and meaningful life.

Take a moment each day to express gratitude for the goodness in your life. This intentional action sets the tone for the rest of the day. Some people like to begin their day with a meditation or mantra of gratitude. Your thoughts direct your efforts, creating the best results, at work or home, as the day unfolds.

Others prefer towrite down their activities and review the goodness of the day each night. Being thankful for all the moments and people in our daily life can change our intentions. Learn to flip frustrations or challenges to create new opportunities for choosing what is important over time.

As the holiday season approaches, many people focus on gift-giving, thankfulness, and an abundant life. Remember to keep that sense of choosing happiness and caring when the fine china is put up. Keeping an attitude of gratitude throughout the year can relieve stress and generate a more optimistic view. A mindset of cultivating kindness can often have positive effects that we can’t even imagine. Like a small pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples of good will and thoughtful interactions can have a huge impact on many people, some of whom you may never meet!

In gratitude ~ Bob

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SPEND MONEY ON EXPERIENCES, not THINGS

3x3 Vacation TimeSpend Money on Experiences, not Things!

Sounds hedonistic, but spending money on experiences over things may bring you a higher level of genuine joy and longer-lasting satisfaction in life. We all have a limited amount of money to spend and want to allocate our resources for maximum results. Earning more money brings happiness – but only up to a certain point. People need a place to live, a car and food on the table, but before you buy that next new “thing,” take a moment to determine if you would be more satisfied spending money on an experience with family or friends over a new iPhone.

A new gadget or piece of technology often causes us to swell with pride in a brief moment of that “Wow” factor when showing off the new purchase. Physical products often lose their value as they become a mundane piece of your life and let’s face it – there is always something newer, better, or that has more options.

The concept of spending money on experiences over material purchases has been studied in-depth by Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovich. For over a decade, he has been trying to understand how and why experiential purchases are so much better than material products. Using the simple concept of conscious choice, you can create a life that is rich in its abundance by sharing experiences and connecting with the people you love.

In fact, if you have ever been at a party where you are meeting new people, it is easy to connect with someone when you realize that both of you ran the same marathon, hiked the same trail in a national park or vacationed in the same city. It doesn’t matter if they spent $10,000 and you spent $900. Both trips were equally as exciting! The shared experience bonds you as you both compare notes, relive your trip, and refresh the memories.

Summer is quickly passing, and if you have not taken the time to refresh yourself, there are still some great experiences waiting for you! Take a pass on a new car and use the one you have. Journey to a fabulous week with family or friends and make memories that will last a lifetime! Here is a great website to help you purchase an experience before the leaves begin to turn: http://www.lastminutetravel.com/PagePackageSearch.aspx

Remember to take time to stop and smell the roses!

Bob

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Vacation Travel Hacks

The Money Nerve travel hacks

Everyone deserves an escape from work now and then and you don’t need to break your piggy bank. Make the most of your vacation dollars by planning ahead, and using money-savvy travel hacks to create an oasis of fun and relaxation!

You know you need a break and want to find the best spot. Here are a couple of tips for you to find the best solutions for both traveling and sticking to your budget.

  • Book fixed-cost trips: Explore and select trips that fit the exact dollar amount in your budget. No extra fees & no surprises. Another method for destination selection is to pick a theme. Base your trip on some of your favorite activities. Love wine? Tour a few vineyards or participate in a cooking class seminar. History buffs can find numerous forts and museums across the country while nature lovers have incredible opportunities to hike and bike, enjoying a personal experience in stunning landscapes.
  • Plan Ahead: Find discount codes for your favorite destination and pre-purchase museum tickets, boat rides or city-saver coupon books ahead of time. You will be amazed at how much money you can save!
  • Road Trips: Today, gasoline is still very reasonable and driving is a cost efficient mode of travel. Allow time for side trips and enjoy several stops along the way. Check out some of the most popular USA road trips HERE.
  • Spectacular Landscape: Another fabulous way to see America: Visit nps.gov to find a national park within driving distance. For more road trip ideas, visit http://www.visittheusa.com.
  • Lower Hotel Costs: Travel with friends and family and rent a condo or house. One option is to find smaller independently owned hotels that are not part of a chain. Many times you will get more personal service and spend less. Tired of slow elevators and too many people? Investigate AirBNB or Vacation Homes By Owner for spacious digs at half the price of hotels.
  • Popular Destinations: Find the “hot-spot” and stay in the nearest town for bigger savings. For example, if you are going to Niagara Falls, stay outside of Buffalo, New York – it’s only a 20-minute drive across the border.
  • Flying: Be sure to check flight rates often, use the online travel services that compare prices and send you alerts; farecompare.com, farecast.com, yapta.com, travelocity.com.

Vacations are great stress relievers and bring a sense of renewal to the fast pace of everyday life.  Reward yourself! Be proactive and reap the benefits of your hard work without going into debt.  Be sure to follow @themoneynerve on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more travel hacks.

Have a great vacation this summer — You deserve it!

Bob

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SPRING CLEANING YOUR FINANCES

Spring Clean 4x4 300 dpiWhat are you waiting for? It’s Time to Spring Clean your Finances! For most people, the idea of climbing Mount Everest is scary. The thought of walking along a narrow trail with a three-thousand-foot cliff at its edge may leave you frozen in your tracks. In a similar scenario, some people are terrified of facing their budgets, their level of spending and how they will live once they have retired.

Most people spend their lives confronting financial fear by ignoring it.

Join me for a quick and easy “Spring Cleaning your Finances challenge! For the next two weeks, I will be sharing easy tips for you to clean out what you don’t need and give you some tools to make the most of the income you have! Clear out the dust, drop that debt and take advantage of #TheMoneyNerve tips to “Spring Clean Your Finances!”

Please like and share the Money Nerve posts and feel free to share some of your favorite tips for saving money. Tag @themoneynerve and use the hashtags #SpringClean #TheMoneyNerve when sharing or posting. On Monday, May 2, one winner will be randomly selected from these social media posts to win a complimentary 30-minute financial session with me via Skype.

Financial fear can make you stop in your tracks. Not taking a look at your account balances, not making any decisions, ignoring your family, and not knowing when to take good advice are a few examples of how people start to freeze up. Now that tax time has ended, it is the perfect opportunity to review, refine and move forward financially. It is smart to re-organize your life: the house, the garage, the medicine cabinet, and your finances on an annual basis. Fine-tuning your goals will help to make the next year easier and more prosperous!

Let’s go!

Bob

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CREATE SPACE FOR NEW BELIEFS

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We have all unconsciously downloaded misinformation into our brains. We now have to consciously begin identifying our early money programming memories based on our family, early childhood and how we were raised. It will take some work to identify and change those beliefs.

By finding and following The Money Nerve, you have already started the process of self-discovery. The more I’ve learned about myself, the more I’ve understood the impact that even the most seemingly insignificant events have had on my life and that probably rings true for you as well.

Before you start any journey, you need to know where you want to go (your goal), what you have to work with (your beliefs), and what new things you will bring (your new perspective).

It’s important to bring your story to consciousness so that you begin to take responsibility for where you are. This, in turn, helps you make clearer choices that will take you where you WANT to go—and allows you to realize your own power.

Explore some of your old habits and see if those actions are still serving you. If they hold you back, it is time to clean out any financial and emotional “trash” and move forward. Once you are aware of where you sabotage yourself financially, you can begin to change your automatic responses. Be more present and listen carefully to the words you are using. As you start to consciously hear yourself creating roadblocks, choose to intentionally reroute your mind toward the fresh course of action that you have set for yourself.

Start by setting aside time to think, reflect and write down your thoughts, present and future. Spending time by yourself gives you the ability to hear your own voice and discover your dreams. Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

With a certain amount of quiet time, you start to listen with the ears behind your ears. You may hear voices saying, “Only special people do that,” “I don’t deserve it”— and the voices may not be your own. It will sound like you are saying it, but if you are like me, you might hear your parents telling you that you are not capable. Tell those voices to be quiet; you are busy. And then go back and pay attention to your own voice.

Are you ready to take action? If you hate your job, find your passion and work in that field. If you don’t have skills, take classes. If you hate being broke, start saving. If you are unhappy with your debt, make a plan to pay it down while curbing spending.

What is working for you and what isn’t? Are you ready to start creating your financial freedom even if the process is scary? Now you can begin to head in a new direction.

Invest in Value for Long Term Sustainability

The financial quick-fixers have a duct tape mentality, and contrary to popular belief, duct tape doesn’t fix everything. They may get immediate results, but are not actually dealing with the cause of their problem.

If you are overdrawn in your bank account, you might think you are doing right by using your credit card to bring your account back into balance. That is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The reality is that you are creating more debt for yourself and adding interest payments to what you owe already.

I joke that I wish I could “un-know” what I know. It is a lot more work when you start to take responsibility for your life. Imagine going to a seminar and hearing that there are eight steps you have to take in order to become a millionaire. Many people in the seminar will stop at four steps and say, “I’ve finished four steps, why don’t I have 500,000 dollars?”

We live in a volatile world. Instead of being a financial quick-fixer, take a longer view into the future and begin to make choices will create a healthy and abundant lifestyle over time.

  • Figure out where you are: Take a look at your spending habits and write down every purchase in a month.
  • Identify your priorities: How can you reallocate funds to support your priorities and provide additional value in your life?
  • Create a financial support system: Actively seek support utilizing professional advice, friends, financial tools, software and applications to set yourself up for success.

Once you learn to work with your list of financial goals and stop operating out of fear regarding money, you will see your efforts transfer to other aspects of your life. You may feel more financially confident once you have a clear vision of where you are and where you want to be.

Empowering yourself financially allows you to toss out old reactions and habits. You choose your actions! As you tap into your own power, you no longer wait for luck to happen or hope that you win the lottery—you actively take charge of your life. I call this positive lifestyle where the riches of life are inherent in your soul—proactive abundance!

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DASHING Through DECEMBER

3x3 Dashing to DecKeep it real!

You survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday and now you have the rest of your Christmas shopping to do. Amid holiday parties, family gatherings and business obligations, it’s time for many of you to begin annual holiday shopping, too!

The National Retail Federation’s latest survey finds that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $463 on family members, up from $458 last year and the highest in survey history. Average spending per person is expected to reach $805, with more than half of shoppers planning to splurge on non-gift items for themselves. And if you use credit cards, be prepared to go over budget by 25%.

Many people get emotional about selecting gifts for family members and loved ones. The desire to get the very best present is often in direct conflict with the reality of keeping your budget on target. Going overboard for Christmas and beginning 2016 in debt is not your best course of action.

Here at The Money Nerve, we believe that positive and intentional choices allow you to be deliberate about your spending during the holidays and beyond. Take a moment and examine some of the holiday emotions that may pop up out unexpectedly!  Are you trying to “buy” love or attention? Is there family competition regarding who bought or received the “best” gift? Do you feel the need to purchase a gift for every person you know?

Stop. Think about your long-term goals for your life and how you want to recognize or honor the special people in your life. Be thoughtful. Attaching a personal, heartfelt message with a small present can be the greatest gift of all. Spread holiday cheer on a personal level. This is a season based on love and sharing. – Reconnect with the people who are most important to you.

Enjoy the holiday, the shopping and the people! See if these five tips help you navigate the holidays and make it easier on your wallet:

1. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “The early bird gets the worm.” So begin saving for next year’s holidays in January. Set aside $25-$75 per month. Use cash whenever possible.

2. Set your budget. If you traditionally tip a babysitter, a dog walker or special people who provide personal services at the end of the year, be sure to add that to your budget.

3. Make a gift list. List the amount you want to spend on family and friends and stick to it. If you bought gifts early, pull them out to wrap. I have friends who forgot they purchased gifts early, put the gifts in a safe place, and then found the items after the holiday season.

4. Find deals. Read those Sunday ads and use apps like RedLaser to price match items. You want to be sure you get the best price on your purchases.

5. It’s not the size of the gift, it is the thought behind it. You can give small “stocking stuffers” to colleagues: $5 Starbucks cards, a mini-bottle of Champagne, homebaked cookies, or a chance to win the lottery with a $2 Scratch off card. There are many small and fun ways to show people you care!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah and more!

Bob

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Focus on Your Future

the money nerve

Have you ever heard Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant?

The grasshopper loved hopping about and singing during the warm summer. One day he saw an ant working hard to move an ear of corn and cried out, “Why in the world are you collecting food on this bright and beautiful day? Stay and play with me!” The ant shook his head and said, “I am saving this for the cold winter, and you should do the same.” The grasshopper laughed and went off to play but perished during cold weather. The moral of the story: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

The story seems harsh, and many people wish for a fairy tale ending where others solve all of our financial dreams (i.e., winning the lottery, getting an inheritance, marrying a rich spouse). In 1934, Disney created the delightful film short “The Grasshopper and the Ants” where the Ant Queen and her colony felt pity for the grasshopper and took him in during the winter. Have you ever seen the video? Check it out below.

Sometimes a project or goal seems so far away that it is easy to procrastinate. There is so much time left and we get bogged down in our busy-ness, that daily decisions feel more urgent and important than long-term investments in life.

Reality check: It’s your life; it’s your money! How are your plans for retirement going? Do you have savings for a rainy day? Life happens – when you least expect it.

Saving and spending are part of living a life of abundance. Let’s change the words being used from short-term desires like “I need those shoes” to some long-term goals such as, “I am making better choices with my money, to maintain my lifestyle when I get older.” As you discover the best balance between living for today like the grasshopper and stashing some wealth like the ant, you will come to realize that both are investments in yourself.

Ignoring regular maintenance on your car because you don’t want to spend the money can result in major car expenses down the line. In the same way, poor spending or saving habits may also result in a later retirement and fewer choices down the road. What should you do?

Here are three easy ways to get started:
1. Take the quarterly plan you created last week and imagine retirement is a “big purchase” like a house.
2. Determine the price of this long-term goal (the amount of money needed) with this calculator.
3. Tweak your quarterly plan (budget) to begin investing toward your targeted “quality of life” in your later years. You will be glad you decided to invest in yourself!

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CREATING A BLUEPRINT FOR LIFE

3x3 Blueprint for SuccessA builder doesn’t just go out and build a 10-story building. First the owner and the architect ask questions to define the finished structure: How tall will the building be? What will it be made of? How much will it cost? How many people will be needed and what resources will it take to build?

Let’s take that same approach with your financial plans.

If you are unhappy about your debt, make a plan to pay it down while curbing your current spending habits.

 

Begin by asking questions.

What is working for me?
Where am I having challenges?
How can I overcome my fears and move into a new direction?
What is my goal?
What would be my first step?

Facing your finances is the first step. There is no physical harm in facing your financial reality. No one has ever been stabbed by a bank account! You may feel a pang in your stomach – and you are still fine. Acknowledging your financial situation may feel painful emotionally and taking steps to confront your current situation is a good start.

The second step is finding a friend or financial coach to support you. Discuss best practices and prepare an outline for the next three months. A series of small steps or goals will lead the way to a more successful long-term goal. Often the mere presence of a plan can alleviate emotional turmoil.

It is your money and your life, so the third step is to implement the plan for the next 90 days.

Re-evaluate your finances to determine where you can update or tweak your quarterly plan. Be realistic and honest. Did you round up your income and round down your expenses? Did you forget to account for eating out? Sift through any unknowns that popped up and add that information to your next 3-month outline for a better outcome.

By implementing conscious choices and thoughtful actions, you are building a blueprint for your life. Setting short-term plans builds the foundation for long-term success, with a lifestyle you envisioned and crafted.

Begin today!

Bob