This is the era of fiscal responsibility. In the past few years we have seen a shift in the thinking of the average American. This shift has been caused by a reaction to the recession and a revaluation of assets, especially real estate and stocks. For most Americans, there is more work to be done. With the New Year upon us, it is time to make a few “financial resolutions.”
Get control of spending. The holidays are over, and the tab is coming due. Less of us are over-spending on gifts this year. However, regardless of whether you have overspent or not, taking control of your spending habits is a “year-round” job-not one that calls for restraint only during the holidays.
Start with the formulation of a budget. List your fixed expenses (ones that can’t change) first and then variable expenses. For example, you can’t change the cost of your social security taxes or your car payment. But you can change how much you spend on entertainment or cigarettes every month.
Now ask yourself a very important question. Which variable expenses can be reduced? Certainly, you probably guessed that we would suggest you stop smoking. Here is a habit that costs you every month and in the long-run is likely to increase your cost for health care as well.
Don’t stop there. Look hard at the fixed expenses. Can you reduce some of these as well? For example, could you refinance your mortgage? How about shopping for lower-cost car insurance or raising your deductible? For many, health insurance costs are taking up a larger part of their monthly budget. Can this cost be reduced?
The final step is to follow the budget. That means assessing what you spent each month and making monthly adjustments. If there are extraordinary expenses such as house maintenance, did you budget for these?
Get control of your debts. Of course, the largest fixed expense for many Americans is their monthly payments for debts. Credit cards, car loans and mortgages all come under the “debt” category. The money you save by reducing spending should be put to work doing two things. The first thing is reducing debts because this will make more money available for saving in the long run.
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