Tame The Financial Beast

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Are holiday bills surprising you? Are you hoping that if you ignore your finances long enough, maybe they will fix themselves?

Let's liken our finances to a garden. If we neglect the garden, weeds will grow and take over. The garden gets so bad we don't even want to look at it! But, with a little maintenance and tending the garden becomes a joy.

The first step towards creating a joyful financial garden is learning to save.

Why bother saving? Before we delve into the often scary place of finding out how much of the money is going in and out, we need to find a motive to dig deep.

You need to know why you want to save mo'ney. Do you want to own your home, reach financial independence, get a vacation home on an island? Or do you simply want financial peace so you're not worrying about money?

Once you get that vision of what you want to achieve you will have the motivation to examine your finances.

Financial Dream.

How much will it cost to fulfill your vision? Work out some figures, and write down your estimation. This is your financial goal.

When do you want to achieve your financial dream? 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Now you know not only how much you need by when. This tells you how much you'll need to save each year to reach your goal in your required timeframe.

Look at your finances.

You can't bury your head in the garden sand of your finances or you will end up with pricker bushes and weeds the size of trees.

You know what you want, when you want it and how much you want to save. Now you get to see if you can save that much. Look at your in'come and expenses. Do you have more coming in, then going out? If you do, you have a great start. If not, we'll look at how to create savings in a minute.

Save first.

The biggest mistake people make is to say "I will save whatever is left over." Don't try this at home. Your expenses will expand to use up any money that is there.

Instead, put money in savings first. Many companies allow you to automatically deduct money to put into a savings account. You won't miss it, because you'll never see it.

Now you get to play the "How Can I Live on the Rest" game. Challenge yourself and be innovative. Are we having fun yet?

I can't save that much!

If you can't save as much as your goal, don't sweat it. Start saving whatever you can. The psychological impact of bringing in more than you spend will help motivate you to save even more. And it feels great! Starting with $10 a month is at least something!

Prune those expenses.

The easiest and quickest way to save more is to cut your expenses.

First, get rid of cre'dit card de'bt. If you can't use your card responsibly cut it up or put it in a block of ice in the freezer.

Next, list everything you spend money on. For each item ask if this is something that you can cut with no pain. Or will it cause a little pain. Or will it feel like taking off a limb?

Beside each item, list how much you would save each month by eliminating or slashing that cost by 50%. That number is what you could save for your dream. Imagine what you could do with that cash!

Some suggestions for cutting expenses.

Get books and magazines from the library instead of buying them

Get rid of things that don't add to your life

Cancel the gym membership and workout with a buddy

Ditch the cell phone till you can start saving

Think about your car- can you get around without it? Do you really need a second car? Can you replace your newer one with an older car? The car is one of the biggest expenses when you include repairs, insurance and depreciation. Selling a car could give you thousands of dollars in savings. Rent a cheaper place! At least until you have 6-12 months of living expenses stashed away in a savings account. If the mortgage is killing you - give yourself a break. Talk to a financial planner or accountant about selling the place and renting cheaply, or renting out your expensive place and renting cheaply.

Eat out less. Go out for coffee instead of lunch with your friends. Or invite them over to your place.

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OK - there's a blueprint to start taking financial responsibility, and to begin to enjoy your financial garden, instead of dreading being attacked in it! And coaches - feel free to use these ideas with your clients.

David Wood is a personal and business coach, and an original founder of the International Coach Academy - a global coach training school.

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