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Find Cash in Fortune Cookies

At a loss for financial aphorisms? Pining for a bite-sized money maxim? Hunger no more -- Motley Fool takeout is here!

Here's a handful of moneymaking and money-saving tips boiled down and packaged for easy consumption. Cut out the fortune cookie fillers below for whenever you crave a financial pick-me-up. Tack a few to your computer monitor. Sneak one into your pal's burrito. Tape one over your credit card's magnetic strip. Foolish fortune is perfect with every meal!

Cash within easy reach vanishes quickly. Money inaccessible via ATM multiplies.
Cash in hand is like a toll-booth EZ pass, allowing you to sail through your day without even blinking before you buy. There's no need to get in the slow lane to curb your spending. Just keep just what you need (or want to spend) in your wallet each day or week and plant the rest of it someplace where it can grow. For cash you need for a big purchase in the next few years, high-yield accounts (which limit the number of transactions you can make each month) are a good place to start. (We've got advice on some of the best parking spots for your short-term money.)

Sneer not at pocket change, for en masse it is as mighty as paper currency.
You will never look at your couch cushions and grimy dimes stuck to the sidewalk the same way once you start counting your spare change. As they say, the little things add up. Tighten your belt (or put a tip jar on your desk at work) and you can turn $20 a day into a million in less than three decades. Here's how the math works. The key is consistent savings, and holding on to let compound interest work in your favor over time. Throw your coins in a 12-ounce container at the end of each day and, according to Coinstar's spare change estimator, you'll have $21.41 when it's full. Top off a one-gallon jug and you're looking at $228.34. Which leads us to ...

The road to wealth has no speed limit. A stroll or a sprint leads to the same destination.
Though a windfall makes saving a lot easier, you needn't tie your future financial comfort to a lottery ticket or inheritance that may never materialize. You won't even miss the money you're hiding for your future retired self when you feed your company 401(k) or 403(b). That's the beauty of automated contributions that immediately take money from each paycheck before you pay one dime in taxes. What are you waiting for? Go get the retirement plan paperwork from HR and start squirreling away money for your future self.

Credit cards aren't born bad. They only become so when mistreated.
The right credit card makes the plastic lining your wallet a tool for good, giving you goodies like a free float on a loan and a way to earn cash and other rewards. But failing to follow the eight commandments of credit and ignoring excessive fees can leave you under a dark cloud of debilitating debt. There is a way out -- and it starts with one phone call. Use your leverage with your lender (here's how) and you'll exorcize the debt demon in no time.

The mortgage mountain is easily scaled with a light debt load and stellar credit history.
Homeownership is one of the American dreams. But for some it has devolved into the American nightmare. You can't control the housing market's gyrations but you do have control over your costs of homeownership. The three-digit key is your FICO score, and where you fall on the good-to-bad scale can mean pocketing or paying out thousands of dollars a year on your mortgage. The stellar borrower will pay $899 a month for a $150,000 30-year fixed mortgage at 5.89% compared to the homeowner with iffy credit who can only qualify for an 8.83% loan and will pay $1,188 a month.

Improve your credit profile (which pays off in every scenario where banks, insurers, and even employers are involved) and you'll improve your monthly cash flow. Doing so isn't as daunting as you might think. In this month's issue of Motley Fool Green Light, I interviewed a credit-scoring insider to get the skinny on how lenders keep score. Take a free one-month pass and check out eight surprising ways to improve your FICO score in three to 12 months.

Wealth is worthless if your life is bankrupt.
Denial, worry, stinginess, and the public dissemination of your every trip to rehab (sorry, Britney!) are a clear sign of the disconnect between wealth and emotional well-being. Yet we strive for more and more and wonder why more money doesn't make us happy. The question to ask is not what your money can buy for you (possession-wise), but what your money can allow you to do. A little soul searching will unearth what really matters deepest in your heart. Don't be surprised if "financial security" (in the form of a three-month cash cushion) or "more quality time with the family" (a good excuse to establish a dedicated "vacation fund") appear higher on your list than "a new plasma TV."

However, don't dismiss the fact that basic financial comfort pays huge emotional dividends, which leads us to our final item ...

A sound night's sleep begins with a positive cash-flow balance.
Control your destiny, grasshopper. Bringing mindfulness to your money management will lead to smarter decisions with every dollar that passes through your hands. This week try a few of the tricks mentioned above. Carry just cash in your wallet and see how it affects your spending. Increase your 401(k) or IRA contributions today and see whether you honestly notice the money coming out of your paycheck. Toss your spare change into a jar every evening, and see what it amounts to after just seven days.

Seize your good fortune
For a hand with these and all other money decisions, from simple first investments to advice on more complicated transactions like home buying and investing for college, come over to Motley Fool Green Light and introduce yourself. Grab a free (yes, gratis) 30-day trial and skim the detailed issue index (from August '06 through April '07) for tips galore on everything from ETFs, 401(k) rollovers, ARM refinancing, retail stocks, measuring portfolio risk, savings shortcuts, the best discount brokers, and on and on.

After consulting a bag full of fortune cookies, a Magic 8 Ball, three horoscopes, and tea leaves, Dayana Yochim has decided to have mac 'n' cheese for lunch. She is the co-advisor of the Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service, which offers down-to-earth advice and never leaves readers' riches to fate. The Fool has a disclosure policy that is legally binding on heaven and earth.


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