At the ririanproject.com website, I read an article offering 35 "sneaky" ways to improve your finances. Many of them were ones I could recite in my sleep -- and you probably could, too:
- "Pay yourself first." Take your savings and investment money out of your paycheck before you start making discretionary purchases. Aim for 10%.
- "Make extra debt payments." By paying more than the minimum amount required on a debt, we pay it off faster and save up to thousands of dollars in interest.
- "Live beneath your means." Distinguish between what you want and what you need. Do you need (or want) leather seats in your car? Do you need (or want) the latest iPod when you already have one?
Try these tactics ...
I was pleased, though, to find some lesser-known suggestions among the 35:
- Direct deposit your earnings. This can help your savings because you can allocate a certain sum from your paycheck to go straight into a savings account.
- Freelance. You can put your skills and interests to work on the side, perhaps by advertising your services on craigslist.com. You might, for example, tile someone's bathroom floor, or fix people's computers, or teach someone Armenian.
- Keep a little black book. (No, not that kind of book.) Keep track of money that's owed to you, and try to get repaid. This can be a big money-preserver if you tend to forget about sums you've loaned.
- Request a raise. Here's another one we don't think about enough. You needn't settle for the little annual increase you get. If you think you're worth more, gather the supporting data and make a compelling case to your employer.
- Cut down on meat. If you're not the biggest meat lover, it might be easy to reduce your meat consumption and boost your veggie intake. This can save lots of dollars, too.
- Have a monetary goal. This is one we rarely hear, but it makes sense: Without a specific financial goal, your odds of reaching it are far less than if you did have one. Figure out and write down exactly how much money you want to accumulate by what point in your life, and what it will be for. Then it will be easier to track your progress and motivate yourself, as you work toward having, say, $350,000 for retirement by age 45, and $2 million by age 60.
- Keep temptation away. This one is surprisingly obvious, but I don't think we hear it enough: If you find you spend more than you want to and need to in places like malls, don't go in them, or at least cut back on visits.
- Here's another one that's critical: Keep learning. The more you read and think about money management, the more ideas you'll gather, the better perspective you'll develop, and the better your portfolio will likely perform.
Getting wealthier really doesn't require much sneakiness -- many tactics and strategies are rather straightforward. You do have to stop procrastinating and take some action. After you start hiking your savings, for example, move the long-term portion into effective vehicles such as tax-deferred retirement accounts. If you haven't yet taken advantage of your 401(k) at work, schedule time to do that in your next work day.
You'll probably be surprised at how much you can save, invest, and accumulate. It will make your retirement a lot more golden.