Simple, Not Easy.
Almost all of us want more money. It's not because we're greedy. It's because we tend to consume, or want to consume, more than we earn. We have too much month at the end of the money.
The solution to personal finance is simple. Earn more than you spend. But even if the solution is simple it is not easy. Reducing expenditures means making choices and establishing priorities. More to the point, it means doing without something. We don't like that when it comes to luxury items that we want but do not need. We like it even less when it comes to non-luxury items.
Increasing income is a simple fix to the lack of income challenge, but it isn't easy either. Current unemployment rates and constant change to the global economy make traditional solutions to low-income, such as getting a better job, difficult if not impossible. Many people already juggle more than one job to make ends meet.
Here are some concrete suggestions that you can use to improve your personal financial picture. Apply the simplest and easiest ones first to get the greatest result fastest, but don't stop there. The idea is to use these steps to learn how to manage your money better. That's a lifelong task - both the learning and the managing. But, if you learn how to help yourself and then make a habit of doing so you can't help but improve your situation.
The best place to start is with the expenditure side of the ledger. Most of us do a lot of unconscious spending, and targeting this is the first step. Here are the tricks:
- Make a household budget
- Track your spending
- Ask yourself if you really need what you're about to buy
- Use cash instead of credit
- Avoid impulse purchases - plan before you buy
- Shop and compare - make use of online tools to do this
- Find less costly alternatives for purchases you must make
- Make living within your means a goal, and reward yourself for achieving it.
Each of these steps qualifies as simple, not easy. They involve real effort, and you must sustain the effort. On the other hand, they are mutually supportive. Tracking your spending gives you the data you need to make (or test) your budget, and reviewing your budget allows you to ask yourself if you really need something. The most important thing, like always, is to begin, test the results, and then refine the process.
The problem with reducing expenditures to improve your personal finances is that you can't cut everything. In fact, the more you do cut the less there is left to cut. At some point increasing income starts to look very attractive.
There is nothing wrong with increasing your income, and there is a lot right with it. It is important to remember that the relationship between income and expenditure is more important than the level of income. Rich people and huge corporations go broke when they forget that. As you increase your income don't slip back into old spending habits.
You can increase your income many ways. The most important ingredient is a desire to make more money, because increasing income, just like reducing expenditures, is all about choice. Time that you spend earning income is time that you can't spend on other things, like family, video games, TV or shopping. Sometimes increasing income is less important than spending time with your children - you can't leave a toddler on their own so that you can take a second job. However, if you're earning less than you need and are having trouble paying your cable bill, maybe fewer sitcoms and more income generation is exactly what the doctor ordered. Here are the basic ways to increase your income:
- If you don't have a job, get one.
- If you have a job already, find out what you need to do to get a raise.
- Develop other sources of income
Once again, the phrase "simple, not easy" applies. What you can't escape is that to get more income you have to add value to someone or something. Nobody will employ you if you don't add to their bottom line. Nobody will give you a raise if you don't generate more profit. You won't find another source of income if you don't add value. In other words, you don't work and you don't get paid.
What can you do for work? One of the easiest ways of earning more income is to work online. Online work doesn't pay benefits. It doesn't offer minimum wage. It is completely results based. That is why it is growing so quickly. People who won't pick fruit for terrible wages will work long hours online for less income. There are two reasons why. First, they do earn real money. Second, they think they'll get something for nothing, or at least something close to that. The first reason is realistic. Forget the second. Here are some sources of online income:
- Write for Infobarrel, Squidoo or similar sites
- Create a niche site
- Sell a product online
- Work remotely as a virtual assistant
- Put Google Adsense on a blog that you're already writing
Infobarrel and Squidoo put ads in content that you create, and share some of that revenue with you. The more you write, and the more interesting it is, the more you earn. You won't earn a lot of money, but once you've written the content it will earn for you 24 hours a day. You can think of your content as a low earning, unpaid employee who gives you all his earnings.
Niche sites are web pages designed to sell a product or provide information. The owner of the niche site earns a referral on each sale, or receives referrals from ad clicks on the site. A niche site is not easy to build, and requires some real world/virtual world education, but they potentially good earners.
If you already produce something, whether art or a craft, or any other kind of product, you can sell it online. There are several online markets, from Craigslist to Ebay to Etsy that help with this.
Another product that you can sell online is yourself. If you have marketable skills and access to the internet you can sell to the global market. Fiverr.com is an example of a website where people will do just about anything for $5.00. If you have skills that demand a higher price you can advertise on websites like Odesk or Elance.
If you already blog or maintain a website you can monetize it. The simplest way to do this is to add Google Adsense. At the very least you can recover your hosting fees, which is good for your household budget. If your blog attracts real traffic you can earn substantial income this way, for something that you were already doing. It's like giving yourself a raise.
A happy household financial picture requires one thing: income must exceed expenditures. It is simple, but not easy, but nothing worth having ever comes without effort. You don't need to follow every step I've suggested. Pick and choose, but start with some of them today, and for the best results start with the expenditure side. Make this year better for you and your family by taking concrete steps. Make taking action a habit and you will not regret it.