Every individual is the architect of his own fortune. 

                                                 ~ Appius Claudius

With all the conversations I’ve heard and participated in recently regarding concern over unemployment, lower wages, fear of losing jobs, and savings accounts that seem to have developed a slow leak in the process of simple daily living I’ve given much thought to all the financial classes I’ve taken over the years in an effort to provide some tried and true ideas to help you lessen your financial stress levels.

1. Live within your budget.

Don’t try to keep up with your neighbors, your friends, or your extended family. Hundreds of them can’t keep up with their own bills!   In fact, an average of 1,433,151 personal bankruptcies were filed in America annually in 2009, 2010, and 2011 compared with 775,344 filed in 2007.

2.  Save your silver.  I love this one!  My husband put all the silver coins from his pockets into a large jar each evening for one year … When we took it to the bank mid-December there was over $700 in that jar enabling us to have an extra special treat over the holiday season!  You have nothing to lose by trying this one.  Any month/day you start is a good day!

3. Pay more than the minimum.

If you pay no more than the required minimum payment on your credit card bills each month, you’ll be in debt forever and ever.  On a balance of $390 with no new charges made to the account, paying minimum payments of $20 per month it will take you two years to pay off that $390 and you will end up paying a total of $511!   Could you add at least another $20 to your payment to start paying down the debt?

4. Save your next raise or bonus.

Guess what?  You’ve been living without it until now so instead of increasing discretionary spending or changing your lifestyle, or going on a huge vacation, consider arranging for the money to be automatically deducted from your paycheck or bank account. Invest this money in a savings account, money market or stock fund.

5. Snip coupons.

By cutting and using coupons for items you normally buy you could be saving an average of .85 cents per item. And, if you use those coupons on items already on sale you will save considerable more!  Using at least 5 per week, you’ll save roughly $220 to $500 per year. Look for double coupon opportunities and you’ll save even more.

6. Dine out wisely and with purpose.

I love to eat out and would never suggest that you eliminate eating out at restaurants!  However reserving your restaurant meals for special occasions and watching for coupons to your favorite restaurants or for new dining adventures will minimize this expenditure and still provide the enjoyment.  When dining out with the kids look for “kids eat free” specials or other significant promotions. Take advantage of the early bird specials offered at some locations or Senior Citizens discounts if that applies to you. If you enjoy alcoholic beverages you could minimize that expense by ordering only one drink or by changing to non alcoholic beverages.  You could also put a predetermined “eating out” amount of cash into an envelope at the beginning of each month. When that envelope is empty … create a fun and different meal at home!

7. Avoid buying anything “pre” at the supermarket.

Pre-cut, pre-chopped, pre-sliced, pre-packaged and otherwise prepared foods generally cost more money. Consider the convenience versus the cost to determine the value for you.  And, yes, there will be times you’ll choose the “pre” option; being aware of the value choice you make each time, however, will save you money as you choose to make a different choice at least part of the time.

8. Save your paper money, too!

By putting just $3.00 in a jar everyday along with that pocket change we talked about above, you’ll easily have accumulated at least an extra $1,000 cash by the end of the year without really missing it.

9. Building the foundation from which to work.

When you’re feeling completely overwhelmed with how to obtain the prosperity you need to maintain your standard of living and care for yourself and your family, a sense of despair often sets in and you cannot imagine a solution.  Take a moment to relieve some of the tension by drawing three deep breaths; releasing them slowly and feeling yourself relax. Though the frenzied, hurried actions you may be inclined to take will certainly generate a lot of activity, they probably won’t create a means of adding cash to your checking account today!  The things we do in haste seldom create lasting value.  Being uptight and anxious will not make you any more effective.

Being calm and focused will help minimize your stress so take the time to relax right now, no matter how urgent your deadlines seem to be — experience the benefits of relieving a little of your stress today, this minute.

Multi-tasking generally adds a touch of chaos to the day since you can only give your full attention to one thing at a time. To pretend otherwise is a waste of effort.  It would be much wiser to use your energy to achieve rather than to fight the chaos!   Those deep breaths allow you to clear your mind and stop worrying. You then are free to start calmly working through what needs to be done. Relax. When you’re enjoying the process, feeling more in control, visualizing where your efforts will take you, you’ll get to where you want to go much faster.

“Money is a way of measuring wealth but it is not wealth in itself.”

                                                         ~ Alan Watts 1915-1973

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