Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Extra-Wise Money Advice: "Live Below Your Means!"
When you're fresh out of college and you land your first job, it's easy enough to get caught up in the heady rush of consumerism.
You suddenly think you can afford to splurge on "cool stuff" like the giant aquarium that your parents never bought you. Alas, this line of thinking spells trouble for your finances...the kind of trouble that has you calling home and asking your mom and dad for rent money. Not exactly a sign of grown-up success, right?
"One of the biggest mistakes [people] make when they enter the workforce is establishing their lifestyle first and then trying to figure out how to pay for it," states Shannon Plate, author of Degunking Your Personal Finances.
If you made this mistake, don't despair. The good news is you can fix it. As Plate advises: "You can start by trying to cut 10 to 15 percent from your monthly expenses." She then goes on to enumerate some of the things you can downgrade or do without:
Citing J.D. Power, a firm which analyzes consumer behavior, Plate reveals that in 2006 alone the average cellphone user racked up 422 minutes of talk time. Strangely enough, cellphone companies stated that most of their subscribers went for their 600-minute and 900-minute plans. "Reducing your allowable minutes from 600 to 450 would save you that magic 10 percent. And, if you use prepaid plans, prepaid plans are always a better deal," suggests Plate.
2. Utility Bills
Remember what your parents told you. Turn off anything that you're not using. This rule applies to everything--from faucets to your TV set. To be extra sure, when it comes to electronics, unplug everything so that absolutely to electricity consumption occurs without you knowing about it.
3. Cable TV
Shop around for the most cost effective deal. There are many cable TV companies and they often offer special promotional prices or customer loyalty discounts. Make sure you don't miss out on these types of money-saving deals. Most of all, be realistic about how many cable TV channels you actually watch. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera points out that many of us end up paying for channels we don't even like. An AC Nielsen study revealed that the typical American household subscribes to about 118 channels--but only about 16 channels are are being watched regularly.
Moreover, you should lose your urge to shell out cash for status symbols. Get real. If you can't afford anything brand new just yet, then go for sturdy garage sale finds that will serve you well until you can finally afford a few simple luxuries.
This isn't to say you shouldn't channel your inner 10-year-old when you decide how to spend your paycheck. By all means, have fun with the cash you have after you've already paid all your bills and set some aside.
Bottom line: You can go crazy as a kid in a candy store with your money only after you've done what a grown-up is supposed to do. It's not that hard to do. "It's easier than you think," states Plate.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.