Many people dream of a steady job. I had one.
For almost 30 years, I collected a regular paycheck as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News. When I resigned two months ago, my income became less predictable.
Have I panicked at the uncertainty? Well, sometimes. But mainly I’ve become more disciplined about keeping track of my purchases. Using financial software, I know exactly how much I spend each month on groceries, dining, utilities, entertainment and the like.
I’m not alone in keeping a much closer eye on personal finances. The rocky economy has squeezed many households. But some people see an upside to the penny pinching.
“One good thing that has come from these hard economic times is that I’m financially smarter,” writes Mimi Bullock, a small business owner. “Instead of bemoaning my situation and falling apart, I’ve decided to focus on the positive aspects.”
She lists six financial lessons she’s learned:
- Make saving a priority.
- Pay debts on time or ahead of time.
- Compare prices on items.
- Avoid impulse buying.
- Learn more about investments.
- Plan for your financial future.
When times are good, most people don’t watch their money as closely as they should. I’ve always had a budget, but I didn’t adhere to it very closely. Now I do.
For single parents, budgeting is even more essential.
“As the head of the household, it’s up to you to make sure that your entire family’s needs are being met,” writes Jennifer Wolf on About.com. “ In order to do that, you need to be extremely diligent when it comes to money management basics. This is not something that will happen by accident. Instead, you must plan for it and work toward it.”
She outlines a thorough, 10-step plan for getting on top of your finances. The steps include determining how much you owe, finding money to pay down debt, setting financial goals and controlling spending.
“Now is the time to become even more frugal and learn to live within your means,” Wolf writes.
She hits on the key to financial survival: spending less than you make. That’s the simplest, most basic money tip. But it’s also the most important.
“As long as you do that over and over again, over a long period of time, you will be able to overcome any financial situation,” writes Trent Hamm in the Christian Science Monitor.
No one wants to have financial problems. But if you do, make the experience valuable. Put financial controls in place so that you can regain your footing and stay on solid ground. You may look back and be thankful for the hard times.