Educate yourself to make better ? nancial decisions.
Health may be wealth, but an optimal blood pressure reading still can’t be exchanged for cash to pay the bills (and gadgets). It’s all nice and well to set out to live a fuller and more meaningful life, but let’s be realists here - part of that fullness comes from having a fuller wallet.In the next two pages, I’m going to offer you some tips if your resolution this year is to be better off. I can’t guarantee success; but don’t forget me if you do become a millionaire.
Keep track of your spending
It’s easy to lose track of your monthly expenditure. We’ve all been at the receiving end of a rude bill shock one time or the other. Things are even worse if you’re a techie, inundated as we are by an unceasing deluge of shiny gadgets that fl ash, pop, and sparkle. We’d tell you to get some self-control, but we know from personal experience that some of us just aren’t very good at being responsible adults. Still, you don’t have to be a hapless victim to the sweet magnetic pull of consumerism.
One simple way would be to actually keep track of all your expenses so you know when you’re spending too much. This will help make you more conscious of how many times you’re swiping that card, and also allow you to plan ahead.An app like Dollarbird can help you note everything down. It’s essentially a personal finance tracker that uses a simple calendar-based interface to record your daily expenses. Financial planning can definitely get confusing (what was this figure for again?), but the app will also allow you to enter recurring expenses and income like utility bills, rent, and your salary. With your monthly cash flows keyed in, Dollarbird can even give you a five-year financial projection.
Educate yourself to make better financial decisions
You’ve probably had someone tell you that you have to find some way to make your money “grow”. These tidbits usually drop from the mouths of your more affluent friends who constantly astound you with their savvy investments, derivatives, and all manner of financial instruments. You know, that one friend who bought a house with the profits he made off the stock market?
For the rest of us mere mortals who don’t know our hedge funds from unit trusts, this might be the time to get educated. We all want to achieve some semblance of financial security, but a regular savings account is a slow way to do it. The widespread availability of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from sites like Coursera, edX, and Udacity means that anyone with an Internet connection can take structured courses in their topic of interest.
So if you wanted to learn more about finance in order to make smarter decisions, you could look at a course on edX simply titled “Finance for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision-Making” that equips you with the skills to evaluate the real-world impact of important choices like whether to rent or buy a home or car.A simple search on any of these MOOC websites will yield a number of courses for you to pick from. The best part is that some of these courses are self-paced, which means that you aren’t bound by the onward march of the syllabus of a regular class and can fit your learning around your work schedule.
Take on small jobs for extra income
The success of Uber has given rise to a lot of talk about a so-called gig economy, where multiple, small jobs supersede any one permanent position. Whether or not that is really the direction we’re headed, these “gigs” could be a way for you to bolster your income. The voluntary, short-term nature of this work also means that you won’t have to worry about it interfering with the schedule of your day job.Websites like Fiverr allow anyone to register and offer their services for hire.
It’s essentially a services marketplace, with services starting at US$5. You’ll also have the option to offer additional services on top of your base service that customers can purchase. As a seller on Fiverr, you would receive a net revenue of US$4 for every completed job and have the money credited to a linked PayPal account. There are also alternatives like PeoplePerHour, which allows more flexibility in how you price your gigs. If none of that appeals to you, you can still apply to become a web tester at UserTesting, which will pay you US$10 via PayPal for every 20-minute testing session.
Set up an online store front
You know how the saying goes: Waste not, want not. The wise man who coined the phrase was probably thinking more along the lines of knitting your old sweater into a pair of mittens, but one good way to keep your finances healthy is to not let used items go to waste. No, we don’t mean giving them away to the Salvation Army, although you should probably do that as well for your other resolution to be a better person. Fortunately, the popularity of mobile apps that help you recoup some dollars from used gadgets and goods means that there’s no shortage of online spaces in which to hawk your stuff.
With apps like Trezo, Carousell and Shopee, anyone can become their own online merchant. Both of them work similarly – you just post a picture of whatever it is you’re selling, fill in some details and a short description, and you’re good to go. Potential buyers can contact you directly through the app to arrange a deal. If you’re the creative, hands-on sort, you can even start making your own merchandize and sell them on Etsy. And if that doesn’t work out, there’s always eBay.
Save, save, save
This one is an obvious one, but one that really deserves a lot more of your attention. Of course, depending on your salary, this will be easier for some people and more difficult for others. But as Robert Kiyosaki said in his book Rich Dad Poor Dad, “an eighth-grade dropout who spends less than he earns is smarter than a college professor who can’t make ends meet”. We mentioned earlier that a regular savings account isn’t the savviest way to accrue enough funds for retirement, but savings still comprise the foundation of your wealth.
After all, you do need to have sufficient funds before you can even think about investing. It’s a good idea to aim to save at least 20% of your monthly income. But if that’s already a figure you’re hitting, why not aim to push that up a little more? In the meantime, how about this piggy bank in the form of Darth Vader’s head to motivate you? Vader’s helmet may not be able to contain your life savings, but it sure makes for a nice container for loose change, and a reminder that even the dark lord of the Sith is on board with your savings plan.