Underwhelm Your Home Life With 6 Simple Tips

  • Stressed out over a disorganized and cluttered home?
  • Overwhelmed with seemingly endless chores?
  • Clueless about what to fix for dinner? 
  • Deciding once again what outfit you will wear the next day? 
  • Struggling to pay bills on time or find important paperwork? 
  • Exhausted from constantly deleting unwanted and unnecessary emails?

Most of us live extremely busy lives and probably, at some point, have experienced all of the above negative emotions about keeping up with all we need to constantly manage.  The disorganization and lack of structure may be causing us to lose precious, quality time spent working on education, hobbies, exercising, and having much-needed fun with friends and family.  In addition, often without our intentions, we are losing hard-earned money on replacing lost or misplaced items, eating out too often due to no meal plans, buying clothing that we never end up wearing, and paying late fees on past due bills.

Are you searching for ways to change all of this in your life but unsure of where to begin?  Are you ready to do more of the things you really want to do but seem to never have time?  If so, read on to discover six simple steps for implementing a new and underwhelmed life that you will truly be amazed by.      

#1 Find a home for everything and keep it there

Most clutter accumulates from our just setting stuff down on the first available surface we come across when entering a room, often because we either don’t have a designated home for it or we think we will get to it later. Over a period of time, the clutter continues to grow to the point that we become so overwhelmed and can’t seem to focus on cleaning it up.  However, what we sometimes don’t realize is that this clutter and disorganization is drastically affecting our stress levels.  However, there are three easy things you can do to combat this problem.   

  • The first best thing you can do to eliminate clutter is to create a home for everything you have that you think is necessary to keep.  That home isn’t your dining room table, the kitchen counter, the corner of your bedroom, or your car.  That home needs to be places like a nicely organized closet with shelving, a basket for the animals/kids’ toys, a cute wall hanger near the door to hang keys on, a drawer organizer for small items in various rooms, or a tray in your home office to place the incoming mail until it’s time on your checklist…see Tip #2…to handle it. 
  • Secondly, either recycle, trash, donate or sell the things that you don’t really need.  Most of us do not need half of what we have.  There are many great online articles and television shows to help you with this task and the first one.  A good Netflix show to start with is Tidying up with Marie Kondo (Tidying Up with Marie Kondo).   
  • Finally, when you are finished with anything, immediately place it back in its home or get rid of it as suggested above.  Your main goal here is to prevent the clutter from happening again.  Also, you will always know where everything is and can easily move on to the next 5 tips.

#2 Make a checklist of household chores and maintenance

Do you spend every weekend cleaning your house, mowing the yard, and doing laundry?  Does it seem that you have no free time to relax, have fun or work on hobbies?  This is not a good way to live as we only live once. 

As Mother Theresa quoted, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” (Time Quotes, 2019). 

A great way to not spend every weekend doing nothing but chores is to make a checklist of all household chores and maintenance.  Determine which tasks should be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly.  Then you can spread them all out over time (also designate to other family members if you do not live alone) so as not to steal your weekends or other weekly days off from work where you can do what you really want to do.  If you are unsure of what all should be on a checklist, try out the below resources for chores and home maintenance.

https://www.care.com/c/stories/5933/ultimate-household-chore-list/

https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/advice/home-maintenance-checklist/

#3 Create a one to two week meal plan with all ingredients in a premade shopping list

If you are tired of spending all of your money on unhealthy and expensive convenience foods, all due to not planning or knowing what to fix for meals, creating a one to two-week meal plan with all ingredients in a premade shopping list can be an efficient method to reduce this issue.  Not only does lack of a meal plan cause unwanted wasting of your paycheck, it also can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle.  Eating out all of the time or buying convenient prepackaged foods can be a major roadblock to your physical well-being.        

#4 Simplify your wardrobe

Are you one of those individuals who likes to go on shopping trips where you buy random pieces of clothing, just because they are on sale or look cute?  But then a year or two later, you realize that shirt, pair of pants or scarf has been hanging there all that time with the tag still on it…all because you didn’t have anything to really go with it.  This is definitely not a good plan for your closet or your wallet. 

Do not buy clothing, shoes and accessories without planning…

Letting clothing waste away unworn in your closet is just a huge waste of your hard-earned dollars and time spent looking at it, thinking about it or not fitting into it.  If you haven’t worn something in two years, it is probably time to either buy something to go with it, sell it or donate it.  A good rule of thumb to use during your next shopping trip is to make sure that you go ahead and buy an entire outfit or don’t buy that piece at all, especially if you have nothing else in your closet to go with it.

Organize your closet by outfit and occasion…

Another good way to simplify your wardrobe is to organize your closet by outfit and occasion.  While a lot of people don’t organize their closets at all or, if they do organize, do so by arranging according to type of clothing, choosing to organize by outfit and occasion can be a much more efficient way to handle this.  Even though you may spend some extra time at the beginning to compile the outfits and organize them in your closet, you will most likely find that you spend much less time always worrying about what you will wear the next day…or occasion.       

#5 Organize your home office and paperwork

Paperwork and bills are not what most of us want to be handling on our time off work and it can be so easy to just keep letting the piles increase.  From junk mail, magazines, medical and regular bills to tax, mortgage and home maintenance paperwork, a true mess can occur overnight.  Organizing your home office and paperwork, in addition to coming up with a plan to maintain it, will be an important process to reduce your home life worries.  Here are a few suggestions to try…

  1. Buy a three to four tray organizer on which you put labels of “Inbox”, “To Be Paid/Dealt With”, “To Be Filed” and “Coupons”.  Other organizers for pens, pencils, tape, scissors and miscellaneous office accessories are also a good choice for decluttering your desk.  Whichever arrangements you use, always keep in mind that less is more…keep the workspace very clean and empty so that you can focus only on what task is at hand.
  2. Set up as many bills and other important notifications/paperwork to be sent to you electronically.  Then, once completed with them, save them onto your computer with antivirus protection.  Note:  A lot of items, such as bank statements, bills and tax documents are already saved on their particular websites so it isn’t even necessary to print them off or save them on your computer. 
  3. Set up a small filing cabinet for those items that you truly do need to keep for future reference such as mortgage documents, home maintenance and warranty references, and important things such as birth, marriage and divorce certificates, social security cards, etc.

#6 Declutter your personal email inbox

Do you feel exhausted from the constant unnecessary and unwanted emails coming into your inbox?  Trying to stay on top of personal, work and/or school email accounts can be enough to drive anyone into a state of extreme stress and anxiety.  Solicitation emails from all the online places you purchase from to the emails alerting you that a bill needs to be paid can add up in your inbox very quickly.  A few simple activities can go a long way in preventing this extreme time waster. 

  • Create folders for all necessary and important emails
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary solicitation emails
  • Flag emails that you may need to follow up on in the near future, such as bill payment notifications or online purchases
  • Try to only touch inbox emails twice, once to read them and once to either move to a folder or trash them

Now that you have discovered some great simple inspiration for underwhelming your home life, it is time to get started on designing your new and less stressful environment.  Since all of the above tips may take a little time upfront on your part and will require some patience on getting them all implemented, it might be best to just start with one, successfully accomplish and maintain it, then move on to the next.  Which one will you start on today?

References

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. (n.d.). Netflix. Retrieved from Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80209379

Time Quotes. (2019). Retrieved from goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/time

How to Create a Simple Budget

Do you sometimes forget to pay bills and then find out you now have to pay the bill plus late fees and interest?  Are you often struggling with running out of money a few days before payday?  Does it seem impossible for you to ever find enough money to save for taking a much-needed vacation, purchasing your first home or simply having extra funds to cover for unexpected emergencies?  If so, then you most definitely need to create a budget to help yourself to get and stay on track with your financial goals. 

Creating a budget is a very essential step to becoming financially successful.  Creating a budget will help you to stay on task with what has to be paid each month, in addition to allowing for vacations, savings accounts and more.  A budget consists of all essential and current bills such as mortgage/rent, utilities, phone/internet, groceries, food, credit cards, entertainment, clothing and more, in addition to planning for the things you would like to have in the future. Without a sound budget, it is almost impossible to succeed financially and reach your goals.  Since budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated, I would like to provide some easy tips and instructions on creating your first simple budget.

Gather Supplies

To create a simple budget, you will need a few office supplies, a table or office space and a little thinking time.  These items include a computer, calculator, pencil or pen, notepad, a list of your current bills, amount of your current net pay and thoughts on desired future savings and investments.  If you do not yet have the means to a computer, which can be incorporated into your budget as a future want, then the rest of essential items will suffice for now. 

Brainstorm Musts and Wants

Once you have acquired the above short list of supplies, the best way to get started on a simple budget is to take a notepad and pencil and start jotting down all of your current bills and their monthly amounts, what I call The Musts.  The Musts list will include all of your current necessary bills and other debt that you are already obligated to pay.

The Musts

  • Mortgage or Rent
  • Utilities
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Insurance (Auto & Home)
  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Home/Auto Maintenance & Taxes
  • Children(s)’ Sports and Other Activities
  • Beauty/Clothing
  • Health/Fitness (such as gym memberships)
  • Holiday & Birthday Gifts/Parties

Once you have The Musts list created, create a second list called The Wants.  The Wants list will include anything that you do not currently pay or save for but would like to.

The Wants

  • Hobbies
  • Vacations
  • Entertainment (Eating out, Going to Movies, etc.)
  • Emergency Savings Plan
  • Long-Term Savings Plan
  • Retirement
  • Purchasing a Home
  • Buying an Investment Property
  • Education (You or your children)

Create Budget

Once you have gathered your supplies and brainstormed on your Musts and Wants, you are now ready to complete the final draft of your budget.  I am attaching below my own personally created Simple Household Budget template for an easy way to get started.  For those of you who have no idea how to use Excel, you can create this same budget on a notepad, using a ruler and pencil to make it look the same. Add in any additional categories that suit your financial situation.    

When creating your budget, first list all of The Must items.  Then look at the remaining amount left over after monthly net income minus expenses.  This will then help you to start adding and creating The Wants list.  All you have to do is determine which Want items are top priority and how much you would like to add as a monthly amount.  I would suggest creating an emergency savings account first, paying off all debt, then moving on to all the rest.      

Creating and maintaining a budget does not have to be difficult and is one of the most important things you can do to plan for your financial success.  If you find, after computing your monthly income less expenses, that you are in the negative with no additional funds to even begin planning The Wants list, I would suggest focusing only on The Musts list for now.  Forget about The Wants and focus on how to either earn more income or reduce your current bills so that you are living within your means.  The ultimate goal here is to see a positive number with your current bills and debt.  The rest will then begin to be possible and fall into place.   

“People sometimes forget about using their savings account as a simple but powerful tool in staying on track with their budget. It’s often a free benefit with many banking institutions, and you can set up multiple savings accounts for automatic deposits to handle your Musts, your Wants, and your Emergency Funds. Shopping around and negotiating is also strongly encouraged. Online banking has made the personal banking world very competitive; allowing the consumer to hold the cards when discussing any add-on fees or yearly rates with your bank or credit union.”
(https://money.com/best-savings-account/)

At the Intersection of Same and Change

Since we are getting ready to start another new year and it seems that most of us, including myself, get inspired once again to make some type of change in our lives, I thought this would be a great topic to share an article about.  It is almost as if we often need a starting point for motivation to do anything in life so what time is better than the start of a new year?

Whether you are one of those who likes to always live in your comfort zone or one who is constantly searching and thriving on variety, life will throw change your way whether you want it to or not.  Change can be good or bad, depending on how you decide to see it, but I now choose to always view change as good.  Even if the change causes bad for a while, I will always believe there is a reason for that bad to happen to us for a while.  There are often great lessons to be learned from it.

Change can be one of the most feared but gratifying experiences you will ever go through in life.  However, change is often so scary that many of us will refuse to even give it a second’s glance.  Unless forced into change by some uncontrollable circumstance such as losing a job, grieving the loss of a loved one or something as simple as being turned down for a home loan, many of us will choose the road of Same way of living our lives, even if it causes depression, low self-esteem and many other negative emotions.

Change is that thing that makes some of us experience increased anxiety and/or depression when our world turns in a way that we didn’t want or expect it to.  It is the thing that causes others to develop alcohol and drug addiction issues because they simply can’t manage major life events that result in loss or rejection.  On the other hand, change can be that one event that transforms your life to a point of personal satisfaction and happiness that you never knew existed and will probably never regret.

At one point in my life about 10 years ago, I was so gripped by the fear of leaving my extremely unhappy marriage and of using tough parenting for a child with drug and alcohol addiction that I pushed myself into an extreme depression and state of ongoing panic attacks.  Yet at the time, the depression and anxiety was worth staying in my comfort zone of a two-income household and a two-parent home where there was more financial stability and assistance.  I now realize that most of the reasons I was afraid were just my own low self-esteem of thinking that I wasn’t capable or as strong as I truly am. 

Whether you are wanting to go back to school but afraid you are too old or can’t find the time to do it, change your financial situation so that you can afford to buy a home, or take a much needed vacation somewhere, a change of mindset is key to moving forward with your goals.   Since I wasted away too many years of my life being afraid of change and therefore staying in a state of unhappiness, I want to share five of my greatest tips on how to overcome fear.  Hopefully my suggestions will also help you to throw fear out the window and take the road of Change this new year.      

Determine all the reasons for why you feel so afraid to make a change.

If you are like me and most everyone else, then there is probably always something that you would like to change about yourself or your life.  Would you like a new hairstyle but just can’t bring yourself to try it because you think it may turn out ugly?  Do you need to lose weight by eating better and exercising more but feel that it will take forever so just never try or stick with a plan for very long?  Are you very complacent and feeling burned out by your job but just don’t know how to make the change to a new company or career path?  Do you dread going home every day to live with someone who just doesn’t fit with you anymore or who doesn’t treat you very well, but you feel a panic attack coming on just thinking of how to walk away and fully support yourself and/or children on one income? 

Do not worry because I now know that these are all very valid and normal fears that most of the time can be overcome with assistance, persistence and a plan.  Fear of the unknown is not a pleasant feeling to have.  It is very scary to think about what can happen if you do something different, but it is also even scarier to think about what your life will be if you never make the attempt to change. 

The number one thing that I did first before finally making some real changes in my life was to determine why I was afraid of each change.  I started running and found that it was a great outlet for me to think through problems.  If running isn’t your cup of tea or you are physically unable to do that, then I would suggest taking long slow walks, starting a yoga class or something else that gives you time to just think and silently talk to yourself.  Whether you are able to exercise or not, a good thing to do is to write each change down on paper, along with the reasons for your fear of each one. 

In my opinion, just simply thinking about and understanding what is driving the fear of change is the first and most important step in progressing towards that change.  As Albert Einstein quoted, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking” (Martinez, 2018)  You can find this quote and more inspiration at https://everydaypower.com/quotes-on-change-growth/.  Once you have read some of these very inspirational quotes, decided on an outlet to get all of your thoughts onto paper, it is time to move on to creating possible solutions to your fears.

Make a list of possible solutions for your reasons of being afraid.

After you have made your mental or written list of the changes you want to make and why you are afraid to make them, the next best thing is to brainstorm possible solutions for the reasons you are afraid.  Sometimes all it takes is talking yourself through things a little more for you to realize that there are ways to conquer most any problem in life.

The new haircut may not turn out the way you want it to but guess what?  Hair does grow back.  Even though I am all about the variety of hairstyles and fashion trends, I have experienced some not so great haircuts.  How did I handle it?  I would just keep reminding myself that in a couple of months, it will grow back, and that it is not the end of the world.  And honestly the good part is that you will then know not to get that haircut again as it isn’t the most flattering on yourself.  Or you will just feel brave enough to continue trying new hairstyles until you find one that sticks and makes you feel amazing enough to conquer the next change on your list.    

Changing jobs or going back to school, especially at 40 like I did, is very tiring and stressful.  I will not lie to you about that.  Maybe you think you don’t have the money or the time to go back to school.  There are ways to get around this.  You may have to work two jobs, take out student loans, and only get 5 hours of sleep at night but it is possible if you really want it.  Your life will not be so great while you are working through the change, but I am one-hundred percent positive that you will emerge on the other side with more self-satisfaction, courage, and sense of accomplishment.

Leaving a bad relationship is probably one of the most difficult things to do because a person often thinks that maybe they haven’t tried hard enough, or they need to give the other person a second, third and fourth chance to improve their behavior.  If you are simply afraid of being alone, then, in my opinion, this is the strongest indicator that you do need to leave.  What I discovered for myself was that my fear of being alone was really my insecurity of being afraid to take care of myself when ultimately, I really needed to do just that.  The interesting thing is that I finally set my mind to do it and now, after 8 years of being single on one income, raising two teenage boys who are wonderfully functioning adults now, finishing my Bachelor’s Degree at 44, changing jobs and purchasing my first home as a single person, my fears have completely vanished and I rarely ever have much fear about anything anymore.  It is such an amazing feeling.

So whatever change you would like to make in your life, there is most likely a good solution to accomplish it.  If you seem to go around in circles in your mind and can’t come up with a good solution or answer to ease your fear enough to make the change, start developing a plan on how to execute.  You may just find that, in doing so, the answer comes to you and it now doesn’t seem as bad any longer.

Develop a plan for execution of your change.

Often, just creating a plan for how you will make a change, can go a long way in decreasing your fear and anxiety.  One of my greatest fears of leaving my marriage was not being able to support myself financially.  I devised a plan for refinancing my car loan, found an affordable apartment to rent and then just stepped out into the unknown, even though my income vs. expenses was in the red at that time.  Eight years later, I am at a great financial point where I make quite a bit more than my expenses.  My article called The Six Key Steps to Financial Success can give you some great tips on how to get your finances in order before making any extreme changes.

Determine how you will go about it all.  Make a step by step plan of each possible solution that you have already came up with.  Decide when and how it all will happen.  It isn’t necessary to figure it all out at the beginning.  Just figure out how to get started and then the rest will fall into place.  I can assure you of this because that is where my biggest fear was coming from…needing to have every little detail figured out.  Once I realized that this is completely impossible in life, I have been able to accomplish major things and most of my fear of the unknown have completely disappeared.    

Sometimes all we need is perspective on how to execute.  Execution is the key to quite a few things in life and most people don’t have the courage or the knowledge to do that.  Therefore, they stay in the same place forever.  I am sure that is not what many of you want so why not check out the following great article https://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-steps-to-create-lasting-change-in-your-life/ about how to create and execute the change you may need and desire (Van Vliet, n.d.).

Find a friend or support person who can help encourage you along the way.

When I was at my lowest point in my life, I got sent what I call an “angel” to help me emotionally stabilize and lift myself up enough to think clearly on what I needed to do.  I was just in such a state of depression over what I thought was uncontrollably going on in my life that I just couldn’t execute change.  I knew the change needed to happen and I desperately wanted to, but I didn’t know how.  This “angel” or rather neighbor crossed paths with me at just the right time when I needed it.

While you may not be lucky enough to be sent an “angel” or maybe don’t have any close friends as I didn’t at that time being so caught up in the bad of my life, there are support groups for all types of life problems.  Check out various support groups in your area at the following website https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups (Find a Support Group, 2019).  Sometimes we just need someone else to help us think clearly or motivate us through whatever change we need to make.  There is nothing wrong with that and I would recommend it.  I spent years focusing on my family that I unfortunately didn’t create friendships that I could lean on for advice.  If I had had those at that time, maybe my life would have been a little easier to cope with and less anxiety-inducing to make the changes that needed to be made. 

Continue reminding yourself every day of why you made the change and don’t look back.

Adapting to change is truly a life-long learning process but it can be the greatest life skill of all to have.  I am not saying that change is easy as it is not.  Change will most likely be bad at first and there is no way to determine how long that will last until it transforms into something way better than where you were at when you first started making the change.  Most often in my life, I am unable to see why a bad change is happening to me but later on down the road, I finally get the “oh that is why that happened or didn’t happen to me” realization.  The realization that something maybe actually saved your life or a certain rejection prevented you from a situation not best suited for you.

During your time of change, you will most likely experience discouragement, stress, anxiety and many other negative emotions, so please continue to remind yourself of why you made the change in the first place.  Think back to your list of reasons for being afraid and then the solutions that are going to allow the change to be ok and work out in the end.  Continue using your friends or other support groups to help you through the negative thinking times. 

Those who can deal with change will show and prove that they are confident and tough enough to handle all problems coming their way.  Those of us who can adapt to life changing events and still come out on the positive side of things truly have an advantage over most people.  Change comes in waves throughout life, so it is something that we will all be better off knowing how to easily accept and go with the flow of it. 

Change is good.  Change is necessary.  Even though I have already made many positive changes in my life, I never stop striving, never stop rowing, never look back.  What would you like to change today?  It isn’t an easy road, but I promise you that it is an enriching one for sure.  What do you choose…the road to Change or the road to Same?   

References

Find a Support Group. (2019). Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups

Martinez, N. M. (2018, January 26). 100 Quotes About Change and Growth in Life that will Inspire you. Retrieved from EveryDayPower: https://everydaypower.com/quotes-on-change-growth/

Van Vliet, K. C. (n.d.). 10 Steps to Create Lasting Change in Your Life. Retrieved from tiny buddha: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-steps-to-create-lasting-change-in-your-life/

First-Time Homebuyer the Second-Time Around

Are you currently renting but have previously owned a home in the past during a marriage or other partnership and think that you cannot afford to buy one on your single or double income?  Well think again as I know that it is possible to buy a home again for very little out-of-pocket costs.  I was once in your shoes, newly divorced and trying to navigate the very scary financial waters of living on a single income again.  After renting for 4 years, with the last 6 months of it managing dealing with a horrible apartment and landlord, I decided that it was time to figure out how to purchase my own home.  With a little money, a decent credit score, advice and determination, you can do this too.

While there are many different options out there, I want to share with you the way that I did it as I believe a lot of people are not aware this is possible, especially if you have previously owned a home or more.  Did you know that, if you haven’t owned a home in the last three years, that you are eligible to be considered a first-time homebuyer again?  Yes, it is true and I was able to purchase my own home for only $1400 out of pocket costs.  Interested in learning more?  Then check out my six tips below on how to do this.  

Tip #1 – Research Local Banking Mortgage Opportunities

There are many mortgage opportunities available for first-time homeowners; however, I found that working with my local credit union was the best for no down payment, low closing costs and a very quick time for finalizing the home purchase.  With a decent credit score, approximately $1500 in savings, and the willingness to purchase a home that might require some cosmetic fixing up, I was able to easily get into my first home as a single-income individual.

Even though I had owned two homes in the past during a marriage, I was still able to qualify as a first-time homebuyer again.  This is because I had not owned a home in at least three years.  Since my credit union offered a 100% financing option to first-time homebuyers and with the assistance of a real estate agent, all I had to do was to pay a $500 earnest fee and upfront property taxes and insurance to get into my home.  Also, even though it is very wise to hire a respected company to perform a home inspection, I chose to forgo this cost and have a competent family member to inspect for me.  If you do choose the home inspection, plan to spend another approximate $400 to $500. 

No closing costs?  Have no fear as my bank was able to finance those into the back-end of my mortgage, therefore, I did not have to come up with the $4000 to $6000 normal closing costs on purchasing a home.  All you have to do is ask these questions to your banking mortgage officer…that simple. 

Tip #2 – Find Your Current Credit Score

The second most important tip for purchasing a home again is to know your credit score and how it will affect what you can afford.  A score of at least 580 is a must for purchasing a home but having one even better than that can truly help.  My credit score was only 620 when I purchased my current home about four years ago.  Even though a credit score of 620 may not be the greatest, it was still sufficient enough to get me into my first home as a single divorced individual. 

If you have no idea where to begin on determining your current credit score, I would suggest using experian.com or contacting the bank of your choice to begin the mortgage process.  Either avenue will show you credit scores from three different places.  Even if your credit score is not sufficient enough now to allow for a bank to offer financing to you, it will be a great start to knowing what you need to work on.  Either way, you can receive great advice on how to improve on and get the credit score you need in the future to purchase a home. 

Tip #3 – Save at Least $2000 

As stated above in Tip #1, you will need approximately $1500 to $2000 in savings to be able to get into your first-time second or third home.  These amounts are similar or less than what you would have to come up with to rent a home.  So why not purchase to build important equity?  If you don’t have this amount in savings yet, I would suggest to start with my article called How to Create a Simple Budget to get you started on a plan to start saving for what I call “The Musts”.  No matter what your current financial situation is, make a pact to not let a landlord take and keep your hard-earned money to build his/her equity and wealth.  That is nothing but a lose-lose deal for you and a win-win deal for them. 

Tip #4 – Find a Real Estate Agent

Finding an experienced real estate agent is not very difficult.  One good way to start is to submit an online request through your local top real estate agency.  The second-best way is to just ask around.  Ask friends, family and coworkers about who they have previously used and had great results with.  Thirdly, you can walk into a real estate business and ask for assistance. 

From my experience, I have never been turned away or received bad treatment for exploring the purchase of a home.  Even if you end up finding out that you do not currently qualify to purchase a home, the process of speaking with a real estate agent will help you explore all available opportunities and set up a future plan. This process is a very essential learning experiment.

Tip #5 – Start Exploring Homes

The fifth tip to owning a home for the first time is to just go exploring.  Go see what is out there.  Exploring homes is the most fun part of the whole homebuying process…or at least it is in my opinion.  This is the part of the process where you get to imagine what type of home you want or at least what you want for a few years into the future until you can afford what you truly want.  Even if you are unable to purchase your dream home at this point, it is so satisfying to understand that what you are buying can lead to that dream home down the road.  This is where I am currently at…a home that has and still is building great equity…even though I know it isn’t my dream home. 

Tip #6 – Buy a Home

Have you found the best banking mortgage opportunity for a first-time homebuyer?  Did you figure out what your current credit score is and whether it meets the must-have criteria for purchasing a home at a decent interest rate?  Do you have the absolute necessity of at least $1500 to $2000 set away in a savings account?  Did you find a good real estate agent to help you navigate through the tedious and often complex world of homebuying contract negotiation?  Have you discovered a decent affordable place that, with a little elbow grease, can help you build equity towards your dream home?  If you can say yes to all of the above, then you are well on your way to one of the greatest investments you can make towards your financial success.

I know it is a little stressful to purchase a home but it will definitely be well worth it.  If you have made it this far into the process, just keep going, roll up your sleeves and fight towards that end result of building equity and financial happiness that you have worked so hard to achieve.  After four years in, 6 rooms stripped of old 80’s wallpaper, a brand-new water heater and many showers to wash off all the paint from my hands, I can say that I have no regrets for the almost $100,000 equity built off my home in four years.  You can have this too.  All it takes is the above six tips, determination and the desire to achieve financial freedom.

The Six Key Steps to Financial Success

Have you often thought that financial success is only attainable for the corporate executives who make high salaries, the children who have been born into riches, the family members who have inherited a large sum of money from a dying relative or the otherwise poor to middle-income individuals who were lucky enough to win the huge lottery?  While these particular situations may all initially seem to be the only easy ways to obtain a financially sound life, the actual truth is going to require more work and a change of mindset about how you manage your money.  With the right mindset, simple advice as I am going to provide you in this article, and a little work on your part, the path to financial success is truly right in front of you, even if your situation seems so dire that you can’t see it right this second.  

For most individuals, there are six key steps to financial success.  Those steps are planning how to spend your money, creating a simple budget, paying off debt, establishing different types of savings accounts for various needs, determining your investment strategy and always maintaining the desire to achieve financial success, even if you may relapse a time or two.  Let’s discuss these six essential and definitely achievable steps that can start you off to a journey towards creating the financially stress-free life you truly deserve.

STEP 1:  PLANNING

The first most important step on the path to financial success is to plan.  Planning involves all of the next five steps, in addition to several other things such as organizing your paperwork and creating the positive mindset that you can overcome all obstacles that may pop up along the journey.  For those who have no idea where to begin with this first key process, please read on to discover some easy ideas on how to get started. 

Embrace a Positive Mindset

As with all things in life, embracing a positive mindset is the most important thing that anyone can do to achieve success and happiness.  Whether you are living in the poorest neighborhood, single-parenting with no child support, attending college while eating $.25 Ramen noodles every day, overcoming divorce or managing through an unexpected medical issue, the absolute key to survival and moving forward is to know that you can and will do it no matter what happens.  As Colin Powell quoted, “There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure” (Juma, 2019).

Prepare to Overcome Obstacles

As stated above, a change of mindset is extremely key in acquiring financial success.  Unfortunately, there will be many obstacles that pop up in the middle of your path, usually when you least expect them.  Life stressors such as a divorce, an unexpected medical issue, or being laid off from a job can be enough to send anyone spiraling downward, emotionally and financially.  Other things like a water heater needing to be replaced right before Christmas or just that you couldn’t resist buying that new living room furniture on credit will also set a person back a few steps.  However, with a little mental and financial preparation, you can continuously get yourself back on track and I will discuss this in further detail in Step 6 below. 

Organize Paperwork

Organization is another very important skill to develop in achieving financial and other successes in life.  Many different professional leaders and creatives have promoted this concept as the way to eliminate stress, increase productivity and decrease costs, whether you are an individual or a business.  From Tidying Up With Marie Kondo (Machi, 2019) to 5S, the manufacturing method begun by leaders at the Toyota Motor Company in the early and mid-20th century (Olofsson), the main purpose is to clean up paperwork, homes, and work spaces so that you can focus on easily and quickly completing tasks, in addition to not forgetting to pay a bill on time and more.

Choose Financial Tools

There are many different types of financial tools that can be used for managing one’s finances and they don’t have to be complicated.  Microsoft Word and Excel have many templates to choose from such as check registers, budgets, home asset trackers for things such as furniture and electronics, and many different checklists for planning.  I use Excel for my check register, budgeting and tracking of usernames and passwords to websites where I pay all of my bills electronically.  If Excel sounds scary to you or you don’t have experience using it, there are some other options to choose from. 

One option is the old-fashioned pencil and paper method.  This can still work quite simply and efficiently for those who don’t have very many bills to pay or don’t have access to a computer.  However, if you have many bills, credit cards, investments, etc., this is not going to be the most efficient method.  There are many phone aps and other online resources to use for those who are not an accountant like me and would like something easy and convenient to keep track of everything.  Also, a lot of banks provide an online method to set up automatic bill paying with the click of one button and create budgets for you to stay on track.  My article on Best Tools for Managing Individual Finances will discuss the different options available to you. 

STEP 2:  BUDGETING

Creating a budget is the second essential step to becoming financially successful.  Creating a budget will help you to stay on task with what has to be paid each month, in addition to allowing for vacations, savings accounts and more.  A budget consists of all essential and current bills such as mortgage/rent, utilities, phone/internet, groceries, food, credit cards, entertainment, clothing and more.  Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated so please check out my article How to Create a Simple Budget https://thedeeperpocket.com/2019/12/30/how-to-create-a-simple-budget/.  Without a sound budget, it is almost impossible to succeed financially and reach your goals.

STEP 3:  PAYING

Can you imagine a life without debt?  How would it feel on payday to only pay utilities, phone, food, gas, etc. and then have everything left to either put into savings or splurge on a nice night out, vacation, clothing or hobbies without worry?  This too is definitely achievable with the right mindset and plan.  Check out my article Breaking Free from the Chains of Debt.  It is truly a life changer.

Whether you have little to massive amounts of debt, develop a plan to pay it off.  My best advice would be to use Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Method (Ramsey, 2019) as it helps to achieve a quick mental state of achievement which then drives the motivation to continue on without easily giving up on the process.  Another way to pay off debt is to do what I did earlier this year by refinancing my home and using the extra equity to pay the debt off.  Even though I had to pay refinancing costs, they were still much cheaper than the interest rates that I would pay on my credit cards over time, plus helped me to achieve that satisfaction of paying it all off, with only one monthly mortgage payment remaining.  The added motivation boost from doing this helped to ease my stress of paying multiple bills with even higher interest rates.

STEP 4:  SAVING

In my opinion, everyone should have at least 3 different types of savings accounts.  The first one would be an overdraft savings account, the second would be an account for emergencies, and finally a long-term savings account equivalent to six month’s salary.  Most banks only require $5 to $25 to open a savings account so this should be a fairly easy check mark off your financial goals to at least start one and then move forward from there. 

As stated above, the first and easy savings account to establish would be an overdraft savings account, which would help cover any of those time when you accidentally spend more than what is currently in your checking account.  Check with your current bank on how much it takes to open and maintain an overdraft account.   

The second savings account would be for emergencies, such as the unexpected dental bill from a root canal or the kid’s traveling sport’s team who makes it to finals and you have to do more travel than originally planned.  There is no set amount for establishing an emergency saving’s account but more based on what you foresee as potential emergencies for yourself and/or your family.  The way that I started was to designate $10 to $25 per month that I transferred out of my checking account to my saving’s account every payday.  Then whenever I got a small bonus from my employer, I would go ahead and put that amount in there.  With a small amount of willpower, I easily reached my first goal of $1000.  Now I never allow this account to go below $1000.  If it does go below my goal of $1000, then I quickly replenish it as soon as possible.   

Finally, the third type of important savings account is a long-term savings account.  This account should ultimately be six months of your gross salary.  This one is the most difficult to achieve but the one to show one’s true financial success.  The purpose of a long-term savings account is to allow for any type of serious life emergency such as loss of a job, unexpected medical emergency such as cancer or heart surgery, divorce, etc. 

On a final note, there are many other types of savings accounts, including your employer’s 401K retirement savings account and many different bank CD and money market options.  However, I suggest starting with the first three types then moving on to the more complex types.

STEP 5:  INVESTING

Just hearing the words investment strategy is sure to bring some anxiety to a lot of you.  However, there are some very simple investment strategies that can bring great financial success.  These include buying and selling a home, purchasing and renting a rental property, acquiring an education, which then boosts your career and paychecks.  Since most investments can require a lot of time and money, my suggestion would be to decide on just one, accomplish it, then move on to another. 

Some of the greatest investments include obtaining an education beyond high school, which will then open up better paying career opportunities, buying and/or selling a primary residence and renting out a second home.  Even though a lot of people think that going back to school as an adult with a full-time job, family and more can seem extremely daunting and almost impossible, it is possible if you truly want and desire it.  Do you think you can’t afford it or don’t have the time to devote to it?  I totally agree that it can be a very difficult thing to juggle with all of the other responsibilities in life but it is all possible with the right thinking, knowledge, resources and sacrifice.  Coming from my own experience as a single mom of teenage boys, combating breast cancer and more, I still was able to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in October, 2019.  At 44 years old, I never thought that the day would come when I truly finished but I did.  It definitely was not easy at all but I wanted it badly enough.  That is all it will take for you to achieve this too, and your career will almost 99% positively get a huge boost in salary too.

Another great way to invest is to buy a home.  If you think that buying a home is impossible because you do not have enough of a down payment, closing costs or good credit, please think again.  There are many ways around all of this.  Check out my article First-Time Homeowner the Second-Time Around https://thedeeperpocket.com/2019/12/27/first-time-homebuyer-the-second-time-around/ or contact me for more assistance on how to buy your first home, no matter what your current situation is.

STEP 6:  MAINTAINING

The final step to obtaining financial success is to keep maintaining the positive mindset that you will eventually achieve it.  Even if you hit roadblocks, all it takes is the willingness and drive to combat and maneuver successfully through them.  Unfortunately, setbacks are a part of life; however, the main goal is that you keep striving for what you want the most, not what you want or have happening to you now.  Therefore, my greatest advice in all of this is to always know that it is inevitable that the journey will be sometimes very difficult but can be overcome with the positive thinking that it will all eventually work out.  It is possible to achieve the financial success that you desire.

References

Juma, N. (2019, February 20). 40 Colin Powell Quotes Praising Preparation and Hard Work. Retrieved from EveryDayPower: https://everydaypower.com/colin-powell-quotes/

Machi, T. (2019, February 19). Marie Kondo 10 Amazing Tips | Tidying Up with Marie Kondo | Konmari Method | Marie Kondo. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4J6CpeN7Lo

Olofsson, O. (n.d.). 5S at the office. Retrieved from World Class Manufacturing: https://world-class-manufacturing.com/5S/office.html

Ramsey, D. (2019). How the Debt Snowball Method Works. Retrieved from Dave Ramsey: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-the-debt-snowball-method-works