Simple Tips to Change Your Financial Behavior

Americans have a renewed interest in all things frugal during this recession.  They’re spending less money, using credit cards less. 

About ½ of Americans report they either avoid shopping altogether or shop only for those things that are absolutely needed, according to a survey sponsored by Citi.  72% of Americans say they have cut back on everyday expenses. 

In addition, 80% claim to have at least a plan for income and expenses, up from 47% in 2006, according to a survey by Synovate commissioned by personal finance author Matt Bell

Since consumer debt peaked in 2008, Americans have chopped $922 million from their debt, or 7.4%, according to the Federal Reserve.  Americans are reducing debt at a pace unseen in at least a decade, according to a recent Fed report.

 How do we make these changes? 

Change your words – instead of a temporary exercise in deprivation, view it as a lifestyle. 

Have goals – “I’ll pass on purchasing this item because I want to go on vacation in June.” 

Track Progress – Monitor your debts and vacation accounts.  When you see that spending smart is getting you closer to accomplishing your goal, that’ll motivate you to keep going. 

Make savings automatic – The easiest way to save is to have your savings deposited automatically from your paycheck to a savings or retirement plan

Make a windfall rule – When you receive a sudden increase of cash (i.e. tax refund, bonus, gift); make it a rule that these are used to paying off high-interest debt or savings.

 Source: RIS Media

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77% Live Paycheck to Paycheck

As the recession lingers on workers are really feeling it in their pocket.  Nearly eight-in- ten (77%) of workers in 2010 said they felt they lived paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, up from 61% in 2009.  One-in-five (22%) said they have missed payments on bills in the last year in a survey conducted by Career Builder between May and June, 2010.

Some workers are making ends meet by dipping into their long-terms savings. More than one-in-five (21%) say they have reduced their 401(k) contributions or savings to get by; while 33% state they do not participate in any programs such as 401(k), IRA or retirement plans.  30% also reported they don’t put any money aside into their savings each month while 28% set aside $100 or less for savings and 14% save less than $50.

As a result some workers said they have made changes to their living and spending habits as follows:

  • Cut back on leisure activities – 54%
  • Used coupons or shopped at discount stores – 48%
  • Drove less to save on gas – 37%
  • Cancelled cable and other subscriptions – 12%
  • Used public transportation – 5% 

This survey found that six-in-ten felt that the recession has made them more fiscally responsible.

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