An article in The Atlantic and $700 in car maintenance got me to thinking about unexpected expenses.
The article, “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans,” reveals how nearly half of us don’t have enough savings to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Many of us are living on the financial edge, hoping and praying no one sees behind the mask that says, “I’m fine,” “I can handle it,” “I’m doing OK.”
If you are struggling and feeling shame, there are two things you can do to address your situation and change your future. You can use this approach for any personal challenge, not just financial issues.
First, you must break the shame cycle. Brene Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher and author, says that shame needs three things to grow: silence, secrecy and judgment. To break the cycle, you must talk about it with someone you trust to end the silence and bring it out of the shadows.
Second, you must confront the problem. For me, that means getting it down on paper so I can see it and all of its parts, clearly. Only then can I take action.
If you’re struggling with your finances, talk to a trusted friend, release yourself from that silent burden and create a plan of action to take control of your earnings, spending and savings.
Here are 15 ways you can improve your financial health so you can cover the next unexpected expense.
1. Live on a budget – it’s like getting a 30 percent raise.
2. Get a second job or work overtime. This is not a long-term solution, but there’s nothing like working more to earn more money.
3. Sell unwanted items on eBay or Craigslist. This is an easy way to raise cash.
4. Stop going out to lunch. In a single month, you can save $200.
5. Bring your coffee or tea to work. Stop spending $2 to $5 a day on a drink you can make at home.
6. Stop drinking soda and energy drinks. Another simple way to save hundreds of dollars a year.
7. Quit smoking. A pack-a-day smoker will save about $1,450 a year.
8. Eat dinner at home. Two fewer meals out a month saves about $420 annually.
9. Stop buying junk food. Just $10 less each week is a savings of $520 a year.
10 Drop cable/satellite TV and save hundreds.
11. Pay with cash. Studies show that people spend 12 to 30 percent more when they use a credit card.
12. Get rid of that storage unit (and sell what you don’t need or want). Stop renting a house for your extra stuff.
13. Make sure you have the right insurance, which can also save you hundreds of dollars a year.
14. Cancel your landline. If the home phone is ringing, it must be a telemarketer, right?
15. With your newfound savings, build an emergency fund of $1,000.
These simple measures to save and earn more can prepare you for life’s financial curveballs.
Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. Visit his website, wwwpersonalfinancecoaching.com.