Your children need a college fund. You need a retirement fund. And you want a rainy day fund. Make all three work for you with this collection of REDBOOK's best tips ever on how to brighten your financial life. REDBOOK.
1. Borrow instead
Could you borrow a dress for a big dinner or an immersion blender from a friend, or swap for it? If swapping's an option, check out websites such as PaperBackSwap.com for books, SwapBabyGoods.com for tots' toys, or swapmamas.com for household items and kitchen supplies. If your son's going to give up on those LEGOs in a few months anyway, it may not be worth shelling out big bucks.
2. Retirement trumps tuition
You know when you're on an airplane and the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting a child? Saving for your long-term financial needs is the same way. If you don't prepare for your own future first, you won't be able to help your children when they need it. There is no financial aid for retirement; there is financial aid for college. Don't feel guilty about this.
3. Banish emotional shopping
Problem is, no matter what our mood is when we hit the mall, spending doesn't make us feel good in the long run. And, one in four women say they go shopping in pursuit of retail therapy. To avoid shopping away your feelings, set an annual clothing budget, divide it by 12, and you'll have the amount you can spend each month. Note the number somewhere you'll see it often, like in a memo on your phone, or on a post-it in your wallet.
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4. Talk about it
Often we keep our money issues private, and like a shameful secret, it can eat away at us until it becomes an insurmountable problem. Discussing the nitty gritty details of our money woes can feel awkward if not downright embarrassing, but by doing so, you may learn how friends got through their husbands' job loss, or helping out an aging parent. Plus, with the support of a group, you may start to feel like you can move forward again.
5. Two is enough
Multiple credit cards make it easier to rack up debt because it's harder to keep track of your spending. Since it's so easy to misuse them, limit your plastic to two national cards (store cards often carry higher interest rates) that you manage carefully.
6. Ask for more
Here's a shocker: In 2011, newly trained female doctors earned, on average, $17,000 less than men in the same position. It's not that women were picking less lucrative specialties or that they were asking for more flexible work schedules. (That used to be the case, but not this time.) The difference now: Women don't ask for the money they want. If you don't give it a shot, the answer will always be "no."
Related: 30-Day Money Cleanse
7. Pedal off the metal
According to American Automobile Association spokesperson Christie Hyde, aggressive driving - slamming your foot down hard on the gas or brakes - compromises your car's fuel efficiency, as does being a speed demon. "Simply dropping your speed from 70 mph to 60 mph can improve fuel economy by up to 23 percent," she says. That'll save you as much as 71 cents per gallon.
8. Live your money
The good news is, it's not actually the amount of money we spend that determines our level of happiness - it's how we spend it, according to a recent study by Ryan Howell, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. And spending it to create life experiences - like family vacations or a cooking course - he says, rather than to accumulate more stuff, is what makes us happiest of all.
9. Beware of financial infidelity
"I've seen many couples divorce over financial deceit," says financial therapist Amanda Clayman. "The spouse feels blindsided by the elaborate lies that may have gone on for years. Sometimes people just can't get over that." The longer the lying goes on, the worse the reaction is likely to be, so come clean now. And don't be surprised if he asks about your credit score, which is picking up steam as a relationship deal breaker according to a recent story in The New York Times.
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10. Declare independence
Just because you've married someone - or cohabit with them - doesn't mean the two of you are the same person. You need some money of your own so you can make small financial decisions - like whether to eat lunch out or whether to buy that dress you're so into - without asking permission. Otherwise, relationships can start to feel parental rather than romantic.
11. Reap rewards
While the idea of getting free travel, gas, or even cash back in exchange for loyal credit card usage is tempting, it takes some legwork to reap the full benefits of a reward card, says Marcia Brixey, author of The Money Therapist: A Woman's Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. Most rewards entail travel or gift certificates, but there are also savings-plan cards, such as the Futuretrust MasterCard, which invests one percent of your purchases into a 529-college savings account. Check out cardratings.com to find the right card for you.
12. Use old gift cards
You probably have a ton lying around the house with old balances. "If you find partially used or completely unused gift cards sitting in your wallet or desk drawer, it's time to sell them and get cash back for it instead of letting the balance expire," says consumer savings guru Andrea Woroch. GiftCardGranny.com will purchase 92 percent of the value of unused gift cards.
For 13 more shockingly easy saving strategies, visit Redbookmag.com.
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