The mere thought of “financial planning” can sometimes feel overwhelming or discouraging, but the truth is, if we start where we are, and take small steps, one at a time, dealing with our money becomes simple and doable. Consider tackling several of these “baby steps” – you may be surprised at what a positive difference they make in your financial picture.

  1. Know your number. Many of us have no idea what our expenses add up to every month. Find out your number. It will empower you to better align your spending with your priorities and zero in on ways to save.
  2. Build a savings cushion. Start with two months’ worth of expenses. You may be surprised by how doable this is – and you’ll feel a lot better, knowing you’re prepared to handle an unexpected expense.
  3. Eat at home six nights a week. Love to dine out? Challenge yourself to make delicious meals at home most of the week. Your one restaurant meal per week will feel more special and you’ll save a ton of money.
  4. Make your own gifts this holiday season. Trade time and thoughtfulness for money when it comes to gift-giving. Besides, handmade, personal presents tend to be remembered and appreciated above others.
  5. Make double payments on your credit cards for four months. You may have to sacrifice small luxuries to do it, but you’ll make a big dent in your credit card debt. It will feel amazing.
  6. Identify two regular monthly expenses you can do without – then delete them. For one person, there may be premium cable and a too-generous data plan. For another, they may be an unused gym membership and a magazine subscription. The point is to be mindful and intentional about where your money is going.
  7. Increase your payroll deduction by 3%. This is the simplest and most painless way to save for retirement, and if your employer matches a percentage of what you contribute, it’s basically free money. Don’t miss out.
  8. Share things, rent things, or barter. Why spend money buying stuff when sites like Freecycle, StreetBank, Zilok, Peerby, and U-Exchange let you find what you need for free, trade for what you want, or rent it for less?

Remember, these are inspiration points, not a to-do list. Find one or two steps that resonate with you and just get started!

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