Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Has this happened to you? You're walking out of the store, pushing a grocery cart and completely baffled. You try to piece together what exactly happened. Is my receipt correct? How could I have spent that much money? You take another glance at your shopping cart. I've got two bags of groceries, a bag of dog food and hardly anything now left in my checking account. Where did my money go?

With this economy, many of us have lost jobs, taken pay cuts or taken jobs for less money. Unfortunately, basic necessities like groceries, gas, electricity, housing and even toilet paper are getting more expensive. I used to not think twice about some of my purchases. But now I think three and four times before placing some items in my cart. I find myself asking if I really need that or do I really need that now? Can I fix the old one or replace it with a cheaper one? These are questions I consider before walking up to the register anymore.

When budgeting money, being able to honestly distinguish between your needs and wants becomes very important. For example, its easy to see how food, gas, housing and toilet paper are needs. But, your cell phone - is that a need or a want? Cable television - is that a need or a want? You may think you need those items, but unless you need your cell phone for work, those are wants. Sure, we all want a new car, new clothes, new phones, but being able to honestly assess those items is crucial to staying within your budget. And, even for those items that you really, really want, create a budget for your purchase. Sometimes if you have to wait a couple months to purchase something it loses its excitement. If you've lived without it for this long, you'll most likely survive another couple months without it. And, if you saved and budgeted for that special new thing, you'll appreciate it even more as you head to the register.

In the meantime, back to one of my biggest budget breakers, the grocery store. Here are some easy tips that have helped me keep at least that part of my budget in check:
  • Plan meals. Its really that simple. By choosing five healthy meals for the week you'll know exactly what you need to buy. And, for those other two days in the week, you've got leftovers. You might even have lunch. Once you know what you need, often you find you already have most of those ingredients. Don't forget to check your cupboards when planning meals. You might already have the makings for a couple meals.
  • Bring a list. If you've followed my advice on planning meals, you'll know exactly what needs to be on your list. And don't deviate from this list. Get exactly what you need and get out as quickly as possible. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time in the store and the amount of items piled in your cart... at least in my case.
  • Consider generic. For some basic staples like canned or frozen goods, cereals and pastas, give generic a try. Often you'll find the generic versions to be just as good.
  • Never shop while hungry. Only if you've recently arrived from another planet would you have not heard this. I only repeat it because it is so true and one of the easiest ways to escape the budget-busting impulse buys
Budgeting doesn't have to be a painful, time-consuming annoyance. Simply take a look at the money coming in and what's going out. Honestly assess your needs and wants. And then create your budget, being sure to pay your bills and yourself before aimlessly tossing that "want" in your shopping cart.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


We are all taught the importance of setting goals and focusing on our dreams. We hear this, we get it and many of us even start the process. However, it's the follow through where we are often left feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. One way to successfully set and reach goals is to break this daunting task into several smaller steps. In our DVD, Goal Setting: Define & Achieve Your Dream Life, we do just that. Olympic medal winner, Shannon Miller, takes viewers through a six step process, easing you through the obstacles of this sometimes complicated path. If you're ready to make some changes in your life, start by taking yourself through these six basic steps:

Step 1 - Focus Your Dreams - Close your eyes and imagine your most perfect life. Where are you? Where do you live? Where do you work? What do you do in your spare time? Create a mental picture of your ideal location and day. Start a journal and write it all down. Be specific. Keep this journal as you continue through each step.

Step 2 - Get Informed - Learn what you don't know. Get on the internet, take classes, attend seminars, read books and talk to others who have the life you dream of. You need to become an expert in all aspects of where you want your life to go.

Step 3 - Expect Success - Practice being confident. Sometimes one of the biggest obstacles in achieving goals is your own ego. Confidence and a positive attitude can keep you motivated and focused. Visualize your success. It also helps to dress the part and surround yourself with others who are successful.

Step 4 - Review Your Goals - As you learn more about your goals and yourself, its time to revise and adjust your path. Is this really where you want to go? Is your dream life still your dream life? Allow yourself to change and refine your goals. Study your goals and write out a detailed step-by-step to-do list. Next to each step place a completion date. It's motivating to watch your list evolve into an actual timeline.

Step 5 - Gather Support - Seek out positive role models. These could be a family member, teacher, a friend, someone from your community or someone you've met while researching your goals. And if you need financial support, identify those sources, as well. If at all possible, avoid borrowing from family and friends. Your financial supporters should be a partner or bank.

Step 6 - Prioritize Your Dreams - Once again, take time to review your to-do list and the completion dates. Prioritize this timeline and schedule specific times during the day that you will work on this to-do list. It helps to keep this list with you or in a visible place.

Each of these steps is really a short term goal bringing you closer to your long term goal. Be sure to reward yourself as you complete each step. Its a perfect way to stay motivated. As encouraged in Step 1, keep a journal along the way tracking both your accomplishments and the obstacles you've overcome. Achieving your goals is certainly not easy, but by following these six steps you'll ensure you are always moving toward your dream life.