Live Your Life ... For Half the Price!
- Friday, February 25, 2005
You need more money. You need it now. So what are you choices? You have two: You can increase your income or you can reduce your spending.
Most people when offered these two choices will opt for increasing their income. More money. That's what everyone wants, so for a moment here I am going to assume that would be your first choice, too. I completely understand that. You don't want to disturb your lifestyle. You don't want to confront anything you've done in the past, you just want to get caught up so you can breathe. Here are your choices for how to get more money:
Get a bigger paycheck. You can ask for a raise, you can land a new job that pays a lot more than your current job or you can get a second (or third) job to supplement your current income.
Win The Lottery. I mention this in case it is on your secret list of realistic options for changing your financial picture. While this is an option, I would not suggest you rely on it as a way to increase your income. Your chances of being struck by lightning are much better than winning a lottery.
Sell Assets. Finding a cash buyer for your grandmother's sterling silver, the boat, all of the clothes and household items you never use, a piece of real estate or other asset you own is another option for increasing your income.
All of these are ways for you to increase your income and to improve your financial picture. But let's get real. If you could do any of these things you would have done it already and we wouldn't be having this conversation.
While in theory increasing your income is a way to change your financial picture, it is not always easy or effective for several reasons.
Higher expenses. Let's say you ask for that raise and (Surprise!) you get a nice annual increase of $5,000. You do know you'll never see the entire $5,000, right? And what you do see will be in small increments. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that could push you into a higher tax bracket.
Once your very impressive raise is subjected to taxes and other withholding, you'll be lucky to see $60 in your weekly paycheck. Ditto if you work overtime. And, if I can point out one more fact, even if you can start working overtime or arrange for that raise to be effective today, it will take several weeks for you see any of it. But additional expenses like additional childcare, gasoline and other expenses related to being away from home will kick in immediately.
Improved lifestyle. There's something odd that happens when you get a big boost in income. It comes with increased feelings of entitlement. Suddenly you deserve a new outfit, a larger house, better mobile phone, a newer car, a great vacation, better birthdays and bigger Christmas. You may discover after you've bumped up your entitlements that your $60 a week increase doesn't go far. In fact, your increased income can put you farther behind.
Old habits. Let's say that you can find a way to increase your income sufficiently to improve your financial situation. Not bad. But here's the problem. Just exactly what caused those money problems in the first place? Overspending? Too much credit card debt? Your newly enhanced income may do little more than stick a financial Band-aid on a pile of bad habits. If you fail to address them, nothing is going to change. In fact, statistics suggest that more money will only make your problem worse, not better.
Let's say you decide $5,000 looks like a down payment on a vehicle upgrade. You could sure use a mini-van and you have all kinds of safety and convenience issues to prove your case. So you do it. You haul off and buy a great new-to-you van with monthly payments of only $269. Of course you do this before you see that $5,000 boils down to $60 a week. You've just worsened your financial situation with new debt and a monthly payment that exceeds your net increase.
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