Giving Your Financial Boundaries a Boost

Financial boundaries are not to be feared, and they should never be perceived as a curse. These boundaries do not condemn you, nor do they confine you in any way, shape, or form. In fact, there are a number of ways to improve or expand the abilities and limits of your financial boundaries. Staying positive is crucial, and the following tips may be just what you need to help you get started making your financial picture better than it ever has been.

Avoid Creating Excessive Debt

Excessive debt? What is that? Well, just ask a majority of the American population. In the United States, debt continues to rise among the average citizen while the amount and frequency of our individual savings have plummeted to a frighteningly low level. We live in a world of immediate gratification, where a plastic card can seemingly give us anything we want, when we want it, without seeing any “actual” money leave our hands.

There is no such thing as “magic credit.” Never forget how that money has to be paid back (and then some). If credit cards are a problem for you, turn to Chapter 19 for some helpful advice.

Trim Your Expenses

Reduce the money your family spends on entertainment and other variable expenses by looking for low- to no-cost alternatives. For example, suppose your family traditionally enjoys a weekend movie night. Don't assume you always have to show up at the theater as the sun sets on a Friday or Saturday. There are several other options to consider. For instance, you could do any of the following:

  • See a matinee instead of an evening show.

  • Go to the dollar theater and see a second-run movie.

  • Rent a movie from the video store.

  • Check out a movie from your local library.

You don't have to stop having fun; you just need to start thinking—before you do things—about how much money your fun is costing you. Consider cheaper methods of entertainment whenever you can, and eventually you will see significant changes in the tightness of those financial boundaries. Reducing your family's expenses may mean making a few temporary sacrifices to your customary lifestyle or luxuries. However, in the long run you will find that the reward of providing for your college education was well worth the sacrifice.

Here are a few more suggestions for trimming your expenses as much as possible:

  • Read magazines at the library instead of subscribing.

  • Find car and home insurance with lower premiums/rates.

  • Cut down your cable/satellite bill by switching to a smaller plan.

  • Learn to do minor home repairs (within reason) instead of hiring pros.

Another thing to watch out for is excessive cell phone usage. Cell phones and those “out-of-plan” minutes are becoming a notorious means of eating up a family's hard-earned money. Keep tabs on all the minutes each member of your family uses—including yourself. Talk too much, or use too many of those newfangled download options (ring tones are especially popular among today's teens) and you'll find yourself with some high, and often very unexpected, expenses when the bill arrives in the mail. It's definitely in your best interest to stay within the allotted minutes on your wireless plan.

If it's just too difficult to stick to your current cell phone plan, it might be wise to consider upgrading so that your bill never exceeds your base monthly charge. A new, bigger plan may only cost you an extra $50 or so a month. However, if every member of your family consistently runs up extra minutes, you're probably already paying hundreds more.

For you homeowners (especially you parents) out there, refinancing your mortgage might be a good way to help expand your financial boundaries. If you can get a significantly lower interest rate, you can open up more available funds to pay for your student's higher education. This is a very valid idea, especially in these times when interest rates are at historic lows.

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