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Marion Syversen Marion Syversen
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Financial awesomeness in five simple steps

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You want to be financially awesome, and you like simple ways to achieve your goals. Well, chummy, here are five simple steps to financial awesomeness. With this caveat: I say these steps are simple, and they are. But if financial awesomeness were easy everyone would be awesome and sadly, they're not.

But everyone could be awesome. Because these steps just take a little of your abundant stubbornness used for good; a bit of determination in the face of temptation and a willingness to forgive your wonderful self when you fail. Listen to me: I know you can do this, my friend. I believe in you.

Let's get started on your cozy future.

Save automatically - 'Save more' is a typical New Year's resolution. And it's a great one. But it has to be specific. By specific I mean that nothing happens by simply wishing you could save more. Your desire needs to be linked to a plan of action. Right now, after you've finished reading this article, set up an account (it can be a checking, saving or an investment account) for the sole purpose of saving money. Define your weekly, bi-monthly or monthly contributions. All you can do is $5, you say? That's a start. But do more if you can. Every pay period this money adds up. And though I know you know this, eventually you will be in a slowly improving better financial place.

As things tighten up around the old homestead and you get the joy of your growing savings account, you may be able to save more and more each pay period. Just remember that the secret to any resolution is the actual doing of it. So, do this, buddy.

Track it all Impulse buying is the scourge of many well-intentioned peeps. It's hard to take control of your money if you don't realize how much you are spending on ice-fishing equipment or the care and feeding of your other hobbies and activities. If you track ALL your spending, you will see what the real numbers add up to for the care of the horses, the boat or the kids' sports activities.

Use a system Numbers are great. But I like to use graphs or charts of the numbers so I can SEE various bits of my money in relationship to the rest. How do the various spending, or saving, categories compare to each other? I can see trends and trouble more clearly in pictures. It may be much more obvious to you and your loved ones if how much you spend, and save, are shown on a chart.

What am I talking about? A pie chart, shaped like a big ol' yummy pie, shows 100 percent of what you have available with slivers for various categories of spending, such as housing, life, saving and debt repayment, etc. I can also see at a glance if certain categories are out of kilter and squeezing the poo out of the other categories.

You can do this on any spread sheet. But it may be much simpler to use the options provided by some financial institutions. If you don't have access to that there are many free online options such as Mint.com and other free online web sites or systems to help you get a picture of your money.

Retirement SAVE Saving more also means saving more for retirement. Saving now makes your future bright and shiny. (And those of you who know me are aware of my joy with bright and shiny things.)

You need more than just good intentions to make this step a reality. Sign up to either begin a savings program or to increase your current savings. Though you may not be able to save as much as you'd like, any additions in a retirement account is a step in the right direction, chickadee. You will be in better shape in 2013 than you were in 2012. Progress, kids, that's what we're aiming for.

Savings made cozy I realize you are all grown up. You aren't a baby, dang it. And you don't like to be treated like a baby. But sometimes seemingly silly things motivate even us grownups. We all respond to helpful-for-us encouragement as we progress towards our goals.

Just like with most kids saying they are saving for college, many of us benefit from short-term encouragement besides just the intrinsic warmth in our hearts from doing what's right. Sometimes we need a treat. Whether it's a smelly sticker or a latte or lunch out with friends for a job getting well done, make sure some fun incentives are planned along the journey.

The writer of one article suggested something as silly as a crayon-colored bar graph placed on the fridge that shows your progress and makes you happy may be all you need. But make being stubbornly disciplined fun. Have celebrations along the way so you can smile and rejoice in your good work. It's good to take steps along the path of financial control. It's good to be happy and to celebrate the achievement of your goals. It's just darn delightful to be financially awesome.

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