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Get your finances in gear... now!

Updated on January 27, 2012

The clue to successfully managing your money online (as with most disciplines) lies on hard-core habit.

Good news: You create your habits, and this is a very powerful thing, know this. The preparation and implementation of a sound personal budget fails many times because we fall short in adjusting one ideal plan to the reality of our habits, customs, impulses, likes and overall personal discipline. Let's take a closer look to out inner selves to further define these aspects.

Habits, Customs and Impulses... oh my!

Habits are practices or ceremonies, acts if you will, certain similar behaviors that we do according to, or in response to, certain similar circumstances. Habits can be positive or negative. In either case, we normally perform them almost unconsciously. A smoking habit, for example, is of course of a negative nature. If as a smoker, you were to prepare your budget without taking into consideration the cost of your pack of cigarettes (about $800 to $1600 per year) because you have in mind you will quit smoking immediately, there is a high probability your budget will fail. You need to make an honest assessment of your habits in this regard so you can based on this, decide in attune with your personality.

Positive habits like visiting your dentist regularly or having routine medical checkups also need to be included in your budget. Medical expenses (like deductibles and over the counter drugs) tend to be overlooked when it comes to establish a budget, make sure you include them.

The flexibility factor is crucial as you put into practice sound financial control. A strict, to the penny style is set for failure as well. Visualize your budget like a guide that you will be adjusting at least on a month basis.

Popcorn prices have popped

In 2008, Mike Campbell, chief executive of Regal Entertainment Group, the nation's largest theater chain with 6,300 screens, said: "If we didn't charge as much for concessions as we did, the ticket to the movies would cost $20". Regal sometimes offer free popcorn coupons.

Customs or practices, on the other hand, are easily confused with habits, but these tend to develop within social, cultural and environmental circumstances. The practice of going to the beach, for example, is not possible unless there are beaches available at a reasonable distance. By the way, going to the beach is a particularly economical practice, although still requires money (for gas, sodas, lunches, etc.) that should also be recorded. Same applies to the custom of going to the movies, with the difference that this practice is much more expensive. If you are serious about controlling where your money is going, this is an area that needs close attention. According to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), in 1985, the cost of a movie ticket was $3.55, by 2008 it was close to seven dollars. In 2010, the organization reported that going to the movies costs $7.89 per ticket on average. Going by 2008 numbers, a family of four that is used to go to the movies every other week looks forward to pay $672 a year. Of course, this is not taking further into account the possibility that one might want popcorn with that movie, sodas... a snack. This will raise well over $1000. It also doesn't consider chance of dinner with that movie. Based on a cost per plate of $30, or $2880 a year, we have a grand total of almost $4000. That's at least a one way ticket to Hawaii, for four!

Your budget is your behavior, is you

Impulses and compulsive behaviors are huge budget killers, since they are merely a reaction to certain unpredicted event, situation or circumstance. A good example is compulsive eating, drinking and shopping. Anyone under the above or similar behaviors, not only places its financial future at risk, but its health and interpersonal relations in danger. These impulses require prompt action. We need to reach out and do whatever it takes, seek professional help if necessary, in order to tame these well known behavioral disorders. Hoarding should also be placed on top of the list here.

Likes and dislikes tend to be of a more conscious nature, but could be tricky for they tend to be very justified: "I deserve it," "I've earned it", or a more classic one "This is not for me! This is for the house, the children, etc." Likes could also be positive or negative, but they generally range on the expensive scale of the budget. As it happens with impulses, they need to be controlled and monitored closely.

Take discipline into account, is key to sound financial practice

Lastly, and certainly very important, is discipline. Discipline is generally conscientious, inexpensive, and by default, is a good investment.

Any action we take in the outside starts in the inside. Personal finance is no different. In order to take advantage of what the Internet has to offer to help us with this matter, we need to start with a self assessment. Our circumstances, especially, and other financial details are a direct reflection of one's personality. Our spending habits are intertwined with everything we do. For some very strange reason we believe that money matters are sitting on a shelf while we live or life, when money is really in every single place we go.

So let's start with our innerspace. Let's start by addressing ourselves. Are you ready to dig deeper with your finances? Dive in! And then quickly sit down and honestly set up a budget.


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