Trick yourself into saving more

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Trick yourself into saving moreCertified Financial Planner, Dr. Mary Ann Campbell, a spokesperson for www.IndexCreditCards.com, has been presenting financial seminars for years. But what makes her programs unique is that she teaches through magic.

"Money can be a serious subject," she says. "I'm no David Copperfield, but I like to lighten it up with illusions, sound effects, cards, burning bills and other visuals to make it enjoyable and at the same time send a message" -- generally one that relates to saving more and spending less.

How? By setting goals, sticking to a strategy, and applying financial "tricks," like these:

Think Large; Then Small
Campbell has her students write down their dreams -- the top 10 things they want to do in this lifetime. "This could be anything from buying a house to traveling the world, to learning a language to retiring at age 50," says Campbell. Next step: setting goals to make these dreams a reality. Campbell asks that goals be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed.).

Put Your Savings on Autopilot
Sign up to have fixed amount automatically taken out of your paycheck and directly into savings or investment account. An employer-sponsored 401k is a great choice -- particularly if the company is matching contributions. You could also arrange with a broker or mutual fund company to have a set dollar amount transferred each month into an IRA. "You won't miss money that you don't see," says Campbell.

Pay Bills Automatically
There are a number of excuses as to why you "forgot" to pay your bills, but the end result, no matter the excuse, is the same: If you pay your bills late, your credit score takes a hit. That affects your ability to get a loan, job, rent an apartment. Plus, you'll be hit with late fees! "Take care of the basics by going automatic," says Campbell. "Once it's all set up, it's easy, and managing money and budgeting needs to be easy so you can focus on other aspects of your life."

Wield A Stick
While Campbell is a big fan of self-rewarding when you've met certain financial objectives (just the way you would reward yourself if you lost 10 pounds, for example), some people DO respond better to fear of punish than do promise of reward. Do you? If so, try this: come up with a savings plan -- say, to save an extra $100 a month -- with the condition that you will incur a penalty if you don't meet your objectives. Designate someone -- a friend, spouse, etc -- to monitor the situation. And if you fail to meet your goals, know that you will have to pay that "someone" $100 for each month you failed. Harsh? Yes. But research does show that when there's money at stake, we're more likely to achieve goals we set for ourselves.

Break Bad Habits
Campbell, who has her students track their spending in a daily diary, says many are surprised by how much they're spending on everyday items -- from cigarettes to lattes. If you need help kicking a habit, join www.stickk.com, a site that allows you to create commitment contracts (for anything; not just cigarettes and lattes!), and turn resolutions into reality.
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