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Want financial freedom? Learn to control your spending

Want financial freedom? Learn to control your spending

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Mary Hunt

My life changed radically about 28 years ago when I came clean about my relationship with money. I broke my self-imposed gag order and told the whole world about my struggle with a debilitating spending problem. At the time, I had no idea this would be one of the smartest things I could ever do. By telling my story and owning up to my problem, I became accountable.

Since then, I’ve written 26 published books and millions of words in daily columns and newsletters on the subject of money management. I’ve experimented with various methods. I’ve addressed audiences large and small. I’ve listened, pondered and asked questions. I’ve collected enough data to choke even a well-adjusted accountant.

Have I come to any conclusions? Thousands, to be exact, but my most important conclusion is this: Anyone can learn to control his or her spending.

If you are experiencing financial trouble, it can undoubtedly be traced back to the time that you failed to control your spending. And the trouble just started to grow. For some of us, it grew and grew. And others of us? It grew and grew and grew and grew. And grew some more.

For nearly three decades, I’ve lived, breathed, eaten, smelled and tasted money management and financial fixing. I’ve concluded that — regardless of our attitudes about money, the amount we have or any other individual factors — these are the main reasons so many people experience money trouble:

No. 1: Money problems are rooted in one’s refusal to accept the fact that life is not fair. As long as you feel entitled to all kinds of material things you cannot afford, you will have money problems.

No. 2: Money problems are the result of irregular, intermittent and unpredictable expenses. Most people don’t think about what might happen or the things that don’t happen on a regular basis when they add up their monthly expenses. So, when the irregular expense rears its ugly head, they see it as an emergency or financial crisis.

No. 3: Money problems will never go away as long as unsecured debt is carried over from month to month. Credit card debt and its merciless interest have an odd way of reproducing themselves. They never stay the same, and if they don’t shrink, they grow.

It still sounds crazy to me, but I know it is true: The more accountable I am, the greater my freedom. The more I am willing to be disciplined, the more numerous my options. The more carefully I plan, the bigger I dream, the better my life becomes and the more joy I experience.

I also know that, whether your financial situation requires a minor correction or a major overhaul, no situation is hopeless. You can take back control of your finances. You can get out of debt and learn how to live below your means. You can get off the financial roller coaster and stay on level ground, where money ceases to be an issue.

Financial ease has nothing to do with being rich. It comes as the result of taking responsibility and following sound financial principles.

It doesn’t matter if you feel beyond hope; you can change. You can stop adding to your credit card debt. You can put yourself on a spending diet. You can start tracking where your money goes. And you can do that starting today.

Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.

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It’s been years since I learned an important restaurant lesson — one I will not need to learn again. Let’s call this a lesson to last a lifetime.

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