Saving money isn’t always easy. Nor is budgeting or planning ahead. But there are mental tricks and tips that can “ooch” you along toward success. Including:

*50/30/20. This is a big one when you’re setting up a budget. Many financial experts, including Liz Weston, advocate it. Figure out your income, then allot:

      50% for expenses (housing, transportation, utilities, food — everything you need for living)

      30% for “extras”  (vacation, eating out, presents, entertainment, etc.)

      20% for savings, retirement — and getting rid of debt

     Quick and simple, huh? It can beunless you’re not making enough money to cover expenses. (That’s when other posts on MLF can be helpful, including side hustles and making your hobbies pay.) Go here for more discussion on 50/30/20.

*1/1. This applies to Stuff, which we generally have lots of.  For every decorating item, electronic goodie or appliance you bring into your living space, one should go out. Make it even better by selling or donating that outgoing item, and put the extra in savings, or use it as a tax credit.

It’s not a bad rule for your clothes closet, either.

*12 x 365..or the Daily Dozen. Every day of the year — or every day you think of it — get rid of twelve different items. They could be clothes that don’t fit or are damaged, like those holey socks you’ve been meaning to throw away. Junk mail. Old cellphones, or CDs you haven’t listened to for years. Collect them in a box for the next donation truck or garage sale. Sell them on Craigslist. Or just plain throw them away.

Suze Orman, bless her heart, makes this the Rule of 25. In her book The Courage to Be Rich, she suggests getting rid of 25 items “that you are willing to throw away — yes, throw away.” Your next step: gather up spare change and dollar bills from couch cushions, drawers, your wallet, etc., and put it in a safe place. (Think “sugarbowl,” an old farmwife’s stash.)  Suze says most people find at least $20-40, and often more.

Then “go through your house a third time. This time, find at least 25 items that are still in good shape but are truthfully of no further use to you…” Suze suggests donating: “take them, in other words, to a place where people who need them will have the readiest access to them.” Now you’ve got more room, less clutter, and a small but healthy emergency fund. Who could argue with that?

*Then there’s the 10 & 20 List– annual collections of good investing tips that often show up around the new year. Plenty of websites have lists to keep you inspired, not stuck or lazy, and your money safe. does this annually, as do others. Here’s Morningstar’s Top 20 List, including “know your friends, know your enemies,” the classic “buy low, sell high” (easy, right?) and my favorite — “beware of snakes:”

“When weighing management, it is helpful to remember the parable of the snake. Late one winter evening, a man came across a snake on the path. The snake asked, “Will you please help me, sir? I am cold, hungry and will surely die if left alone.” The man replied, “But you are a snake, and you will surely bite me!” The snake replied, “Please, I am desperate…”

So the man thought about it, and decided to take the snake home. After they enjoyed a meal together, the snake suddenly bit the man. The man asked, “Why did you bite me? I saved your life and showed you much generosity!” The snake simply replied, “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”

Math tricks also show up in mnemonics word and number combinations that help you Remember Something Else. (Yes, I had to go look it up — only fans of Keanu Reeves spell the word right the first time around.)


Two Old Angels Skipped Over Heaven Carrying Ancient Harps

Used in math to remember the equations for Tangent, Sine, and Cosine. O stands for opposite, A stands for adjacent, and H stands for hypotenuse. Therefore, Tangent = Opposite/Adjacent; Sine = Opposite/Hypotenuse; Cosine = Adjacent/Hypotenuse.

Then again — I almost flunked Geometry


*One. As in — take the first step.  The next ones only get easier. And if number mixes and mnemomics help you do it, so much the better. As Sarah Gilbert points out, “Financial enlightenment doesn’t come from charts.”

But they can help.



When It’s Okay TO BE In Debt

When It's Okay TO BE In Debt

One theme we here at MLF enjoy harping on is debt — or the lack of it.  Don’t get it if you can’t pay for it.  Buy it on credit — if you can’t pay your card in full every month, you’ll be adding interest. A lot of it. (Although some people argue that paying off large balances every month negatively affects your credit score.) Debt can hold you back. It can warp relationships, keep you from taking advantage of needed bargains in real estate and vehicles, and ruin your ability to borrow more. Being in debt now will affect your future [...]

3 comments Read the full article →

5 Ways to Collect — For Fun and Profit

5 Ways to Collect -- For Fun and Profit

 Everyone has a yen toward a certain item. For some, it’s baseball cards…others with bigger wallets collect antique sportscars or rare paintings. It doesn’t matter whether you’re poor or rich — you may happily collect stacking dolls, Beanie babies or blue-and-white Delftware. Celebrities do it, too – Tom Hanks collects typewriters, while Corbin Bernsen’s partial to snowglobes. (Corbin reputedly has more than 7000 — and counting.) The thrill of the hunt is great — but it’s no fun getting stuck with boxes and boxes of items that are good only for garage sales — or less. Fine-tune your instincts, and your collection [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

Retirement: Can You?

retirement can you

You may plan to retire — most people do. The question is: Can you? A recent survey from suggests you should take this a bit more seriously, before assuming that retirement comes automatically after age 67 (or earlier). In their latest survey, more than 300 each of baby boomers and middle-income generators were asked whether they had clear financial goals and plans. Nearly two-thirds said yes. The flip side? A third of these people don’t have a clue. “If you look at middle class Americans, defined as income in $40,000 to $80,000, the financial plan for one third of [...]

1 comment Read the full article →

How to Avoid a Car Loan When You Buy Your Next Car

How to Avoid a Car Loan When You Buy Your Next Car

The following is an article by Melissa, our guest contributor. Car loans are a way of life, right? If you have a car, you’re likely paying a monthly payment for that car, whether it be because you’re leasing the vehicle or because you’re on a five year (or longer!) loan payment plan. But it doesn’t have to be this way. No matter what type of vehicle you currently have, with careful planning and a willingness, at least in the beginning, to not care much about your image, you can avoid paying a car loan payment. The key is to know [...]

0 comments Read the full article →