Fierce Financial Management for Dragons

By Staff Writer

The Chinese New Year brings a few superstitions with it. For one, people start cleaning up their homes prior to the New Year’s eve to rid themselves of any lingering bad luck from last year and to get ready to welcome the brand new year.

One good thing is that you can put your broom down and your feet up after that – Chinese tradition has it that cleaning over the New Year means you'll sweep all of your good luck out the front door. It’s also said, that if you start the New Year in the red, you'll finish it the same way. But these customs were developed before we had such convenient tools as Visa debit to help manage our money, so as we enter the Year of the Dragon, mix traditional wisdom with some modern know-how from Visa debit to get your finances in order.

The Dragon

2012 is the Year of the Dragon and that's also your Chinese Zodiac sign if you were born in 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988 or 2000. The dragon is the symbol of power and wealth but being born in a dragon year is more the financial equivalent of having a strong tail wind. Unless you set your sails right, your dragon status won’t move your financial boat forward.

They may be lucky, but people born in the Year of the Dragon still need a good financial management plan if they want to prosper.

The key to spending within your means is to know what your expenses are and to spend less than you make. It sounds simple enough, but so many of us find it hard to stick to! A simple way to start is by creating a realistic budget that you can stick to - whether daily, weekly or monthly – whatever works for you. Now you need to prioritize your outgoings, sorting out the ‘must haves’ from the ‘would likes.’

Do you need that gym membership or could you go for a run? Do you need to have that coffee from a vendor every morning, or could you make your own at home? And be honest with yourself from the start or you’ll only get into difficulties later. Now set yourself goals to achieve throughout the year. You need to think SMART which means setting yourself goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-related.

SPECIFIC: Be specific on what you want. Avoid just saying “I want to save money”. Instead say “I want to save money to travel to Bali.”
MEASURABLE: Give your goal a benchmark. For instance traveling to Bali will cost $2,000 and you have $800 already saved, saving the additional $1,200 gives you a measurable goal to reach. Try to break it down to a more manageable goal of $200 per month.
ATTAINABLE: Make your goal realistic. Saying you want to travel in Indonesia for six months staying only in five star hotels may not be attainable if you've only got $800 to spend on that holiday. Instead think what is within your means, for example, “I am going to save each month so I can visit Bali for three days and stay in a three star hotel."
RELEVANT: The goals have to make sense to you. It’s not practical to work toward a goal that doesn’t fit your need. For example, if you are going to Bali for your wedding anniversary, you may not want to be staying in hostels and may want to save more for something a bit special.
TIMELY: Set a definite target date. Set a date for your trip and work towards it.

Now when you are spending throughout the month, remember your budget and each of your goals. If you use a debit card it is easier to spend within your means since each time you spend, the money is drawn directly from your bank account - you buy now, you pay now.

Like cash, except that the transactions on your debit card can also be tracked on your card issuer’s website or over the phone and your monthly account statement will provide full details of your purchases, including merchant name, location, date and amount. Keep track of your receipts, check them against your bank statement and make sure they tally with your budget. It pays to be organized!

So Gong Xi Fa Cai from Visa Debit - may the New Year bring you much health, wealth and happiness! 

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