Forget the Joneses, keep up with you

?How?s being broke working for you?? ?Jon Hanson, financial writer and speaker

All those who got a Christ?mas bonus, raise your hand. All those who hit the holiday sales with your Christmas cash, raise your new iPod, Blackberry or Wii console. OK, then?. All those who stuck that extra money into savings, raise your hand.

Wow, surface visibility on the ground just shot way up. Nary a hand in sight.

Maybe a couple. I?m sure there are a few of you disciplined enough to have saved your bonus or Grandma?s yearly $10 bill. You?re smart but not necessarily popular. If only we could all be like you!

But most of us aren?t. We like things. Lots of things. And we?d like those things NOW, thank you very much! Even?especially?at the holidays when spending is disguised as ?giving,? it brings about the same result.

Everybody?s broke. Or is it that simple? Broke implies having no money. Broke people can take heart?you can always make more money. Work a few extra hours or pick up a side job and you can catch up to your bills again. Be thankful that you?re not caught up in the real crisis.

Debt. That?s a whole other story. Being ?broke? can be fixed. But being indebted is trickier.

According to the government, we should all spend more and get this economy going again. I?d rather get my heart going again.

I don?t think we need more right now. It?s time to get selfish for awhile. Isn?t there some kind of sense in getting our little insignificant checkbooks balanced first? Give ourselves a little padding?

If your assumed holiday bonus is now ?dust in the wind? or ?carpet in the bedroom? or ?a new flat screen on the wall,? then well, what?s done is done. But for plenty of people, chance No. 2 is around the corner. Income tax returns. We can still use our power for good. Our own good.

Don?t worry about Washington?s money troubles?they?ve got it under control. (Cough, chuckle).

?You?ve got to spend money to make money? is an old adage, printed as far back as 1888 in the Newark Ohio Daily Advocate. (The original saying, ?It takes money to make money? dates even further back to 1850.) Actually, it?s true?sometimes. Unfortunately, most of the time the wording should be ?spend money to spend money? because credit has redefined spending. It?s a double or triple purchase by the time interest rates have their say.

Or how about the department store?s favorite slogan: ?Spend money to save money.? No! How about don?t spend money to save money? In 1980, the national savings rate was 10 percent of disposable income. Today, we?re down into negative numbers.

Our collective motto has become a penny earned is a penny spent.

When I started in the workforce ?a few? years ago, I didn?t give a thought to savings or retirement. I worked for my rent and my weekends, not always in that order. I knew I had years to plan all that other stuff. No worries?it was all good.

It seems I blacked out for awhile. I?ve been magically transported to the future?or the present. One day you find yourself in a tornado of deductibles, IRAs, kids? college funds, and God-forbid, a retirement plan.

Reality has a way of sneaking up and throwing you to the ground every so often. On the positive side, there?s budget and credit advice all over the place. One of my favorites is freezing your credit card in a block of ice to avoid impulse purchases.

That just might work. The thought of crouching over a block of ice with a blow dryer might be shameful enough to reconsider a new pair of shoes.

If calm, consistent warnings haven?t worked, what?s the harm in trying a little humiliation?

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