In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, create your own green by committing to smart money management, which includes budgeting and taking out a debt consolidation loan.

Many of the traditions of St. Patrick's Day-beer swilling and donning green attire--have directed attention away from the holiday's namesake. St. Patrick lived in Ireland circa 400 AD. His 30-year mission was to convert pagans to Christianity, a quest that inspired numerous legends, including one that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland.

There never were snakes in Ireland-it's not a native species-but his quest to convert pagans is true. As we approach St. Patrick's Day, follow in the Patron Saint of Ireland's footsteps by converting from overspending to sound money management. Here are three ways to see more "green" in your life:

1. Make a commitment


St. Patrick made a commitment to Christianity, and stuck with it for 30 years. To get into tip-top financial shape, you need to make a long-term commitment, as well. Write down some goals. Would you like to stop overspending and start saving for retirement? Would you like to feel more confident in your financial management?

By listing your goals, your long-term commitments take on a feeling of permanence. Try not to make this commitment in a vacuum; involve your entire family in the process.

2. Create a budget


This simple task is as easy to ignore as it can be difficult to follow, but the benefits are enormous. One of its most important advantages can be realized the day you start making a budget. Begin by analyzing your monthly expenditures. Review your income and expenses during the last six months, and learn where your money has been going. This can be extremely enlightening as you develop a real understanding of your personal financial picture.

Knowing where your money is being spent can help you decide where to trim expenses. For example, one of your biggest expenses might be eating out. By analyzing your costs, you could free up some extra dollars if you eat at less expensive restaurants, or bring your own lunch to work. Be sure to include budgeting for some partying and beer on St. Patrick's Day. A budget is not about deprivation-it's about controlling your spending.

3. Consider debt consolidation


If you're serious about converting to smart money management, consider a debt consolidation loan. More realistic than hoping to find a leprechaun's pot of gold, these loans allow you to convert high-interest balances on credit cards and personal loans into one debt instrument. A second mortgage, a good vehicle for this purpose, tends to have lower, tax-deductible interest rates. The loan could save you hundreds of dollars a month, and thousands in long-term interest.

As St. Patrick's Day approaches, follow the patron saint of Ireland's lead and convert any sloppy money management habits into smart, financially prudent practices. Set goals, create a budget, and consolidate debts. You'll wind up with a little extra green in the most cherished of spaces-your wallet.

Published on March 17, 2008