The pattern of our lives consist of a series of choices, large and small. Not all of these area about money, but a good many of them are. Others (such as choice of a mate) may not be made on that basis, but have a financial impact anyway. Let’s talk for today just about some of the explicitly financial ones. In my book, The Facts and Energy of Personal Finance, I deal with some of these. For example, I mention the weighing of options when it comes to keeping an old car that needs repairs or getting a new one, which costs more in the short run but may well save you money over time.

It’s good to realize that we almost always do have choices available, even though we think not. Unless a creditor is using extra-legal and violent means to collect, we don’t have to pay them on demand, for example. Normally, in our right mind, we do want to pay what we owe. But “not so fast” sometimes. I faced a situation like this recently. My health insurance company denied a claim, which would leave me with a bill I hadn't expected to pay. After a moment of panic, and more time worrying about what in the world I was going to do, I just called the provider ad the insurance company to straighten it out. Amazing what a little perspective on the situation will do!

Some choices about money can be positive. Paying off those high-interest credit card balances is one example. If you have available cash, do that instead of paying interest. You can get some credit cards at a 0% promotional rate. If you can transfer balances you're unable to pay off right now to those 0% cards, that's a win. Just make sure you know when the promotional rate expires, so that you can get it paid off by then. You can get "reward" points on some of these, too, but only if you pay the balance in full every month. Then those "reward points" can be redeemed for other purchases later on.

There are innumerable choices with our money—from high impact (bite the bullet and fix the roof now, or wait til it gets worse and hope we can save up the money) to the trivial (pay a fee to get cash from an ATM at a store now, or wait til I get to my bank’s one that doesn’t charge)—but the trivial ones have a cumulative impact, too. What practices do we want to instill? What choices empower rather than disempower? I invite your examples. E-mail me,

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