By Mary Hunt

For years and years, I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute, a bag lady.

A study conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke but because we don’t have confidence that we know how to hang on to our money. And that makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

We don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about it.

Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then, by consciously applying them over and over again, those principles will become automatic responses — financial habits.

Are you ready to make 2017 your best money year ever? Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence and take control of  your money.

GET ANGRY.

Decide once and for all that you will not sell your soul to the likes of MasterCard and Visa — not one more day, not one more purchase. Get righteously indignant about the very idea of transferring your future wealth to those corporations. Remember this: The borrower becomes a slave to the lender. Decide right now that you will do whatever it takes to get out of debt.

BECOME A SAVER.

Saving money is like magic because it changes our attitudes and calms our fears. The simple act of choosing not to spend money so you can save it is a soul soother, a nerve calmer. You must start now, today, no matter your situation — even if you are in debt, even if you are struggling to catch up and even if you are already contributing to a 401(k) plan or some other kind of retirement account. This is different. You need money in the bank to boost your financial confidence.

Start with a dollar, if that is all you can manage, and stuff it in a coffee mug. Then, make it $5. Soon you will be saving $10, $20 and even $50 a week, plus all the change from the sofa cushions and the
washing machine.

SET A FINANCIAL GOAL.

For any plan to succeed, it needs to be specific, reasonable and measurable. For example, let’s say you want to save $2,400 in the coming year, meaning about $50 a week. That may be reasonable, provided you are willing to really stretch and make adjustments in other areas. And you can certainly measure your progress by simply checking your account balance regularly.

As you begin to understand that money and personal finance are empowering, not repulsive, you will open the door to taking control of your finances. You will make progress one step at a time. And single steps taken consistently amount to miles.

This year really could be your best money year. It’s not a decision that anyone else can make. It’s up to you.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014.