Regardless of your current income level, having a plan is the best bet to improving your finances and ensuring future comfort and peace of mind. Below are a few steps you can take to get your finances on track and into a plan that will work for you.
With so much uncertainty in the world, being sure you can cover the essentials should be your top priority. Sit down and really figure out what those essentials are – whether it be rent, water and heat bills, or groceries. By re-evaluating your budget and current spending habits, you can find new ways to conserve cash. Spend less on takeout and cook homemade meals instead, walk instead of bussing…you know the drill. By spending less where you can, you are creating financial savings that you can rely on when needed in the future.
The age-old budget that seemed to be used by every money guru was the 50/30/20 rule: 50% of the budget for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for debt and savings. However, your needs, circumstances, and interests are unique, so you’ll need a budget that will work for you. For example, maybe you’ll set 30% of your budget for debt and savings instead of wants, or even get rid of the wants category altogether until you feel more financially comfortable with having a wants category in your budget. Whatever you do, create a budget that will work for you. Planswell offers free personalized financial plans in about three minutes.
Or come up with a strategy to take care of any debt you have. Carrying debt around is never a good thing, and with the volatility of the stock market, job security, and potential medical expenses, debt can be even more of a hindrance to financial health and stability. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help with debt, especially in these trying times.
Sit down at the end of every month and review your budget. Bills can change, so revise your budget accordingly. Check to see if you were spending more than usual on certain expenses and trim down in that area if possible.
Spending money on credit cards is a quick and easy way to complicate your financial plans and throw a wrench into your budget. Try to only use a debit card to make purchases, which is simple and will eliminate interest charges. While a credit card can be helpful when building credit, only spend what you can afford to pay off in full.
Don’t forget about expenses that come around during seasonal events like back-to-school in the fall, holidays in the winter, or birthdays and anniversaries year-round. Remember to set some money aside for these events so you won’t have to use a credit card or dip into your savings fund.
If you can, keep putting money into investments for your future. Remember, due to the magic of compound interest, every dollar saved and invested is more than a dollar earned.
Are you paying for a subscription you don’t really need? Do you have more than one entertainment provider? Or how about a gym membership you’re not using? Consider canceling something that you can live without.
Those flyers that you get in the mail may seem destined for the recycling bin, and perhaps you are already in the habit of tossing them as soon as you get them. Take a moment to check for coupons for things you’re already planning to buy before throwing away the grocery store flyer.
When shopping, compare the brands you buy. A generic brand may seem like less of a product, but it is often the same as the fancier, branded version. The savings can add up if you’re able to opt for a generic option.
If online shopping or late-night delivery are your downfall, make a plan to avoid these temptations. Find a less-expensive hobby to occupy this time.
Compare and contrast the different service providers near you to see what kind of deals they are offering. Some service providers may even offer price-matching.
Take all the help you can get. Many financial advisors offer free consultations. When you build your free financial plan at planswell.com, request to speak with an advisor. The first call is always free, no strings attached.
You may think an allowance is just for kids, but think again. Giving yourself an allowance can be a great way to watch overspending. Do you spend too much at the coffee shop on vanilla lattes? Make your own coffee at home or at work until your next allowance.
If you reach a milestone, no matter how big or small, and you feel motivated by rewards – you should celebrate. A small celebration will not be the end of your budgeting, but rather a motivating pat on the back for a job well done. Why not treat yourself to a budget-friendly treat after paying off some debt or getting a savings account started?
Knowing when to expect bills and other expenses can help reduce stress and make budgeting easier. Perhaps consider setting up auto drafts to pay bills or set specific days for things such as grocery shopping.
Financial software can be very helpful when sticking to a budget. Check for free apps that can help you keep track of expenses. Be sure to check the ratings of the app or even look for reviews online to ensure it will work for you.
As they say, comparison is the thief of joy, and that can certainly be true of budgeting. Never compare your situation to someone else’s – you never know how things really are for them, and in truth, they may just be comparing themselves to you. Focus on your budget and doing what’s best for yourself.
Those little bits of paper you get from the store, the ones you spit your gum in? Review those for a reminder of how you spent your money and keep them safe in case you need to return a purchase.
Really think hard about a large purchase before spending the money. Sleep on it, take a few days or even a week or two before making the purchase. Consider the costs, if there is a payment plan, and how it will impact your budget. Do some homework and read reviews so you’re not replacing the item sooner than you expect. After doing some due diligence, you may lose enthusiasm for the purchase and discover you didn’t really need it in the first place.
You slept on that large purchase, and you still want to buy it. Make a plan for the purchase so you aren’t hurting your budget. Decide on a date to make the purchase and save accordingly. Set aside a certain amount each day to avoid spending on a credit card.
Try a no-spend challenge to really cut-back on expenses and spending habits. The challenge can be a weekend, a week, or month. The challenge may change the way you think about money. Make it fun by challenging a friend or family member.
Staying accountable and sticking to goals can be hard when you’re doing it alone. Sharing your goals with others has a way of making them official. Ask someone to budget with you to keep you and them accountable.
Planning your meals in advance can help you save money. You’ll be less likely to make an impulse splurge on takeout when you have a plan. Go the extra step of planning meals around what’s on sale at the grocery store.
There are plenty of free and low-cost things to do, so take advantage! Whether that be watching movies with your family, going for walks through the park, reading…you name it. Use some creativity to plan recreation you’ll enjoy without breaking the bank.
Budgeting does not mean you can’t enjoy life. In fact, it’s important you do, or you won’t stick with your good intentions. Budgeting now will open up more options for you down the road as your wealth accumulates. When you stay on top of your finances, you can get through almost anything life throws at you and plan for a bright future.