Are you strapped for cash more often than you desire? Are you among the millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck? Or maybe you’re just realizing how tight money is at the end of each month. Regardless, you’ve decided you’re ready to take charge! One of the most important things you can do is to take a look at where the money is actually going. Here are 6 helpful ways I got my finances under control.
- Analyze your income: Sit down and truly dig in to what’s coming in. With direct deposit being the new norm, do you ever look at your paycheck stubs anymore? Are you claiming the correct dependents? Contributing a reasonable amount to your 401k? Learn the difference between net and gross and be aware of where your dollars are going. Another great area to review is your bank statements! Whether they’re piling up, unopened, on the bar or filling up your email inbox, reviewing your transactions can be a real eye-opener. Do you have another source of income? Include that. Be sure your grand total is as accurate as possible.
- Know your credit: Do you know your credit score? There’s no better time than the present to get familiar with what’s being reported – both positively negatively. I use credit karma.com. It’s super easy to use and a great way to get updates about your credit. I get weekly emails with any new information and it doesn’t lower my score. If you have incorrect reporting, dispute it as soon as you can. Tackle one debt at a time. It’s more effective to focus on one particular card, applying a lump sum, than spreading that amount across several cards.
- Automate your finances: In today’s day and age there is no excuse for making late payments. Those fees are outrageous and can be avoided if you simply set up automatic payments each month.
- Create a budget: Whether you are planning your first budget or creating a brand new one, this part is critical for success in gaining control. Choose which is best for you –on paper, a trendy app or a spreadsheet. Start by jotting down all of your reoccurring expenses, remembering the little deductions like gym memberships, life insurance & movie apps. If there’s a particular area you always struggle with, start there. Listing each monthly expense is important. I discovered that I had way too money much going out to the dry cleaners each month. Being aware of where your funds are going is actually pretty alarming. If budget talk isn’t your favorite topic, be sure to check out my Basics to Budgeting at getyourworthon.org for some great tips to get started. Determining how much you have to work with is half the battle.
- Cut the nonsense: Whew! Now that the hardest part is out of your way, (creating a budget) pat yourself on the back. If you’re spending more than you make, here’s a list of just a few things I suggest to cut: Bi-weekly pedicures, lawn care, that beloved morning drive thru coffee, dog grooming, premium movie channels on cable, eating out, nicotine habits and yes that favorite bottled water! You’ll be amazed how much you can save in just one month cutting these out.
- Hold yourself accountable: Now that the budget is made, it’s time to put all your hard work and research in motion. Sticking to your new budget is crucial! Be realistic and set goals for yourself. Make short term and long term goals.
Getting help is a wonderful idea too. Utilizing Quicken or signing up for an app called Mint are two great ways to help you manage your money. I personally made a promise to myself to follow my budget; it’s a gratifying feeling when I can truly mark off the items that I’ve paid on time as I scheduled.
These are fool proof ways to tackle the bull, head on. The hardest part is getting started!