Smart Money Management
If you’ve decided to adopt a more frugal lifestyle – congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to financial freedom. If you’re a little overwhelmed about where to start, take a deep breath. All it takes is determination and a few key management skills, which anyone can learn.
Keep in mind that reaching your financial goals is a journey. It may be different from anyone else’s, and that’s okay. You need to educate yourself and understand your own personal financial situation and continually track your progress. How do you get started? Let’s look at a few basic steps for smart money management.
Create (and stick to) a budget. Learn how to use excel or another program that will help you track all of your expenses, income and assets.
If you’re not sure where to begin, tackle one month for now. Determine your monthly income (after taxes). Next, pull out all of your receipts, bills, and banking statements. Make a few categories, such as household expenses, groceries, and entertainment. Start simple; you can always add to your spreadsheet later on.
After you organize and compile your expenses, it’s time to total them up. You’ll soon start to notice a pattern of where most of your money is going. This will help you create a reasonable budget for future spending.
Avoid Debt & Impulse Buying. Now that you have a plan in place, take time to determine your priorities and focus your spending in a way that aligns with your budget. Spend only what you have. Credit card debt is the number one budget killer and saboteur of frugal living. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Never spend money before you have earned it.”
If you’ve already made this mistake (as most of us have at some point), include paying down your debt in your monthly budget. Start with the highest interest cards first and stop using them unless absolutely necessary. Research debt consolidation or consult with a financial advisor if you’re really struggling.
Set Goals & Open a Savings Account. Financial planning includes short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals. Where would you like to be in one year? Five? Twenty? Planning ahead will keep you on track and focused.
A smart money manager has a savings account or emergency fund. Most financial consultants suggest having at least 3-6 months of living expenses set aside for unexpected emergencies.
Lastly, don’t wait to create a retirement strategy. According to the one study conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, only 4 in 10 workers admit that they and/or their spouse have tried to figure out how much money they need to save for retirement. If you want to actually enjoy your golden years debt-free, now is the time to plan ahead.
Being good with money means more than just making ends meet. Smart money management includes preparation, organization, and effort. And it takes practice! If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. Your financial freedom depends on it, and your future self will thank you.