Believe it or not, most people are actually not in control of their own finances. Over 50% of Americans say that they live from paycheck to paycheck and if their paycheck was delayed by even a week, they would be in serious trouble. The majority of people do a very poor job of managing their own finances; they simply get their paycheck and spend whatever they want without realizing that their money is slowly dwindling. Most people receive their paychecks, have money to spend for the next week or so and they are completely broke for the following week while they wait for their next paycheck to get them through again.
There are, however, some people that are excellent at managing their own finances; not only are they fully capable in keeping their money and letting it last much longer, but they would also be just fine if their pay was delayed for a while and they had to live off something else. So what is the difference between these types of people and how can we manage our own finances better?
The first question we want to ask is who is handling your money? In order to manage your finances, the first thing you need to do is to make sure you are the one in control of your own streams of income and your own expenses. Generally, the younger generation has their parents handling their own finances even if they live on their own. How many times have we heard the story of the spoiled girl who had her own place, but still uses Daddy’s credit card for everything? She likes to think she’s independent but the truth is that her father still pays for everything from her rent, to her bills, to her car payments and insurance, and sometimes even for her food, gas, and clothing.
For those of us who are older, many of our spouses or other related family members are in control of our finances. We simply bring the money in, deposit it into the joint account and all the bills seem to be paid. Has anyone ever been in this situation and wondered why it seems like there should be plenty of money between the two of you working, and yet the budget is always tight?
Then there are those of us who delegate our finances over to accountants and financial advisors. We believe that they are more capable of running our lives for us so we’d rather not bother and hand everything over to them. In return, we end up paying them a hefty sum to take care of things which we could most likely take care of ourselves, to begin with. As you can see, there are many people handling our money so the first thing you need to do is to take control of your own finances. Once you know exactly how much you have coming in and gone out, it will be much easier to take a closer look at what you can do about it to minimize your expenses and maximize your profits.
Once you decide that you alone want to be in control of your own finances, the next step you must take is to take some time and write out your entire income and all of your related expenses. It is much easier to work with your finances when you know exactly how much you have and how much you have to spend. When it’s all written out right in front of you, it is easy to improve because you will be aware of exactly how much money you’re saving, how much you’re investing, etc. It will be much easier to track your progress down the long run this way.
The first thing you need to do is make a chart of all the income you receive and the expenses you have to pay. When you are listing your expenses, be sure to include everything from your rent, bills and vehicle expenses to your cell phone and credit card bills. It is also very important to mark down the date of exactly when these payments are due. This way you won’t miss any deadlines and your credit score won’t be impacted negatively as a result. Work out exactly how much you need to put away to all of your bills, and how much all of your minimum payments are.
Managing Your Own Finances By Setting Goals
Now that you have a rough idea of how much money you’re bringing in every month (after all your expenses are paid), it’s a good idea to start setting some goals. First of all, you need to ask yourself what your main priorities are. Do you want to get rid of your debt? Do you want to save up some extra money for something special? Do you have other investments you want to consider such as real estate, or even get ahead in your retirement savings plan? Maybe you just want to handle your money better so you aren’t broke a few days after you receive your paycheck? Whatever your motivation is, be sure to keep it in mind as this will get you through those rough days (write it down if it will help you).
Once you know what your goals are, it’s time to incorporate them into your financial plan. Now that you know approximately how much money will have left, so it’s time to put as much of that into your goal as you can. I would personally keep about 10% of that money and put it into a savings account or an emergency fund so that just in case your funds are short, you will still be able to cover your basic expenses until the next time you get paid. It’s better to be safe than sorry so think ahead and be prepared for these situations to happen.
After you’ve set your goals, you can decide if the length of time for this is appropriate. For example, if you need to save up $10,000 for a down payment in 5 months’ time and you realize you can only put away $1000 a month, you’re not going to reach your goal in time and will need to adjust it accordingly. If this is the case, the next thing you need to consider is getting more money (another stream of income) or spending less money (cutting out some of your expenses). Depending on how much you spend or how much you make, only you will be able to be the judge of this but feel free to tweak it as much as you like in order to achieve your goals on paper. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the things you want and sometimes you have to get a second job for a little bit, but eventually, you will find a compromise between the two which will work for you to reach your goals in time.
If your goal is nothing specific but instead just wanted to loosen up your budget a little bit, the best thing you can do is take your extra money each month and divide it up; put a little bit here and there so you are set in all aspects of your finances. For example, you can divide up your money in between your savings account, your emergency fund, all your debts and credit cards, your retirement, your investments and then put a little bit extra aside for your own entertainment. This way you will be covered from all angles in case something unexpected happens with your income and if everything goes smoothly, you’ll be much further ahead than those without a plan.
After you’ve written it all out, be sure to hang it up somewhere where you’ll see it every day in order to remind you of your goals.
Managing Your Own Finances By Making Mistakes
Now humans aren’t perfect and there will probably be some mistakes to your goal that you will need to adjust for the first little while. Don’t worry about it, sometimes we have to take a step back and re-evaluate our position in order to go even further in the end. We aren’t robots and sometimes you might spend a little more than expected and realize you didn’t give yourself any leeway room for emergencies etc. By making mistakes and changing up your plan, you will eventually find something that works out for you and you will be able to stick to it and make some serious progress as a result.
The most important thing when managing your own finances is to stick to it! You won’t see results overnight, but if you keep putting money away from where you are supposed to, you will start to see yourself getting closer and closer to reaching your goal. It might take a few months to start seeing some progress, but as long as you have it all written out in front of you and you keep following your plan, you’ll be seeing improvements in no time.