The Road to Financial Stability
“You need to start managing your money!” Let the eyerolls commence. This proverbial ‘dead horse’ has been pounded upon throughout the digital world. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great advice out there, but sheesh! Give it a rest.
Seriously, though. You most likely need to start managing your money. We’ve all been there at least once in our lives. I’m talking about having to hold your breath when swiping your debit card— even at a gas station purchasing some chips and a drink. We exhale a breath of relief as “approved” comes across the screen. A breath that would even cause the Big Bad Wolf to be jealous. It’s an awful feeling, but we do it to ourselves.
Starting the process of controlling your finances is actually quite simple. From creating a budgeting plan and opening a savings account to checking out this great article here for example, on managing your credit cards, these are all positive steps in the right direction to finally become financially stable. It’s a great feeling when you know exactly where your money is, how much you have and all of your financial numbers. You also might have a small sense of arrogance— and you should! You are taking control. You are prepared for anything. Nothing is going to derail your finances. If that sounds like where you want to be, here is how you can get started.
Order Your Credit Report
Obtain a copy of your credit report now. This will outline all of your financial activity, and you’ll find all of your important personal and financial information. It’s not uncommon for errors to be present that could affect your credit negatively. It’s important to dispute any errors to ensure all of the information is accurate.
Organize Your Paperwork
Bills. We all hate bills. Instead of frequently receiving cards in the mail that say “we are thinking of you”, or coupons that we’ll actually use, we receive bills, and even though they don’t typically carry happy information, they do provide important information. Make an effort to organize all of your paperwork. Monthly bills, statements and updates need to be kept safe and accessible. This information can help in many situations. For payments that can fluctuate, it can help you reduce monthly costs when needed.
Check Your Accounts
Pull up all of your account balances and information. Document where they are now, where they were 3 months ago and if you are able make larger payments moving forward. This will help you pay credit cards down and other open credit accounts much sooner. Document as much information as possible: interest rates, payment dues dates and much more. This is a great foundation for creating your budget plan.
Get Off Auto- Pay
I understand that this contradicts common thought. Auto-pay is consistently described as a great way to manage your money and avoid late fees. Being on auto-pay isn’t a bad idea when you arrive at a certain point in your finance journey, but, to completely take control of your finances you must be hands on. Be active in making your payments. Minimum payments will get you nowhere, quick. Interest charges will continue to pile up. Manage all of your payments. You will find that you can save a lot of money making more than the minimum payment.
Check Your Last 3 Bank Statements
Need an eye opener? First, print off your last 3 bank statements. Second, highlight each transaction that is not a bill or financial requirement. Third, find the sum of all the highlighted items. Last, try not to scream. All of the money spent on lunch, coffee, knickknacks and other items will put things into perspective on why you might be struggling financially. You’ll see changes you can make immediately that will help your finances.
Get Rid of Something
This is where you might think a line is crossed. There is no way you can just give up something. You need it. You use it. It is a simple pleasure. This might be so, but are you serious about taking control of your finances? A fork in the road we all face. You will have to decide which decision benefits you more. Sell that pool table in your game room. Get rid of the golf clubs you only use three times a year. Do you really need an extra TV in the kitchen. Small sacrifices can pay off big time. Sell some old items and kickstart your finances.
Find Out Where You Can Improve
In most cases, you can always find a better deal. We do our homework to find a great option, but weeks later we’re kicking ourselves. We forgot to check one other spot that ended up having a better offer. Research areas you can improve. Can you find a better cell phone service? You could be paying too much for cable. Maybe refinancing your mortgage can help you money instantly. Don’t just follow blindly.
Pop quiz. Where is one of the worst places to go without a plan? Answer- the grocery store. No list or plan when grocery shopping can lead to big trouble. There’s no excuse for not being prepared when you go to the grocery store or shopping in general. With all of the available mobile apps and coupon resources you should be able to find the best prices and stay on track when shopping. Plus, proper planning can help you avoid random fast food visits that can chip away at your budget.
Emergency Fund, Now
Start your emergency fund. Life is going to happen. Life is expensive. Without an emergency fund you will be swiping the credit card you have been trying to pay off. Or worse, you will have to dip into your retirement fund or the savings meant to put the kids through college. Start your emergency fund and keep adding to it. It can be a lifesaver.
If I were to ask you to write down some financial goals right now, you will probably have no problem listing many off the top of your head. We keep these in mind all the time, yet we never take the proper steps towards achieving these goals. Write your goals down and remind yourself daily. Keeping yourself accountable with goals. They can help in your daily money decisions.