Although I am not a financial expert, and you should keep that in mind when you read my articles, through life experience I have learned what works and doesn’t work for me personally. My goal in sharing my experiences is to help get you brainstorming ways that might work well for you, or possibly a new idea to try when you are searching. Ever since being a member of a money group, I learned talking about it is very helpful.
My biggest tip for staying on top of your finances is to plan ahead! Each pay check or time you have money coming in, before you spend any of it, plan exactly what you intend to do with it. How much is going to savings? How much to bills? How much to debt? How much to your various spending categories? Plan it out to the penny so you have a clear path and know exactly what direction you want to go in.
Personally I have tried many different systems of keeping track. There are a lot of great programs out there, and excel is another option that many of us already have on our computer. I like to use excel to keep a list of my monthly bills and their amounts. I also keep a generalized budget in excel.
Despite all the great tools, what is my favorite way to keep track of my spending? Paper and pencil. Nothing makes me more aware and as connected to my spending as the good old fashioned way of taking the time to write it down. It can be painstaking and is definitely time consuming, but for me worth each and every second because it equals freedom. Sometimes it is way too easy to give up our freedom and the damage that creates in our life is a ripple effect.
My second tip is to take any money that is for saving or is being held for a later date out of your account right away. Automatic transfers are a wonderful option. I really like doing that for retirement savings. For other saving I might tweak my budget between different pay checks for the month so that I can come to the overall number I want, but that still works with our needs. Not everything can be planned easily really far in advance, so this leaves me room for adjustment. For example if I know my daughter needs shoes one pay check, and the next I can devote more to savings while covering our needs then that is what I will do. However, I have learned the hard way that the most important thing you can do is remove the money that you don’t want to touch from your account immediately.
Keeping a sticky note in my purse of my budgets such as gas, groceries, etc. and subtracting from it as soon as I spend from each category keeps me aware of where I am and what I have left. By the end of two weeks I need a new sticky note from all the erasing 🙂 There are lots of times when there is something I want to purchase but do not need to purchase, and can’t find any room for it in my sticky note budgets, so it has to wait. From this I have learned if it is really great, it is worth the wait, and the best part is you don’t lose your freedom in the process. No thing is worth that!
Most everything I can think of that is truly worthwhile is time consuming and takes effort. Financial freedom is worth the effort. You are worth it! If you know in your heart what you are doing isn’t working give yourself a huge gift, time to really sit down and sort out a plan. You can ALWAYS change your direction. Get back on the track that you know is right for you, and if you need help ask for it!
Similar to eating well and exercising, sometimes it really helps to have a friend or loved one do it with you. Set goals, talk about difficulties, and make a commitment to your freedom!