Whether you are young and just starting your working life, or have been around awhile, there are plenty of things you can do to manage your money effectively. Even if you have been a spender for the majority of your life and feel there is little you can do at this late stage to improve your financial future, there are steps you can take regardless of where you are financially right now. The following tips will help you to manage your money like an expert.
Create a budget – This is perhaps the most important money management step you can take. Without a budget it is easy to let money slip through your fingers and leave yourself wondering where it went. Too many people “run out of money before they run out of month” and that is no way to live. Creating a budget can have several benefits, with one being that you will see where your money goes. Another is that you will see areas where you may be able to cut back on expenses. The most important, of course, is to manage your money so that you don’t run out before your next pay day. Creating a budget doesn’t have to be difficult but you might find it uncomfortable as you see where your money has been wasted.
Don’t rely on credit – While have a high credit score impacts many areas of your finances it is unwise to rely upon credit cards to pay your day-to-day expenses. It can be so easy to keep putting all your expenses on your credit card but if you are not paying off the balance in full each month you are wasting money on credit card interest. Use your credit cards to build or maintain your credit but don’t rely upon them as a means of financial survival. Eventually your cards will be maxed out and you will not have anywhere else to turn for additional money. Used wisely credit cards are beneficial to your financial health, but used negligently and they can suck you into what seems like a never-ending vortex of debt.
Pay off debt – If you find yourself in a situation where you have non-mortgage debt the very best thing you can do is pay it off as fast as possible. If the lending institution allows you to pay more than the monthly minimum payment without penalty, do so. This is particularly true of credit card debt. Don’t just pay the minimum required payment. The sooner you can pay off any credit card debt, car loans or any other form of loan (apart from a mortgage) the sooner you will free up income to do better things with, such as save or invest.
Have an emergency fund – Every person should have an emergency fund. It doesn’t matter whether you are single, married or married with children. You should have an emergency fund that amounts to at least 6 months expenses so that should the worst happen and you or your spouse lose your jobs you can survive financially while you look for new employment. You should also have a small emergency fund (separate from the other) for replacing appliances and to deal with other unforeseen costs. $2K - $3K should be sufficient to avoid having to put those unforeseen expenses on a credit card.
Retirement savings – Unless you have already retired you should be paying into a retirement savings account. Most employers will have a retirement savings plan that you should take advantage of. The earlier you start the better you will be set up for your retirement years. While starting at a young age is ideal it doesn’t mean you can’t start later in life. No matter what your age you can start today. Do some research about what your employer offers, or if self-employed research what options you have available to you and start saving today.
Monitor your credit reports – Your credit score is important to your financial future, all the way from your employment prospects to getting a mortgage so carefully monitoring your credit reports is crucial. Be aware that mistakes can happen and your credit score could be suffering as a result of an error. By monitoring your reports on a regular basis you can quickly catch any errors and apply to have them removed. To keep your credit in good standing be sure to pay all of your bills before the due date and don’t let others run your credit unnecessarily. Aside from mortgage finance companies a high number of credit enquiries can give lenders the impression you are a credit risk, and should this happen you may still get financing but it will be at a higher rate than you perhaps deserve to be charged.
You can control your money and not let your money control you. Follow the simple steps above and you will be well on your way to improving your financial future.