Most people aren’t taught financial management skills when going to school. Nonetheless, it’s critical knowledge that you need to have for things such as running a business, saving for retirement, and paying for taxes. There’s a variety of steps involved with successfully managing your money. Among them include building your savings, making a budget, and making smart investments. Here’s the ultimate guide for managing your finances.
1. Track your Expenses Monthly:
The first step in practicing good financial management is monitoring your expenses. You don’t necessarily have to limit yourself in the first month. You just need to start getting an understanding of how much you’re spending each month. Be sure to save all of your receipts. Make any note of the amount of cash you need versus the amount you expense to your credit cards.
2. Calculate What you Spent:
When you get to the month, calculate the amount you’ve left. It’s important that you organize your purchases in a way that’s understandable to you. There are many common expenses that are included in most people’s monthly budgets. Some of your expenses might include rent, groceries, household bills, gas, savings, dining out, emergencies, and other costs. Having specific categories to place your expenses under will make keeping track of them much easier.
3. Write Out a Budget:
Using the expenses you calculated for the month, along with what you know about your spending habits, budget out the amount of income you want to allocate to your different categories each month. When putting together your budget, make separate columns for your projected budget and your actual budget. Your projected budget is the amount you plan to spend on a specific category. That number should stay the same from month to month, and then be calculated at the beginning of each month. Your actual budget will be the amount that you actually spent. That number will fluctuate from month to month, and you’ll calculate it at the end of each month.
4. Monitor your Budget Over Time:
The real challenge with budgeting is that your expenses can change from month to month. Despite that, you’ll at least have kept track of the changes, which will give you a good idea of where your money went during the year. It’s not uncommon for people to realize after budgeting that they spend much of their money on things that aren’t really necessary. That knowledge will allow you to adjust your spending habits and put your money toward areas of your life that are more meaningful. A budget will also help you be better at planning for the unexpected. Events such as a car breaking down or a child needing medical care will remind you to be more prepared for unexpected expenses that might happen.
5. Choose to Borrow or Rent Items:
We often buy items such as books, tools, or other items that can end up collecting dust over time. Many of the items we buy can possibly be rented for smaller amounts of money. Renting can save you the trouble of upkeep and maintain room in your storage. If you do plan to use an item for the long term, then it’s probably best to buy it. Make sure to do a cost analysis to determine whether buying or renting is in your best interest.
6. Pay a High Down Payment on your Mortgage:
Buying a home is usually the costliest payment most people will make in their life. The goal of paying off mortgage payments is to minimize the interest payments and fees while balancing the rest of your budget. Consider prepaying early upfront. Interest payments are usually highest in the first five to seven years of a mortgage. If possible, you can take your tax return and funnel some of it toward your mortgage. Paying it off early will help increase your equity quickly by lowering your interest payments. You can see if you can opt to make bi-weekly payments rather than monthly payments. Paying bi-weekly can allow you to save potentially thousands of dollars if there are no fees associated with the payment plan. Be mindful that some lenders can charge fees for allowing you to pay that often. You can also consider talking with your lender about refinancing. If the loan can be refinanced from 6.7% down to 5.7% while making the same payments, that could allow you to take off years on your mortgage.
7. Be Mindful of How Credit Cards Establish Credit:
Credit scores that are 750 or above might allow you the opportunity of lower interest rates and better loans. Even if you rarely use a credit card, it’s still useful to have. It’s important to treat your credit card as if it’s cash. Running up balances that you can’t pay off and only paying the minimum monthly payment can have a negative effect on your credit score. In addition, you’ll end up sending a high amount on fees and interest payments. It’s best to have the ratio of your debt to your limit at a low amount, such as 1:10. As an example, that would mean having an average monthly balance of $100 on your credit card, but your limit is $1,000.
8. Take Advantage of Retirement Plans:
If you work for an employer, in most cases, you can opt into a retirement 401(k) plan. The way the plan works is a portion of your regular paycheck is automatically transferred to your savings plan. You can talk with the HR representative of your company about employer matching. Larger companies with robust benefit plans will match the amount of money you put into your 401(k). It would double your investment.
9. Be careful when Investing in the Stock Market:
Many have tried day trading in the stock market. Small gains and losses in individual stocks are bet on every day. If you don’t have experience in day trading, it’s more of a risky gamble than a wise investment. It’s best to make long-term investments. That would mean choosing to leave your money invested for ten years or more. A good rule of thumb is to look at company fundamentals. Know what their product history is, how much cash they have on hand, what their strategic alliances are, and how they value their employees. You’ll be betting on whether the stock price is undervalued and will be rising in the future. If you prefer a safer bet, look for mutual funds when buying stocks. They’re a bundle of stocks collected together to minimize your risk. Your money is equally invested in different stocks. If some of them fail, it may not affect your bottom line, as opposed to only investing in one stock, and the price plummets.
10. Look into Insurance Coverage:
Insurance coverage can help you if you end up in a situation where you need to spend a large sum of money for an emergency. There are a few different kinds of insurance that can be very useful for specific emergencies. Life insurance is designed to help you financially if you or a spouse unexpectedly dies. Health insurance can help pay for doctor bills or unexpected hospital visits. Homeowner’s insurance will pay for any harm or destruction of your home. There’s a variety of disaster insurance that can help with events such as floods, earthquakes, fires, and tornadoes.
11. Consider a Roth IRA:
A Roth IRA can be an addition or alternative to a 401(k) plan. A financial advisor can be helpful in discussing the option with you. These plans let you invest a specific amount of money, then extract it tax-free after you’ve turned 59 and a half. Roth IRAs can be invested in stocks and bonds, securities, annuities, and mutual funds. These investments can potentially grow significantly over the course of many years. If you choose to invest in an IRA early, any compound interest that you earn can also create significant increases in your investment.
12. Making Saving a Priority:
Most people usually put a significant amount of money toward savings. While it’s not something you have to do, it’s generally a smart choice to make. Most professional financial planners would advise their clients to set aside about 10% to 15% of their total earnings for savings. Your savings can go potentially toward a house, a car, or college for your children someday. It’s best to start on it sooner rather than later. In addition to saving, creating an emergency fund is useful as well. As an example, your car could break down unexpectedly, and the repairs could cost $1000. Without an emergency fund, you’d be forced to get a loan that may potentially have an interest rate, which will limit your ability to save. It’s best to save up about three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund.
Managing your finances is an important life skill that should be continually developed. Following this guide is a good starting point, but be sure to continually learn more about how to manage your money effectively. One part of managing your money is managing your taxes. Tax software can provide some helpful assistance. You can find out more about the best tax software.