Making the Most of Your Money
Making a financial plan is not one and done, it’s a continual process that requires time and attention. Scheduling time for planning and tracking along the way will help you reach your savings and other financial goals. Continual planning allows for adjustments in areas where there is overspending and to realign if there are changes in income or payments due.
To get started you will want to create a monthly spending plan. This will help you manage what is coming in and going out. Start with listing the income source(s) you have. Next list each type of expense and the monthly cost(s). It is helpful to group these as fixed, flexible, and occasional expenses. Fixed are those that are very similar each month, examples include rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, groceries, phone/internet/cable, insurance, and school/childcare. Flexible are those that change potentially month to month and can include personal care, eating out, shopping and entertainment. The last category for expenses is occasional. These might include subscriptions paid every 6 months to a year, memberships, or giving.
Once you know how much you can spend, it is important to see where you are spending it. Tracking expenses can be done on paper or electronically. It’s important to keep track of all your expenses for at least a month, longer if you can. It’s a good way to check in and compare them to your monthly budget. Take note of any trends in your spending. When you track make sure to record the date, amount, and item or summary. In addition, the expense type of fixed, flexible, or occasional, just as you did on the budget. If at the end of the month you find you are overspending, look for any adjustments you can make.
In addition to tracking your expenses, it is important to make sure bills are paid on time to avoid any late fees. Many bills are typically due around the same time each month. Create a calendar that can be used monthly to keep track of due dates and place it on your desk or in office space where it is a visible reminder to keep you on track.
When tracking your expenses, you may identify areas where you can spend less and save more. Along with creating a spending plan is making sure you have a savings plan in place. This helps ensure you have funds put aside for emergencies, unexpected expenses, education, or other savings goals you may have. To help you stay committed to savings, limit access, or have an automatic deposit for these funds. With any financial goal you want to reach, it’s a best practice to create a S.M.A.R.T goal. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. With any financial goals, you set, be sure to write them down and keep them visible as a reminder of what you are aiming to achieve. As you reach your goals set new ones. Taking the time to plan, track, set goals, and save will help you increase your awareness of spending to further reach the financial success you are seeking.