Money, money, money.
It’s an emotionally-charged topic, but nonetheless, fundamental to our standard of living both now and in the future.
And beyond helping to build nest eggs and cope with the ever-increasing cost of living, more money can mean more time and more freedom to do the things that really light you up.
This is why it’s a good idea to face your current financial situation, take control of your personal money matters and plan for your future sooner rather than later, because let’s face it: you may not happen upon that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or have a hefty windfall land in your lap and wash all your financial woes away.
Yep — whether your goal is to buy a home, retire early, go on that dream holiday or quit the cycle of living month-to-month, it’s up to you to manage your money in a responsible way.
Most of us already know that the key to financial independence is living on less than you earn, but sometimes we don’t have this under control.
But, the good news is, it’s never too late to take control of your cashola, reach your savings goals and steer yourself out of debt. So, here are some common steps you can take to understand your money habits, make mindful choices and ultimately improve your personal finances.
Track your spending habits
This exercise won’t just help you lift the lid on your habits — it will force you to be accountable. When you’re required to account for every single expense, it will make things long and hard and be more mindful about each one.
It’s easy to lose sight of your spending, simply because you fail to track it. This in turn makes it easy to overspend.
So, over a 30 day period, closely scrutinize all of your transactions. Monitor every cent that goes out of your wallet or bank account —lattes, yoga classes, ice creams, fuel, bills, clothes, groceries, gifts, clothes, dog food. Keep your receipts and write it all down.
You can download and print our free (and pretty!) money tracker below to use for this month-long exercise!
Uncover any money leaks
“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” — Benjamin Franklin.
Once you’ve spent a month recording your spending habits, it’s time to categorize all your purchases and expenses. Next, evaluate how much of your money goes where — and whether you can do better.
For sure, it can be an eye-opening and sometimes shocking exercise (“I spent how much on take-away sandwiches?!”) But, it will help you get clear on any money leaks or where you have opportunities to save.
Here are some common money leaks:
- Buying lunches
- Bottled water
- Impulse buys at the supermarket
- Unused subscriptions and memberships
- Hidden fees and charges
- Late payments
- Interest fees
- Parking fines
What can you do to eliminate or reduce your money leaks?
Where can you be more frugal or thrifty?
Work through your money blocks
What’s your relationship with money? What’s the story you tell yourself? Do you have an abundance or scarcity mindset?
Poor money management can sometimes be caused by deeply ingrained and often subconscious negative attitudes we hold around money. Therefore, the questionable spending habits you uncovered during your money tracking exercise could very well be due to limiting beliefs — or money blocks.
For more information on this topic, check out this Daily Guru article on common money blocks and how you can overcome them.
Set some clear financial goals
It isn’t enough to simply want to “get out of debt” and “live comfortably.”
What does would that actually look like to live comfortably? How much money would it take?
What would it feel like to get out of debt? How much would you have to pay back?
Take time to actually sit down and get a clear idea of your financial goals. Set some real and measurable short-term and long-term goals, by giving them both a timeframe and a sum.
Pay off my $10,000 in six months.
Save $2500 for my Christmas 2017 vacay.
Purchase that $1800 lap top.
Reduce my monthly spendings by $500.
Increase my annual income by $20,000
Write your goals down. Stick them on your vision board. Place them on a list in your wallet. This is an opportunity to engage the Law of Attraction here too, so visualise, visualise, visualise.
Keeping these goals front and centre will remind you of what you’re working hard for and work as a deterrent to unnecessary spending.
Revise — or devise — your budget and stick to it
Keeping your money leaks, opportunities and financial goals in mind, it’s time to crunch some numbers and set up a roadmap (spreadsheet) for your spendings and savings.
Created on a monthly or annual basis, a personal budget is a fundamental financial tool, because it can help you plan, reduce and eliminate expenses; save for goals, spend carefully; plan for emergencies and prioritise paying off debt.
Be honest and realistic about your income versus your debts and expenses.
Once you’ve made projections for your income and expenses, subtract your expenses from your income. If there’s a surplus, congratulations! You can decide whether to spend, save or invest the money!
If it turns out your expenses are higher than your income, you’ll need to make some adjustments by reducing your expenses, or increasing your income.
Be sure to refer to your budget and update it regularly as your circumstances evolve.
Increase or supplement your income
Sometimes, budgeting, saving and cutting costs only goes so far.
Salary increases aren’t always available and there comes a point when you can’t possibly tighten the purse strings any more.
Luckily, there are still a number of ways we can bolster our finances using the skills we have or the opportunities around us— all it takes is a little creativity and effort.