Organising your finances is important for keeping money matters in good shape and getting yourself out of debt. Have you considered ways to tidy up yours?
Good money management is all about either staying on track or getting back on the right financial track. However, as we all know, life gets busy, and we tend to forget to organise our finances. We let things slip. But don’t get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. If you get your budget, your paperwork and your bills in order your personal finances will be easier to manage.
Fortunately, managing money better doesn’t have to be that hard. It might be tough to know where to start though. If you’re looking to develop some better financial habits, read on.
Here are seven tips to help you spring clean your finances, and get on the right track
Step 1: Organise your income and expenses
When was the last time you took a long look at your monthly finances? It’s spring. Do it now. Taking stock of your income and expenses can help you cut wasteful spending and make smarter financial decisions. Start by evaluating your current financial situation. Before you can make any changes, you need to know where you stand. Look at your income, expenses, debts, and assets. If you understand where you are today., you can make better decisions for tomorrow.
If you don’t do it regularly, and you absolutely should, examine statements for mystery charges. Go over your bank and credit card statements to make sure you’re not being charged fees you don’t know about, or you are paying for subscriptions or services you never use or have forgotten about. If you see a charge you don’t recognise, investigate it. Sometimes thieves will make a small purchase to test if an account is being checked before going on a shopping spree with your money. Check even the small spends.
Tracking your spending will also help you stay within your budget, which brings us on to the next point: budgeting
Step 2: Make a budget and stick to it
This will help you track your spending, save money, and reach your financial goals. Knowing where it’s all going, dollar by dollar, leads to managing money better. And budgeting is something that is much more easily done with the help of a budget calculator. Get all your outgoings in front of you. Then input your monthly expenses, including discretionary spending, and all your income sources. It may be that you can make some cutbacks to ensure all your obligations are met.
If you have tried to make a budget in the past, but it has never seemed to work too well, budgeting help is available. Why not make an appointment to speak with a credit counsellor? FinCap New Zealand and capnz.org are both free services and they would be happy to help you with managing money better.
Many of us also forget to regularly review our budgets, but it is important. Circumstances can change, for the better or the not-so-good. When they do, it is very important to go back to your budget and adjust where necessary. Spring is a good time to do it.
Step 3: Centralise your money and your debt
Make a plan for your debt. Map out a way to pay it off. If you have multiple loans and credit cards, with different interest rates and payment dates, it might be time to consider debt consolidation. Paying off your various debts via a single loan with a competitive interest rate not only helps you save money but also leaves you with one simple payment date each month. This may help reduce financial stress.
Step 4: Declutter your debt
Make financial management clearer by decluttering your accounts, inboxes, financial documents, and tax returns. Getting rid of clutter will help you focus on what’s important. Do you stash your receipts and bills in folders or file them under the fruit bowl on the bench or in the bottom drawer? Create a sensible system that works for you so you can stick to it.
If you’re still getting paper statements, why not go paperless for credit card statements, bank statements, loans, and bills? Going paperless reduces physical clutter, and it’s more eco-friendly. Receive statements digitally and everything is all in one place. Then when it’s time to pay your bills, everything you need will be right there in a lovely, organised folder on your desktop.
Step 5: Throw stuff out
As for existing paper records, you can upload them into a secure place in the cloud, providing it is safe.
The experts seem to agree that you can throw out any savings, credit card and bank statements that don’t have any tax significance after a year. Receipts that don’t pertain to your taxes can be thrown out as soon as you’ve verified the transactions on your bank statements. But you should definitely keep records of tax documents and any documents relating to loans that are still active for at least seven years.
Step 6: Set up money systems
Once you know what bills you have to pay, you’ll be in a better position to stay on top of payments. You can do this in a few ways.
Set up automatic payments for bills and savings. You can set up automated transfers and payments through your online banking, so you’ll never miss a payment.
Set up money reminders for yourself. Make a list of all the bills you are expecting and their payment dates. Use an old-fashioned wall calendar, your phone’s calendar, an app, Google Calendar notifications, whatever works for you. Set up alerts to remind yourself of upcoming bills so you’ll remember where your money needs to go, and when.
Then do something about it.
Step 7: Start saving money
Build an emergency fund. It will help you cover unexpected expenses and avoid more debt. Squirrelling away money, even a little bit on a regular basis, gives peace of mind and ensures there’ll be something to fall back on in a financial pinch. Financial emergencies – a job loss, reduced hours, an illness, your computer dying, major vehicle or home repairs – can strike at any time and having cash on hand can stop you from resorting to credit and racking up debt you can ill-afford.
How much you allocate towards your savings is up to you: you can start with as little as $10 per payday. What is important though, is that you keep at it. The amount will grow with time, and the more savings you have, the less likely you are to resort to expensive credit.
What are you waiting for? Get spring cleaning today
If you’re looking to get your finances in order, these seven tips will help you spring clean your finances. From evaluating your current financial situation to creating a system that works for you, they’ll help you manage your money better.