They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Well, an ounce of planning has to be worth at least that. So this year, along with your New Year’s resolutions, why not tack on a few financial New Year’s resolutions?
Here are a few that aren’t really that difficult, and that add up to that magical amount that’s worth so much more in the long run.
1. Organize your financial paperwork
In every technical endeavor, from school to running your own business, organization is key. Financial matters are no exception. Having loose papers, notes, check stubs, etc. scattered throughout your home lends itself to chaos when you need that paperwork in a pinch.
Better yet, I actually recommend that in addition to keeping physical copies of documents, you scan all your papers and store them digitally. This way, if you somehow lose the physical copies, you have a reliable backup.
Furthermore, with how the world today is so digitally-oriented, there are probably sometimes you want to look at a document on a computer screen to make multitasking easier.
2. Save more money
Saving money is simple in premise. Basically, it involves the following process: You consume less than you take in. But in actuality saving is more complicated than it sounds on paper.
For starters, you should understand where you want to put the extra money you abstain from spending, because the more explicit your goal is, the more likely you are to accomplish it.
Next, know that saving should be a long-term goal, so sometimes falling short doesn’t mean you’re a failure. The long-term nature of saving also means you should be saving for the foreseeable future, all things being equal.
Saving shouldn’t be thought of as something that you can stop because you’re tired of it. Put the money aside, and stick to your plan.
3. Get expenses under control
Getting expenses under control goes hand-in-hand with saving. Monthly expenses should to be structured so as to allow for flexibility.
In other words, if at the end of every month your bank account is brought down to zero, you need to examine your finances. Living hand-to-mouth only works as long as you can earn the same amount or more.
With how quickly the economy can turn down, a well-squared-away household needs to have flexibility, and a zero-balance bank account doesn’t provide that flexibility.
I suggest writing down you bills and categorizing them into two columns:
- The first column should list ‘immutable expenses.’
These are household expenses and utilities like mortgage, internet access, water, heating/cooling, etc.
- The second column should be designated as ‘non-essential expenses.’
These are expenses that you incur and may or may not be on a subscription basis, but the thing that ties them all together is the fact that you can live without them. Common examples of non-essentials are cable TV and dining out.
The overarching point is by categorizing you expenses each month, you understand them better. And if you need to, you know which column to start cutting – the non-essentials.
4. Pay down existing debt
Debt is a proverbial monkey on your back. The sooner you get out from under it, the more your other financial goals will come into clear focus.
For example, if you pay off a $5,000 credit card balance in a year, you’ll not only save huge amounts in prospective interest, but you’ll also have the bonus of extra money each month that would have otherwise gone to said credit card.
Paying down debt should be a top priority, once you are settled into a steady job. It should also, like several of the other topics on this list, be rote.
Understand what you can afford to pay and furthermore what you want to pay. Be realistic and understand how much of the whole you are paying down each month.
After you plan is in place, do it, and don’t think about what you could have done with that extra money that went to payments on principal.
5. Reach out when you need help
Understanding when help is needed is a hallmark of successful people. No one can do everything, and further, even those who are extremely talented can’t generally do things completely themselves. A surgeon needs nurses; a professional athlete needs a coach. The point is that helpers and advisors are vital.
In this same vein, if you have a financial or tax questions that you’re puzzled by, it’s fine to do your research; in fact, I recommend it, but also understand that professionals do this for a living and can most likely shed some light on your scenario or problem in a way that maybe you hadn’t perceived.
Taxes especially can make your head spin, so it’s generally best to find someone you trust when you’ve hit a tax wall.
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