Money. It’s something you earn and something you spend, but do you ever feel like you’d like to have a better grip on it?
Approximately 67% of American families claim to live on a budget but many people living on a budget still feel like they aren’t properly managing and controlling their money.
Do you ever feel like this? Do you want more control over your finances? Do you ever feel like your money situation is out of hand?
A personal finances course is exactly what you need if you can relate to this; it can help you learn more about where your money is going. It can also help you save more money too and organize it in a way that will be effective and helpful.
If you’re ready to take a course like this, then keep reading as we explain the fundamental principles you need to learn and put into practice to help you get your family finances in order.
Learn About the Importance of Living on a Budget
The word “budget” has a lot of negative stigma attached to it. Many people view budgets as a way of stopping them from spending money. Others think that budgets take away the fun from life.
In fact, a budget is designed to do just the opposite but in a way that is most beneficial for you. A budget offers a way for you to have more control over where your money goes and to help you eliminate unnecessary spending.
Living on a budget offers the following benefits:
- You’ll be more likely to pay your bills on time and avoid late payments
- You’ll get to allocate what you spend your money on
- You’ll save a lot more money
- You’ll have a way to cut expenses
- You’ll have a better retirement
If you have a budget — and you’re careful — you’ll actually have more money to spend on things you want.
Set Up a Budget
You can set up a budget on a simple piece of paper, an online software program or a spreadsheet.
The simplest method requires a pen, paper, your monthly income amount, and a list of your expenses.
You’ll start by writing your monthly income at the top of the page and then your expenses underneath. Start with your fixed expenses, such as your mortgage, insurance, and car payment.
After listing all the fixed expenses, list other categories of expenditures that are vital for your life. This should include gas, groceries, entertainment, shopping, and any other categories you need.
Once you list every expense, add them up and subtract the total from your monthly income.
The difference between your income and expenses is called your discretionary income. This is the money you can use for anything else that is not already listed on the budget.
It’s important to know that you can set up a budget to follow but you shouldn’t think that you can keep using the same one. Anytime you experience a change in a fixed expense or with your income, you may want to update your budget.
Organize Your Bills
Your budget will show the money you earn and the expenses you have but will not tell you when to pay your bills or when there is a change in one or an extra one. This is why you also need to keep a running list that contains every bill you have for the month, listed in order by due date. A running list is helpful for paying bills on time and planning for unusual or infrequent expenses.
An example of an infrequent expense is the cost of renewing your license plates for your car. This expense comes only once a year but can be a big chunk of change that you should plan for.
Check Your Accounts Often
Staying on top of your finances also involves checking your accounts on a regular basis. The benefit of this is that you will always know how much money you have and how much you owe. You can avoid surprises when statements come in, and you can prevent overdrafts on your bank account.
A great way to do this is by setting up apps on your phone for all your accounts. Using mobile apps allows you to check your balances and recent transactions from anywhere you are.
Set Up Automatic Payments
Setting up automatic payments is not only an easier way to pay bills, but it’s also a great way to avoid late payments. If you normally pay some of your bills late — simply because you forget about them — this is the solution for you.
The good news is that you can probably set up just about every monthly expense you have on an automated schedule. When you do this, the payment will automatically come out of your checkbook on a certain day of the month.
Find Out Where Your Money Is Going
Once you start practicing new ways of managing your money, you’ll want to start digging even deeper into your finances.
With your budget, you’ll have a list of the main expenses you have but you’ll also have a category of discretionary income. This is the extra money you can use in any way you would like.
How are you spending this money? Do you know where it’s going?
Well, you probably have an idea of where a lot of is going but you probably don’t know where all of it is going. Here is the best way to do this:
- Get a notebook and pen and keep it with you at all times for an entire month
- Anytime you spend money, write down the exact amount and what it was for
- When the month ends, categorize the expenditures and add up the amounts
After doing this, many people are shocked to see where their money is actually going.
Cut Your Fixed Expenses
Cutting fixed expenses is also a vital part of gaining control of your finances. For example, could you eliminate cable TV for a while, or bump up your insurance deductibles? If so, add up how much you’d save in a year.
Take Advantage of Technology
If you happen to be self-employed or run a small business on the side, you’ll probably want to use some type of computer program to track your expenses.
You’ll also benefit from using a check stub maker for your pay stubs, as you’ll need these to stay organized and for tax purposes.
View Saving Money as an Expense
People who live on the theory that they will save whatever money they have left at the end of the month generally do not end up saving much; to save money, you’ll have to do it intentionally. The best way to do this is to list your savings amount each month as an item on your budget. If you view this amount as an expense, you’ll be able to adjust for it. And setting up an automatic deposit into your savings account each month guarantees that you’ll be saving this money each and every month.
Open Several Accounts
Having a savings account is important, but there are benefits to having multiple savings and investment accounts too. For example, you could have a savings account to use for growing and storing money for your emergency fund. After building up your emergency fund, you could open another account to use for saving for retirement. Then, you may want to create another savings account for, say, your next vacation.
A Personal Finances Course Is a Great Place to Start
You earn your own money and can spend it the way you want but you’ll likely spend less and save more only after you learn how to get your finances in order. Taking a personal finance course is definitely a great idea for anyone who cares about their finances and financial future — reading up on budgeting tips is a smart move too.
So, are you ready to begin managing your finances in a totally new way?
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