Ready to manage your money and get back on top? It’s taken me 3 years to consistently stay on top of my finances. It’s not a simple task for sure, but most of the time we make it harder than it really is.
Once you implement a few simple tasks, you’ll be on track. Below are twenty-five insanely easy ways to manage your money and take back control.
1. Commit to a small savings goal. A small step forward is better than a giant leap forward couple with a loss of motivation. Think of the tortoise and the hare — slow and steady wins the race. Instead of creating a massive savings goal that’s hard to reach, make smaller commitments and turn them into smaller daily or weekly goals.
2. Connect with a like-minded community. I owe a lot of my success of becoming debt-free to the community I’ve built over the past few years. Whether it was an online friend or a family member, I was able to connect with people who supported me, and my journey. It’s hard to fight an uphill battle, so focus on the people who can be on your cheer-squad, and build you up!
3. Implement a “cooling off” period. If you’re an impulse buyer, one of the best ways to change your spending habits is to implement a cooling off period – make yourself wait a week or a month before you buy the item you “desperately” want. If you still feel you need it after the pre-set time, then go ahead! Otherwise you’ll probably forget about it, and saved yourself a lot of money.
4. Start reading financial blogs. There are a lot of good resources out there that can offer you support, advice and inspiration stories. Nothing has helped me stay on track with my finances like reading blogs (like this one!) and connecting with other people who’ve been in the same position.
5. Keep everything in one place. Getting your financial papers organized, is a seamless process when you keep everything in one place. You’re less likely to misplace bills or lose track of important receipts, if you designate one place where all your paperwork goes.
6. Perform regular maintenance. Implementing a good system and designating a space for everything finances won’t do any good if you don’t keep yourself updated on a regular basis. Most financial tasks that are performed daily or weekly, should only take a few minutes. Regular maintenance allows you to pay your bills on time and not be blindsided by an unexpected expense.
7. Pay off debt slowly, but consistently. No matter how much debt you’ve accumulated, it can feel like a massive mountain to climb. It’s virtually impossible to make progress overnight, which can lead to a lot of frustration and discouragement. The best way to avoid this is to pay off your debt slowly, but consistently.
8. Log into your bank account frequently. To be honest, I never balance my checkbook. In fact, I haven’t done it in years. Mostly because I don’t have to, since I log into my bank accounts a couple of times a week. On any given day I know exactly what’s in my account and what’s pending. So I’m never surprised by how much (or how little) I have to spend.
9. Bring in extra money from a hobby. Thanks to the slow recovery of the job market, more and more people have been finding alternative ways to bring in extra money. One of the most common is to turn a hobby into side income. With the availability to create and sell your own products on sites like Etsy, to finding work as a freelancer with sites like Elance, it’s easier than ever to leverage a hobby to raise your income.
10. Learn to cook. I know this is something we all have an issue with fitting into our schedule. So what do we do? We eat out, stop for fast food, and use restaurants as a place of entertainment. Not only is this not healthy for your body, it’s not healthy for your wallet. Take time to learn simple meals that are healthy and quick to make.
11. Find simple alternatives. Technology has made finding alternatives to almost anything, cheaper and more accessible. If you’re still paying for cable, you’re basically throwing money down the drain every month. For less than $20 a month, you can save hundreds of dollars each year with services like Netflix, Hulu and Roku.
12. Be wary of credit card offers that seem legit. Credit card offers have sneaky tricks to get people to sign up for their service. One of the main ones is sending out legitimate “pre-approved” offers with promises of amazing benefits. Don’t fall for this! Most of the time you still have to apply and find out you aren’t approved, or the card comes with crazy fees.
13. Automate financial tasks. One of the simplest ways to rid yourself of paperwork and reminders of paying bills is to automate financial tasks. Making a transfer to savings, setting up direct deposit, or signing up for paperless statements will all help you save time and money. For instance, some banks will waive any monthly service fees when customers set up recurring automatic transfers.
14. Take advantage of online tools and apps to manage your money. This is one of my favorite ways to stay on top of my finances. Mobile apps have made it super easy to stay up-to-date on the goings on of your finances. You can check your bank balance, deposit checks, pay a friend, and manage your money on the go. Now you can get things done while you’re waiting in line or filling up your gas tank.
15. Don’t play the credit score game. If you focus on fixing your credit more than creating responsible financial habits or paying down debt, you’re not focusing on what will enable you to create a successful future. A credit score is just a glorified debt score, since it does nothing except get you approved for more debt.
16. Remind yourself of the end goal. What’s your biggest dream? What do you want to save your money for? Before you set any financial goal, it’s crucial to have the end goal in mind. It’s easy to be fired-up about being debt-free, but the journey has only begun. You’ll face a lot of obstacles. A good way to overcome them is to remember why you’re doing this in the first place.
17. Be patient. Getting your finances in order isn’t going to happen overnight – just like creating smart spending habits or becoming debt-free doens’t happen overnight. Be patient and don’t get discouraged by the amount of progress (or lack of) you’re making. Remind yourself how far you’ve come.
18. Choose the right system to manage your money. Everyone loathes hearing the word budget. But I’ve found that if you implement the right system, it can actually be fun! Whether you’re a digital geek, like I am, or prefer to use the trusty pen and paper method, find what works for you and stick to it.
19. Join weekly Tweetchats. Yep, social media can actually help you get on top of your finances! How? Look for Tweetchats that focus on frugality, investing or other financial stuff, and start interacting. I always come away with a smart money-saving tip, or new idea. Some of my favorites include #WBchat, #Creditchat and #Debtchat.
20. Avoid temptation. It’s a lot easier — and less stressful — to avoid temptation vs trying to resist it. If you like to shop but tend to overspend, limit how many times you enter a store. If you enjoy eating out, take a different way home from work so you don’t have to drive by your favorite fast food spot.
21. Focus on one goal at a time. For the majority of the population (including me) it’s nearly impossible to multi-task successfully. Likewise it’s hard to make any progress on your financial goals if you spread out your focus. You’ll gain momentum much faster if you focus your effort and hone in on one financial goal at a time.
22. Adjust your expectations. Everyone struggles with debt – paying bills late, exceeding credit limits, and the list goes on. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to achieve outrageous financial goals in a week. Adjust your mindset and your expectations to realize a more realistic point of view.
23. Don’t let financial terms scare you. Most terms related to your money, like 401k’s, mutual funds, and tax deductions can be scary. But they aren’t anything you should be afraid of. In fact, to be successful, it’s important you face them head on. There are thousands of resources online, or in book stores, that provide explanations for these terms in a simplified manner (think Money Management for Dummies).
24. Find a mentor. Treat your finances like an investment, and find someone who can mentor you throughout this process. Not all of us can afford to hire expensive financial planners, so turn a family member or close friend is has expertise in this area. If you’re comfortable opening up to them, they can help you realize the error of your ways and check-up on your progress.
25. Make a call. Pick up the phone and call your credit card company to ask for a lower rate. Pick up the phone and call your insurance provider and ask for a new quote. Pick up the phone and call your cable tv / internet provider and ask for a discount. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to call and the act could save you hundreds.
What about you? Have a tip to add to the list? What insanely easy things have you done to manage your money and get back on top financially?