Stuck in a rut? Overhauling your finances can be challenging to say the least. These days we are bombarded with a huge array of financial options. Boy is it difficult to know which way to turn. Most people are in debt and some are even afraid to acknowledge the financial trouble they are in. Keeping on top of your finances doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some simple ways to exercise and increase your “Financial Fiscal Fitness.”
1. Save money each and every month
Set up an Emergency Fund: Set aside a specific amount of money every month and put it in a separate savings account. Whether $5 or $10 per month you’re off to a great start. The more money you save, the more you will have when that emergency crops up and you suddenly need the extra cash. You can even set up having a specific amount of money deducted from your paychecks and deposited into a savings or retirement account. Set up a “What If-Spare Change Jar” as a way of generating a little extra cash. Each night dump your pocket change into the jar or container and watch it grow! As the old adage goes, "every little bit helps!”
2. Join your Employer’s 401K/Retirement/Pension Plan
If it’s offered, immediately join Employer's Retirement/Pension Plan as it’s a great and easy way of saving for your future retirement. Amazing how many people don‘t actually contribute to these Employer Sponsored Plans. 401(k)/403 (b) Retirement Plans take money out of your paychecks before taxes. This means your taxable income is reduced and more goes into your pocket/savings. You aren't taxed on this money until you begin using it in your retirement. You decide how much money you want deducted from each paycheck when you enroll in the Plan. Contact your Human Resources Department to get information on how to enroll and join these Plans.
3. Bill Time Management
Do we have time to exercise our bodies and minds? Hope so, as it’s very important. Even more so is time to manage our Monthly Bills and Expenses. You need to make the time to do this and increase your “Financial Fiscal Fitness”.
Most of us are so busy with the rest of our lives that keeping on top of our financial situation often gets pushed aside for other more pressing tasks.
“Financial Fiscal Fitness” becomes a lot less strenuous if you divide it into small time slots. Set aside ½ hour – ¾ hour to sort out all of your bills for the week. Then set aside another ½ hour to balance your checkbook to make sure you have entered what bills have been paid and amounts withdrawn from that account. For an even better idea, spend additional time entering your all your expenses into an Excel Spreadsheet. This will really show how well you're sticking to you Budget. By spending just 1 ½ - 2 hours a week, you can really overhaul your “Financial Fiscal Fitness”.
4. Cut Down Fixed Expenses
Got a Budget? If not, make one, NOW!
Make a list of all household expenses. What items are fixed? What can be cut down? Which ones cost the most money every month? Look for ways to save money on them. For example, you might want to do your grocery shopping at a different supermarket for a while to see how much money you can save. Use Coupons whether in the newspaper, magazines or those online like Target.com or Coupon Mom. In fact, Target will take both the Manufacturer’s Coupons and their own ones. That saves a whole lot more!
For household items, look on price comparison websites to find the stores that are selling them for the cheapest price. For those of you that have Android or iPhones, you can get an app that will scan the item and price check for you! If the store with the lowest price is out of town, you will have to spend more money on gas to get there. This may end up costing you about the same in the end if you had just continued shopping at your local grocery store. Concentrate on items that cost a significant chunk of your income each month. Even though a little savings does add up, don't waste time trying to save fifteen cents on diapers, as this will make only a little dent on your overall household expenses by the end of the month. If you can save lots of little amounts on many items at one store, that is best as it will save time, money and gas.
5. Cash or Credit?
Boy is it tempting to put everything on your credit card.
Unfortunately this will only create more financial problems. According to www.moneycentral.msn.com the average American household has approximately $8,000 of credit card debt. When you pay off your credit cards, it is unlikely that you will remember all of the small expenses you used your credit card for. Use cash to pay for small expenses such as gas, magazines, coffee and sweet treats.
Budget how much you can spare for your weekly cash fund, and stick to it. If you don't think you have willpower that can handle that, leave the credit cards at home. Keep track of what you’re buying. If you only have twenty dollars in your pocket, you won't be able to splurge on things that aren‘t a necessity. If you do this on a regular basis, you might be surprised at how many items you buy that you don't really need.
6. Stuck on You!
Said it before, I’ll say it again…Have a Budget? Stick to it! Don’t have one? Work one up, NOW!
Financial Fitness is very important in order to survive in today’s extremely tough economy. Work on your Budget to figure out how much you can afford to spend. Stick to this budget. Sadly, many people find their monthly expenses equal more than their income! This is why so many of us are in debt. We spend more than we earn, and find out later that we don’t have the money to pay back these debts. Avoid this nightmare by sticking rigidly to your Budget. Don't spend more than you have. It's extremely important that you keep track of your income and expenses so that you're always on top of your financial situation.
When working out your budget, it's very helpful to go thru receipts from the last six months. This allows you to immediately see exactly where the money went. It also helps factor in hidden expense such as repairs to clothing, cars and your home. Look to see what frivolous items you can cut back on or even better, cut out. A good portion of your income may be spent on coffee every morning on your way to work, or drinks and appetizers after work. I’m not saying to stop enjoying these items, just be cautious. As over time, these additional expenses add up.
Credit Scores have a big effect on your “Financial Fiscal Fitness” and your Financial future.
Lenders use your credit scores to decide how risky it will be to lend you money. A low credit score can lead to being denied a credit card or loan, (expensive items such as a car or home). To improve your credit scores, pay down or pay off your credit card debts as soon as you can. The more debt you have that maxes out your credit lines, the lower your score will be. Paying off your loans and credit card debts show Lenders that you can be trusted to repay your credit on time. Use Credit wisely. See my Blog; The 7 Deadly Credit Card Sins for some great info.
8. Keep it or Sell it?
Have a garage sale to get rid of your unwanted stuff. Your junk is someone else’s treasure! By selling these items you will create a lot more space in your house, plus get some extra cash. If you don’t want to hold a garage sale go to “New Uses” across from Ridgedale Mall. This store will buy your used items and then resells them. Another great option if you have lots and lots of items is to have an
Estate Sale. Please call me if you would like to find out more about Estate Sales, I will be happy to recommend a great choice for this option.
9. Home Refinance
Own your Home? How high is your Interest Rate? Is your Mortgage working for you?
Current Rates are at the lowest level they have been in over 30 years. NOW is the time to refinance and save your hard earned money! Call me today to see how much you can save.
When you begin to work on your “Financial Fiscal Fitness”, it's very important to work on your debt reduction before you start saving for the future. Being in debt affects your credit rating, which affects your ability to get credit when you need it. Once you've paid off your debts, these tips should help you to avoid getting into debt again and help you keep track of your finances.