Money management doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here are three quick ways to turn your finances around.
Work isn’t just a part of our lives, it’s one of the biggest parts.
Some people may only be obligated from 9 to 5, but with smartphones and evolving work cultures, we’re connected 24/7. A lot of us are logging over 70 hours each workweek because our phones enable us to take our work with us.
Jennifer J. Deal, Ph.D., author of "Always On, Never Done?" reports that remaining connected to work for so many hours each week leaves employees "only about 3 hours on workdays for 'discretionary' activities such as being with their family, exercising, showering, and all of those chores at home that someone has to do."
Only three hours per workday. We’re essentially never "off."
Despite working nearly nonstop, when payday rolls around, a lot of us can be left feeling like we'll never make enough.
Rent and mortgages, car payments, groceries, gas, nights out, pet emergencies, extracurriculars for the kids, family obligations — all of this takes a toll on our bank accounts.
It can feel like money is flying out of our accounts faster than it’s coming in. We’re working all the time but feeling like we’re just making it. We know we need to get a grip on our finances but have no idea where to start.
Here are three simple steps toward total financial domination.
1. Saving should be a part of the plan.
We hear it all the time: Save, save, save. Save for retirement. Save for emergencies. Save for travel. Figuring out how to save seems like it’s the holy grail, but how do we make that happen — especially if we feel like our money is already stretched too thin? The easiest first step is to, well, start with baby steps. Drink coffee at work or home instead of from a coffee shop, carry snacks and a reusable water bottle with you rather than buying them, come up with a quirky and fun challenge like saving all the $5 bills you accumulate, start a piggy bank — whatever is fun and doable for you.
2. Then, it all comes down to planning.
Don’t be afraid to budget. Yes, budget. It’s not a dirty word; it’s the way to freedom! Or at the very least the way to some financial flexibility. Take a look at how you’re spending money and figure out which items are needs versus wants.
Pro tip: Laura Shin, a Forbes personal finance writer, suggests keeping necessary expenses to less than 50% of your take-home pay.
Now, this isn’t always possible. Necessities are what they are, and for some of us, no amount of finagling can get them to that ideal amount.
Alan Dunn, founder of HowtoSaveMoney.com points out that, for some, "the sheer cost of survival may be very close to their total incomes." Still, it’s a pretty good benchmark to aim for, and having insight into your finances is step one on the road to financial security.
Now that you’ve begun to sort out the things you can’t live without, what about the things you want?
3. Give yourself an allowance! No, really.
Once you’ve broken down your finances into needs versus wants, build an allowance into your budget. Doing that gives you clear parameters — how much you can spend in a given pay period on things that aren’t necessities — and makes it easier to stay on track without feeling like you’re never able to treat yourself.
It's as simple as setting aside a fixed portion of what remains in your account after bills are taken care of. You may not be able to get everything you want at once — sometimes it’ll take a few months to put aside enough for a big purchase — but with planning, you can indulge a little.
Let's say, after all of your bills and savings are taken into account, you're able to spend $100 per month on anything your heart desires. You're dying to go to a music festival, but the tickets cost $175. It's not the end of the world! You don't have to forgo the festival, and you don't have to break your budget for the month — that would be a slippery slope. Put the $100 aside and wait until the following month when you'll have $200 at your disposal to get the tickets you want, guilt-free.
Payday might still suck…
Money will still leave your bank account at an astonishing rate that makes you believe Hogwarts is real, but you’ll feel more in control once you know where that money’s going and how to make it work for you.
Don’t feel guilty if you hit a few bumps in the road! We’re all navigating these murky money-management waters together.