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5 Tips to Better Control Your Finances

By Matt Casadona

Struggling with debt can be overwhelming, but so can taking care of your money and finding enough each month to put into savings. No matter what job you have or how much you make, everyone needs a little bit of help controlling their finances. Here are some tips for you.

1. Look at Your Expenses

Tracking where all of your hard-earned money goes can help you learn about your spending habits. You don’t have to record every purchase on a notepad; instead, make a point to check your bank account monthly to see how much money you spent and where it all went. After a few months, if you notice any trends, then you’ll see areas where you can improve.

If you’re able to access your bank accounts, you don’t have to wait to check out all of your monthly expenses. You can likely go back at least three months without having to pull any bank statements. Make a note of all of your necessary bills, like electric, mortgage payment, and any loans like student loans or home equity loans that you’re currently paying back.

Also, start identifying any unnecessary bills. You can do this by taking a look at how often you order food delivery or how many streaming services you use. If you see that something like DoorDash accounts for tons of unnecessary expenses, then it might be time to start eating more meals at home.

Tracking your expenses will show you where all of your money goes so you’re not left wondering what happened to it. You should never spend more than what you bring in, so ensure at the very least you’re not doing that.

2. Know What You Make

Now that you know your total expenses and which expenses are absolute necessities, you can start adding up your income. Whether you have a full-time job and a side hustle or there’s another person in your household who contributes to the bills and financial situation, you’ll need to know the exact amount of money you’re bringing in every month.

If you work for an employer, then you likely have a pretty good idea about what your monthly income is—all you have to do is check your pay stub. However, if you are a business owner, you might need professional tax software to give you an exact figure.

Once you know your monthly income, compare the number to your expenses. Are you making enough to cover your expenses? If not, try cutting expenses or adding to your income by getting a second job.

Most experts agree you should always have at least three months’ worth of expenses just in case of emergencies. You should start saving money by putting away a minimum of 10% of your monthly income for future things like retirement.

If you’re not earning enough money to pay your bills on time or save for the future, then you still have options. You can go through your expenses one more time and decide to make cuts, or you can find a way to make more money.

3. Budget Better

savings

Most people have a rough budget they keep in their heads. They know not to overspend when grocery shopping, but they don’t know how much to spend on other things like entertainment.

Budgeting can help you become more financially responsible so you won’t have to feel as stressed out about money. Unfortunately, many people don’t take the time to put a budget together. However, budgeting can be a powerful tool to help you control your finances no matter how old you are.

Budgeting isn’t a one size fits all solution. There are many different ways to budget, depending on your preferences and financial health. A few types of budgeting are:

Pay Yourself Budget: This form of budgeting encourages putting your money toward your own savings goals before paying any other expenses. When you emphasise paying your bills on the first of every month, you lose focus on actually saving. With this strategy, it helps you reach your financial goals easier.

Zero-based budget: With this budget, you’ll put all of your money towards an expense, goal, or bill payment. This means there will be nothing left outside of your budget, which can prevent you from overspending.

50/30/20: This budgeting strategy is one of the most common, and it may even be the one that your parents taught you about. You’ll put 50% of your income towards your bills, 30% towards whatever you want, and 20% into your savings account.

80/20: This is the laxest budgeting method next to not having a budget. You’ll put 20% of your income into savings and spend the rest on expenses, groceries, and anything else you can think of.

Choose your budgeting strategy wisely. You know yourself better than anyone, so if you think you’ll need to be a little stricter with yourself, try the zero-based budget and see how it goes.

4. Start Saving

If you are thinking about saving money and controlling your finances in the long term, then you’ll need to set clear financial goals and take steps toward becoming financially secure. If you aren’t working toward any specific goals, you are more likely to end up spending more than you should. Setting financial goals allow you to not only take steps toward bigger purchases, but it also helps you be prepared when unexpected expenses pop up in your life.

Financial goals can be broken down into short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Your short-term financial goals should be easy to accomplish and focused on creating a budget, tackling debt, and starting on an emergency fund. Mid-term goals should be focused on getting your insurance policies and working on personal/familial goals (ie. paying off home mortgage, children’s college expenses, financing a car, etc.). Finally, your long-term financial goals should emphasise retirement funds and savings.

Controlling your finances is easy, but it takes time. Each day spend a little bit of time assessing your financial health and finding ways to save money or increase your income. By tracking your spending and comparing it to your income, you can determine what expenses can be cut out and create a plan for saving more.

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Nova Money (former Cash Coach)