So, one of your New Year Resolutions was to save more money. Great! But let’s be real…it’s a lot easier said than done. If you’re finding it difficult to get started on saving, here are some easy money management tips to follow:
Money Management Tip #1: Set Up a Goal
Goals make the world go round. You can set goals for today, for the end of the year, or even for 5 years. You may have several goals: combine finances after marriage, buy a car or house, plan for your education, start a family, etc. Whatever your goal is, it’s important to have it clearly set in mind and find more specific money management tips to help you achieve it. For example, if you are buying a house and need 20% for a down payment, keep that number in front of your plan.
Money Management Tip #2: Create a Realistic Budget
One of the simplest money management tips is to put your expenses in writing to make it easier to visualize and analyze your budget. There are websites and apps that can help you step-by-step. Unless you have it in writing, it can be very easy to overlook where you are overspending.
Money Management Tip #3: Keep Track of Your Spending
You might be surprised to see where your money is really going by the end of a month. You could find that you are spending much more than what you had originally planned. Adjust your budget if necessary!
Money Management Tip #4: Identify Opportunities to Save
It’s important to understand where your monthly payments are going. Just as important is keeping an eye out for opportunities to improve your terms with those you’re paying. Do you need those premium cable channels? Are you using the gym you have been paying for years? Does your electricity bill really need to be that high? Take advantage of internet sites that identify providers that will help you save on your monthly spend.
Money Management Tip #5: Prioritize Paying Down Debt
Your ultimate goal is to eliminate your debt. So how do you do that? Well, you need to know how much debt you have. Start by creating a debt spreadsheet that includes total balance, monthly payment and interest rate for every credit card, student loan, auto loan, personal loan and medical bill. A strong strategy is to pay down and ultimately pay off your highest debt first, as this is the debt that is racking up the most interest month over month. If you can, start making higher monthly payments versus just paying the minimum each month. If you prefer to pay your debt off in one lump sum, other options include taking out a personal loan, borrowing or withdrawing from your retirement account (but weigh out the pros and cons as there will be penalties for early withdrawal), or refinance your mortgage with a cash-out refinance. In many instances, a cash-out refi is a strong solution as mortgages typically have much lower interest rates than credit cards and student loans. Plus, with a cash-out refinance you could pay off auto loans and medical bills, too.
Once you reduce or pay off your debt, you’ll probably feel a lot better!
Be sure to closely monitor your finances so that you don’t take on any additional debt. If you need external help to get organized, there are non-profit credit counseling organizations that you can find online.
Money Management Tip #6: Automate
Once you have identified how much you can save per a month, set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account. Avoid temptations! Before you know it, the savings will be noticeable.
Pro tip: When you get a raise, increase the amount you save!
You’re on track to doing some major saving! Once you accomplish your specific goals, you can explore three more basic money management tips: retirement funding, emergency savings, and debt repayment. But that’s a whole other mountain to climb; for now, just get in the groove of saving.