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5 Tips on How to Manage Your Finances More Efficiently

5 Tips on How to Manage Your Finances More Efficiently

In my school, I had to know how DNA is replicated and why the War of the Roses was called that – but finances, nope! Mathematics and arithmetics are fun (not really), but they did not provide me with what I really need today – and that is how to have enough money to survive from one paycheck to the next.

In this article, I presume that you have a job, or at least some sort of income, and I have a good guess that you are not good at managing your finances; well, guess what? Nobody is. Unless you are Donald Trump and you are born rich.

The rest of us, we have to make do with what we’ve got, and it usually isn’t enough. Mortgages, credits, student debt and other nasty words such as these can creep up on you when you least expect it and ruin your chances of visiting Italy this year, or the next for that matter.

Well, unless you’ve developed a great singing talent while reading my introductory paragraph, and you’re planning on making big bucks while singing country songs, prepare to read our 5 tips for making yourself more financially stable.

1. Know Your Expenses

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    This is the first, and probably the most important item here. You need to know exactly how much you and your family are bringing in, and how much is going out. This might seem like a true hassle and a lot of paperwork, but you need to know the current state of affairs.

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    It might seem obvious, but you should spend less than you earn, as that would be the perfect case scenario; then, you’re done and you can stop reading right now. If you find yourself on the negative side, no matter how impossible that might sound, a lot of people actually live like that, yes, it is somewhat stressful, but it is possible.

    Once you get to know where your money is going, and what kind of life it is living, it is also important to know terms like investing, taxes, insurance and retirement plans. Once again, nobody mentioned those things while you were in college, and somehow, they are trying to actively ruin your life. Remember: Google is your friend – if you don’t know something, google it immediately; only knowledge can help you with your financial troubles. Or rich uncles – they are also a nice solution.

    When creating a list of expenses, try to find something that looks like something you can live without. Maybe you don’t really need that gym membership, since the last time you visited, Christina Aguilera was still popular. On the other hand, maybe you can give a few dollars more on a bank account that will make all ATM withdrawals free – you never know where some hidden expenses might be unless you play this game of hide and seek.

    The most important thing here – be honest with yourself; the only person you could be lying to here is yourself (and people are quite good at that; I know I am – I’m looking at you, diet). The more honest and reasonable you are, the more rational decisions you will be able to make. Ask a friend to help you, your mother or father, unless they plan on nagging about how fiscally irresponsible you are.

    2. Learn What to Rent, and What to Buy

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      Many people do not agree about whether it is better to buy stuff or simply rent it – in the long run, that is. For example, if you are planning on renting a home, where you plan on living with your family, it is better to think about buying it permanently, via bank credit. Renting may sound like a good solution for now, but after 10 years (and trust me, time passes by quickly) you might regret only renting, when you could have paid off 70% of your home by that time.

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      On the other hand, renting a DVD might be a much better solution than buying it. I know, nobody buys DVDs anymore, but you get my point. Do not go in blindly and buy everything you need; there is probably a service that can provide you with the same result, for less money. If you’re having money issues, it’s a better idea to join the local library than buy every book you want.

      If you plan on using something for a long time, then it is better to buy – it is called cost analysis, and it sounds difficult, because it is. It involves not only money, but whether you actually need that item, and how much money that item will cost you in the future. Even though I mentioned that you should take a bank loan and buy a home, it is not a piece of advice I give out lightly.

      You should be 110% sure that you can survive such an adventure, and then decide. Think about your future mortgage and when you should start paying it off. Maintain a high credit score, which means that you cannot use your credit card like Monopoly money; only buy what you can actually afford.

      3. Play the Responsible Game – Invest

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        Now, this is something everyone needs professional help with. Finances are all around us, and they are way more complicated than we’ve ever imagined. Investing may sound like magic from a Harry Potter book and, while it might actually be quite similar, it has real-life consequences, and you should be on the winning side. The more you know about the financial instruments at your disposal, the better choices you’ll be able to make, and you’ll know when to back away.

        Investing into your 401(k) plan is also an investment, even though many people don’t consider it that way. Whenever you get your paycheck, a small portion is set aside, and after years, especially when you’re older and unable to work, you’ll have money on the side, or in case of an emergency.

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        If, on the other hand, you’re interested in stocks, there are many options that we cannot cover in an entire article itself. That is why it is better to find someone who does that sort of thing professionally, but even then be mindful of what you’re doing.

        Another type of investing can be insurance. There are many kinds of insurances. You can insure almost anything (it’s even said that Jennifer Lopez insured her behind, so there’s that fun fact). You never know when you might need a large sum of money for something unexpected. Hey, nobody likes thinking about this kind of stuff, but it is a part of life.

        Life insurance might help your family if someone unexpectedly dies, and health insurance will help you with doctors’ bills. Home insurance will help you in case of break-ins, natural disasters and what-not. Like I said, it is all dark stuff, but dark stuff happens.

        4. Always Have a Savings Account

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          Once you’ve surveyed your finances, and found some money you are willing to set aside, then it is a good idea to start a savings account.

          Choose any bank, just don’t try to hide your money under your bed. Not only will a bank give you a small interest (in this case, you are lending your money to a bank, and they are paying interest to you – and isn’t that a nice turn of event?), but it will keep your money safe and sound, and always at your disposal. Even a small monthly amount can accrue to a lot of money over a few years, and that can easily become your kid’s college or emergency fund.

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          When creating a savings account, you should always have at least 3 months’ worth of money – so that in case you suddenly lose your job, you have some time to find another without worrying about survival. Another great piece of advice here is to create a special savings account that is not connected to any credit card. This is to prevent yourself from spending that money when you do not really need it. You should not even have easy access to it. It might sound counterintuitive, but it will help you save some money.

          5. Find Additional Income

          Another great piece of advice that might seem too obvious is that you should find another job. There are many agencies that will give you an opportunity to work online as a tutor of almost anything you are good at. Do you know a bit of German or French? Why not use those skills and earn some money in the process. The Eastern markets are full of people who are more than eager to learn Western languages, so it is even possible to be an English teacher, even though you are not fully qualified.

          If you need more radical changes, you can sell off the stuff you don’t use, and make some money that way. Make a yard sale, or even better – put all the things you haven’t used in the last year on eBay, especially things like clothes and electronic appliances.

          Mind you, this won’t solve your finances, but it might help in the short run, especially if you are struggling to get your hands on some quick cash. An additional job will help you in the longer run, but it will probably ruin your personal life, but who needs that anyway.

          All joking aside, finances are no laughing matter. Money can ruin your life or make it great, so it is extremely important to always take care of it. Spend it wisely, invest it properly, and always have a small backup.

          If you are in dire need of some help, either find an additional job or ask a friend for a quick loan. Refrain from banks, but if you cannot avoid them, use their services cautiously, and always bring someone with more experience to the bank; they can help you understand the fine print and make a better decision. Good luck!

          Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 66.media.tumblr.com

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          Vladimir Zivanovic

          CMO at MyCity-Web

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          Last Updated on August 20, 2019

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

          In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

          5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

          Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

          1. Be Clear About the Objectives

          Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

          It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

          Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

          2. Keep Them Realistic

          It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

          It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

          3. Account for Inflation

          Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

          Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

          For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

          4. Short Term vs Long Term

          Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

          As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

          More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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          5. To Each to His Own

          The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

          It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

          By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

          11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

          Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

          • Ensuring healthy savings
          • Making smart investments

          You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

          Ensuring Healthy Savings

          Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

          This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

          1. Track Expenses

          The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

          Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

          2. Pay Yourself First

          Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

          Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

          The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

          Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

          3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

          Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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          Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

          At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

          Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

          You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

          4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

          Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

          If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

          Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

          All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

          5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

          In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

          Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

          Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

          If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

          If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

          So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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          6. Talk About It

          Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

          Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

          7. Maintain a Journal

          For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

          So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

          Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

          When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

          At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

          Making Smart Investments

          Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

          8. Consult a Financial Advisor

          Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

          Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

          9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

          Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

          Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

          Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

          It is here where that classification will help.

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          So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

          10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

          Einstein once remarked about compounding,

          Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

          So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

          Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

          11. Measure, Measure, Measure

          All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

          If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

          If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

          Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

          The Bottom Line

          This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

          As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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