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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

          More by this author

          Vladimir Zivanovic

          CMO at MyCity-Web

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          Last Updated on November 27, 2020

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          Personal 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. 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 to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

          4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

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

          1. Be Clear About the Objectives

          Any goal 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’s for. It could be anything, including your child’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 that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

          2. Keep Goals 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 beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

          It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as 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.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

          Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

          For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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          4. Short Term Vs Long Term

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

          As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a 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.

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

          How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

          Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-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.

          Ensuring Healthy Savings

          Self-realization is the best form of realization, 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 spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

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

          If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

          2. Pay Yourself First

          Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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          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 manage all the expenses from the rest.

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

          Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

          3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

          Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

          Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

          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. 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 counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

          • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
          • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
          • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

          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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          5. 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.

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

          6. Maintain a Journal

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

          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.

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

          Making Smart Investments

          Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

          1. Consult a Financial Advisor

          Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s 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.

          2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

          Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

          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[2].

          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 compared to equity instruments.

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          3. 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.”

          Use compound interest when setting financial goals

            Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

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

            4. 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 and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

            If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

            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

            Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

            and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

            More Tips on Financial Goals

            Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

            Reference

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