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The Art of Smart Spending: 7 Basic Steps to Financial Freedom

The Art of Smart Spending: 7 Basic Steps to Financial Freedom

Modern life has its fair share of stresses and pressures and the fast life we lead tends to put a strain on us. Life can have a lot of sources of stress, but one of the things that can really impact all aspects of your life is having financial problems. This is especially problematic for young people who have just started to earn their own paycheck and still don’t have control over their spending habits.

If you are having difficulty stretching your budget till the end of the month, you might find these tips helpful. We are going to give you basic advice so that you can apply and create some financial breathing space for yourself. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you remove stressing out about money from your daily routine.

1. Track your spending

First thing’s first, you need to know exactly how and what you spend your money on. Most of us develop a lot of, let’s say hedonistic and impulsive spending habits. In most cases these individual purchases are not a big deal, but they tend to rack up to a substantial amount. By analysing your spending, you will be able to identify unnecessary expenses and neutralize them.

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You can use your smartphone or tablet to write down your purchases and make it easy to keep track of your spending. Once you go through one month of tracking your spending, categorize your expenses and pinpoint those that you consider to be excessive and damaging to your monthly budget.

2. Manage your bills right away

One of the biggest financial complications that you can create for yourself on a monthly basis is to miscalculate your spending capabilities, go on a shopping spree and then end up not having enough money to resolve your bills.

This is why it is a good practice to avoid spending money before your manage your bills and actually have an idea how much money you can spend without going over your monthly budget. Keep in mind that not managing your bills properly will transfer into the next month and can create long-term trouble.

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3. Play mind games with yourself

    One of the basic approaches you can take is to actually convince yourself that you are outright broke. Whenever that little voice inside your head goes: “You’ve had a hard day, you should treat yourself”; add a big voice that goes: “You are as poor as they come, start meditating for stress relief.”

    This may seem as a bit harsh, but it is necessary and you need to work on your self-control. Once we start earning our own money, we tend to start spoiling ourselves and the mentality that it’s our money and that we can do whatever we want with it is all well and good until debts come knocking.

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    4. Getting things done with a bad credit score

    Usually, being under financial strain means that you also have a bad credit score. This can create problems for you when you want to take care of something that you sorely need, but your options are limited due to your inability to get a bank loan. In some cases, there are banks that specialize in giving credit to people who others consider incapable of taking up credit.

    Sometimes they specialize in a particular type of credit, but you’ll need to be very careful when you do this, since there are both good and bad sides to this, and since you are taking up more financial obligations in an already strain situation, you want to make sure that the good outweighs the bad. Furthermore, if you take the time to get your self-control, well, under control you’ll be able to improve your credit score, just be sure to avoid drastic measures that can hurt you in the long run,like payday loans and similar offers.

    5. Change can be a lifesaver

    Ok, so you went to work, took a stroll through town, got some coffee and finally got home. Now, pull out a jar, a bowl or something and drop all that change that you have left into it. Most cynics are probably going “Yeah right, some loose change is going to save my budget”, but you’d be amazed at how much money you can save like this. Furthermore, you are not strictly relying on change to save you, it is a cumulative effect and every little bit counts.

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    6. Tax deduction is an art

      It is a bit difficult to address this money saving option because the benefits and laws vary from country to country, but there are always ways to pay less taxes and save money. This requires extensive research and complicates your paperwork a bit, but once you get past these initial difficulties the amount of money you save is well worth the effort. Charitable donations are a good example of doing something good and getting a tax deduction, but there are many more options out there.

      7. Forgetting about extra cash to boost your savings

      If you get a raise, pay off a loan or get some other influx into your budget, you might want to keep “paying” for it a bit longer. Think about it, the habit is already there and all you need to do is transfer that extra cash into your savings account. This is probably the easiest way to build up your credit score and boost your savings account without really having to change anything. You’ll still need that cash influx though.

      Don’t let things spiral out of control, act fast and get things in order before things become too much for you to handle by yourself. It might sound stupid, but the bigger your debt, the faster it grows. It’s far better to tighten up your belt and take a couple of months to get things in order than to constantly stress about being in the red.

      Featured photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/u/paul-kunitsky-12238/ via pexels.com

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      Ivan Dimitrijevic

      Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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      Last Updated on September 2, 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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