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6 Important Tips for Getting Your Home Finances in Order

6 Important Tips for Getting Your Home Finances in Order

When it comes to financial issues, people tend to get a little edgy, and rightfully so. There is plenty of advice out there that is somewhat unrealistic or takes things to an extreme (things like cutting costs by only having one vacation a year or firing your driver don’t exactly apply to the average citizen). At the same time, focusing on comical penny-pinching at the expense of basic human dignity—e.g. not flushing when you go to the bathroom, like some people advise—won’t make much of a difference anyway. Such advice only leaves you frustrated because online advice columns seem to mistake average working and middle class people, who have a lower income and want to make the most out of their pay check—with down-on-their-luck hobos.

The truth is that there are some changes you can make that will make a big difference in terms of your home finances, without sacrificing much in the way of comfort. I won’t lie to you—it takes a decent amount of self-control, planning and some effort to get your finances in order, but with a good strategy you won’t be giving up much.

1. Find a big, useful goal or item that is worth saving money for.

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Setting a goal

    It’s difficult to get yourself on board with spending less and putting some money aside if you don’t have a good goal in mind. You need to look for an effective source of motivation, something that will be in the back of your mind every time you think about making impulsive purchases. This can be something like a great vacation on a tropical island, a new car, home renovation or moving into a bigger house. The thing is, you can combine different goals, even something that’s not directly related to money—e.g. if you spend less money on sweets and soda, you will lose weight and have more money. You should always have that big goal in mind and think about how the money you want to spend on insignificant things in the spur of the moment can actually bring you a step closer to what you really want.

    2. Make paying off your debt a priority, but choose a good strategy.

    You can’t really take control of your finances until you have managed to free yourself of debt. This might seem like a long and arduous journey, and it is, but it can be done in a reasonable amount of time. First of all don’t fall for those minimum payments as they are designed to keep you in debt for a long time. Second, you have good strategies like snowballing, where you start paying off smaller debts first while keeping the rest at minimum payments, and you even have online tools available to help you out. It is important to exercise a little bit of control when it comes to spending money during this strategy—you don’t have to say goodbye to luxuries; just don’t go above your means and buy only what you can afford with the money that’s left over from the bills and payments.

    In case you are facing a lot of debt that you don’t know how to handle, you may need to negotiate with the creditors or even try a debt-settlement program. Make sure you do some research and find reputable companies that offer a good and reasonably priced service, as there are plenty of frauds out there that are only after your money. So, there are plenty of options for everyone, even in worst-case scenarios.

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    3. Start doing DIY projects around the home instead of going to the store.

    You’d be surprised at how many things you can fix, improve and make yourself around the house and save a lot of money on repair bills, cleaning products, new furniture, decorations and much more. It is fairly cheap to caulk windows and make small repairs. This combined with adding thick curtains and draft protectors can help you save some money on heating bills and keep you warmer in the winter. An old piece of furniture can be made to look brand new with a bit of glue, sandpaper and a paint job—I’ve had friends ask about my cool new table, after I had worked over the table that was sitting in the living room for 10 years and had put some wood grain print decorative paper on the top. Most of these projects are cheap and require nothing much than some hard work and creativity, yet they can look incredibly good.

    4. Plan your shopping carefully and stock up on what you need once a week or once a month.

    Shopping for groceries

      No one says you can’t go to a restaurant from time to time—just make it a less expensive one for the time being—or order a pizza. However, stocking up on food has its advantages. You will always have something in the fridge and pantries when you’re hungry and you won’t have to make trips to the store in the middle of your quiet time, which means you’ll also save some money on gas. You can go online and find some cost-effective brands for any type of food you need, complete with nutritional facts for the health-conscious.

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      There are also sales and special offers at stores you can check out online, as well as coupons that can be printed out. Buying in bulk can also get you a discount, and making fewer shopping runs and buying in advance can also help you manage your budget a bit better. Plan a big weekly store run for most of your groceries, and a monthly or even bimonthly run for household chemicals, hygiene products and canned goods.

      5. Cook your own food, and cook it in bulk.

      Take a page out of the bodybuilder playbook and start preparing your own food. It’s much cheaper to get a bunch of ingredients and prepare a dozen tasty meals than it would be to eat twelve meals at a restaurant. You have plenty of great recipes and cooking tutorials online, so it’s not all that difficult to become a decent cook with a month or two of practice. Cooking plenty of food at once and then keeping it in plastic containers in the fridge allows you to prepare enough food for the next 3–4 days in one go. This is great for healthy lunch recipes that feature fish, chicken or ground beef, combined with a whole lot of vegetables. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones, and can be cooked fairly quickly.

      Not only will you be saving time and making sure there’s always a tasty and healthy meal ready to go, but you will be saving money on your electricity bill as you won’t be cooking all that often—you can prepare enough food for several days in about 60–120 minutes. If you’ve stocked up on food, it also means that you can throw together a sandwich or make some mac and cheese quickly when you want a bit of a change.

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      6. Go green and start caring about the environment.

      Green earth

        Yep, being a green-minded hippie can actually pay off. Caring about the environment is all about recycling, not letting the water run all the time while you shave or apply your shower gel in the shower, turning off the lights and TV when you’re not using a room, not heating up the house to tropical temperatures in the winter, being careful about your car’s emissions and so on. You might also recognize these things as some of the most common energy-saving and frugal living tips. Just start being more or less eco-conscious and you will soon notice that you are saving a decent amount of money; plus you’re being fashionably green instead of cheap in everyone’s eyes.

        Putting the reins on your spending and taking control of your finances is not a project—it requires a few major long term lifestyle changes. You simply can’t get around that fact or make things easy. What you can do is find the right motivation, create a good strategy that ensures that you will be covering your basic costs of life, slowly paying off your debt and setting some money aside, all while not entire giving up the comfort that you are used to. It’s just a matter of getting used to a different way of thinking and making smarter choices.

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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 January 2, 2019

        How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

        How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

        Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

        Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

        Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

        This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

        Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

        What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

        Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

        When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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        How It Leads to Financial Improvement

        It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

        Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

        Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

        It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

        Types of Personal Finance Software

        When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

        Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

        For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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        Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

        When to Use Personal Finance Software

        So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

        Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

        1. You Have Multiple Accounts

        There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

        If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

        Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

        2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

        Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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        There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

        With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

        3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

        Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

        Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

        Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

        4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

        Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

        You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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        How to Get Started

        From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

        Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

        It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

        When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

        Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

        Final Thoughts

        Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

        In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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