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How to Manage Your Budget Like a Tax Accountant

How to Manage Your Budget Like a Tax Accountant

Tax accountants don’t get into trouble at the end of the year because they prepare continuously for the tax season, and you can be just as organized as the pros when it comes to your budget and taxes. Here are a few tips and tricks from the experts that will keep your accounts in order.

Get Organized (Now)

Stop procrastinating. The main tip from professionals is to start organizing your budget and receipts right now. For most people tomorrow is a myth that never comes, and when we say we’ll organize our budget tomorrow it never happens. So, here’s what you need to do:

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  1. Look at the clock and consider your schedule for the rest of the day.
  2. Determine one 30-minute block of time you can spend organizing your budget.
  3. Stick to this scheduled slot. Work quickly, organizing for thirty minutes, and then stop.
  4. Repeat this process tomorrow, and every day until you are organized.

Choose a Place for Your Documents

When you have one designated place for all of your financial documents, it’s easier to keep track of them. When bills arrive, place them in your determined area immediately, and when receipts make their way home in bags, file them the same way. By doing this, you’ll ensure that everything you need of a financial nature is readily available when you’re ready to start organizing each day.

Learn to Organize Like the Pros

Once you’ve started sorting receipts and bills each day for thirty minutes, you might wonder if there’s an easier way. Here’s what the experts do to keep their budgets in order:

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  • Buy a filofax that has a tab for each month, and sort your receipts by month.
  • Get a calendar and note each bill’s due date. Check this calendar each day to see which bills are upcoming.
  • Use handy software to fill in each of your monthly bills, credits, and reoccurring payments. Find out what your monthly savings could be if you cut out some unnecessary expenditures (such as eating out, or cable).
  • Make a plan to save a percentage of your income (experts recommend 10%).

Experts and financial gurus like Mark Weinberger don’t get successful or rich overnight—they plan and prepare, just like you should be doing.

Make Apps Do the Work for You

If  keeping track of your finances manually isn’t an option, consider one of the following apps:

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  • Mint – You can consolidate all of your credit cards, bank accounts, savings accounts and other investments within this one app. Mint will also set a budget for you, let you know of upcoming bills, and tell you when you’ve gone over your budget.
  • BillTracker – Keep track of your upcoming and outstanding bills with this simple-but-handy app.
  • Shoeboxed – This genius app lets you take a photo of your receipts, and then processes and organizes the data so you can ditch the hard copies.
  • Most major banks have apps you can connect with your online banking; check with your banks and credit card companies for any apps they offer.

Get Serious About Your Future

Tax accountants have plans for the rest of the day’s budget, as well as for their retirement, and you need to be just as serious about your own finances. Once you have your daily finances organized and you’ve begun to organize like an expert by using tools and software, all that remains is savings. Find out what kind of retirement plan you are comfortable with, and plan for it. Whether it’s a company savings plan or a personal goal to save 10% of every paycheck and invest in mutual funds, you need to start today.

Your finances don’t have to be confusing or messy; all they require is a little attention and organization. With just 30 minutes a day of focused organizing and sorting and a few free online tools, you can easily become a tax accountant’s dream client: informed, prepared, and ready for the unexpected.

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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