30 days to financial organization
Read this one on beliefnet today and in my head I was ticking off items as I read them – things I do, don’t do, tried but didn’t work for me, have intention of trying or not at all.
I tried Budgeting, didn’t work for me. Instead I found it easier to open a direct debit savings scheme. I don’t see the money, so I don’t miss it. I cut down my number of accounts from 3 to 1 and between 1 credit card and 1 debit card, I keep track of everything through online banking. However, after reading all this, I’m starting to think that perhaps I need to start tracking my expenses and keep hold of the receipts and perhaps do a monthly reconciliation – tried this one before without much success, so should be interesting to try again.
Also right now, I don’t have a financial goal to meet and that’s something I have to work on too. Hmmm… tperhaps there’s a lot more to get on then I thought…..
Download a free budget tracker. Print it out and put it on your fridge, in your purse, or wherever you will actually use it this month to track your expenditures. Commit to writing down everything you spend this month.
Take the time to write down a financial goal you would like to achieve within the next 12 months. Maybe it’s climb out of debt, maybe it’s to fully fund an emergency account. Once you’ve selected a goal, break it down into a series of smaller, monthly goals
Set an egg timer for 10 minutes today to brainstorm all of the steps you could take to achieve your financial goals. No idea is a bad idea. Just generate as many ideas as you possibly can
Do you have an organized way to keep track of your receipts? Get a small accordion file and keep it in your purse or briefcase. Once a day, transfer loose receipts from your wallet or bag into the organizer. At the end of the week or month, you’ll have them handy when you reconcile your accounts.
When was the last time you balanced your checkbook? Read this great how-to and then hop to it. Set a reminder in your calendar to do the same again in 30 days.
Take a moment to reflect on the purchase decisions you have made today. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have sent a message to the world through the things you paid for. What did you choose say? Do your purchases reflect the values you wish to live?
Look back on your expenditures for the past week. Have you been diligent about tracking what you’re spending? If not, why not? What could you do to make it easier to track? If you’re avoiding it for emotional reasons, why? What are you afraid you will see?
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Look back at the list you brainstormed on the third day. Pick the three things that you think will have the biggest impact on your ability to achieve your financial goal. Organize yourself tonight to implement them in the days ahead.
Are you aware of what contributions you have made to your IRA so far this year? Investigate whether you’re on track to max out your retirement accounts for the year. If not, write it in your planner as a ‘to-do.’
Take stock of the credit cards in your wallet. How many do you have? Do you really need them all? Evaluate what they are doing for you. Can you get rid of any with very high interest rates? Experts recommend you have three. If you have more, consider winnowing what’s in your wallet.
Is your financial information organized? If you’re married, do you know where all of the financial accounts, including 401Ks, are held? If not, sit down with your significant other tonight to discuss what accounts you have, where they each are, and who to contact at each institution if needed.
Try refraining from buying anything today. Don’t pay for others to entertain you and don’t purchase any goods. Cook using food already in your pantry and choose activities that are totally, utterly free. At the end of the day reflect on how it felt. Was it difficult to make it through the day? To what degree are you even conscious of spending money day-to-day?
Your bank probably has some free tools and resources to make you more financially fit. Look online or call or visit your branch to see what’s available. Specifics to look for: online spending analyses and savings calculators
What do you have lying around your house that you no longer use that could be transformed into cash? If you have more than 20 items, organize a yard sale for the end of the month. If fewer, consider selling them on eBay or Craigslist. If you have gadgets, turn them into greenbacks with a little help from Gazelle.com.
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Map out the birthdays of friends and relatives and anniversaries you have coming up in the next few months. Rather than spending a lot at the last minute, make a budget for them. Brainstorm gifts that fit within that budget now. If you can, purchase them this week.
Do you spend a lot of money dining out each week? Sit down today and map out meals for the next 20 days using this free meal planning form. Tally up how much you typically spend eating out and apply half of that amount to your food budget. Put the rest right into your savings account.
Are you an emotional spender? Where are your weak spots when it comes to consuming? Just like dieters need to understand potential emotional eating pitfalls, consumers need to be aware of emotional hardwires that can trip unnecessary spending sprees.
If you buy your coffee outside the home, calculate how much you spend each day. Multiply that by the number of days you’ll buy coffee for the rest of the year. Shocking, right? What if you treated yourself to special coffee once a week? How much of a difference would that make on your bottom line?
Set up an automatic sweep from your checking account to a savings account, preferably one that is not directly linked to your checking account, like an ING Direct Savings Account. If you are short on cash, start small – $10 a week adds up quickly.
If you’re a woman and it’s been awhile since your last raise – it’s time to ask for more. Specifically: 30.4 percent more. According to a study released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), women don’t make 77 cents to every man’s dollar. We make 69.6 cents.
If you’re like most Americans, you have over twenty different accounts (from cable to credit cards). Each account comes with its own set of bills, statements, notices, offers, due dates, emails, paper mail, websites, and passwords. In short, it’s a nightmare to organize. Sign up with the new, free service Manilla.com. It aggregates all of your account information in one place so that can truly go paperless.
Do you currently subscribe to services that are automatically paid by a credit card on file each month? If so, scour your statements and highlight any services that you are not using to the fullest extent. Call and cancel those accounts by the end of the day today.
Get perspective. As important as this is, money is only one part of life and not even the most important. If you let it, money matters can consume your life. Remember to keep focus on the really important parts of life: family, home, happiness, love and whatever else is in your heart. Pursue long-term financial security but never at the expense of your life.
Do you have loose change lying about? Get some coin wrappers and tonight while you’re watching TV, wrap them up. Deposit the coins on your way to work tomorrow.
Check out the blog BudgetsAre$exy.com today. I love J. Money’s irreverent yet insanely practical approach (perhaps because he’s lived and learned) to getting your finances in order. If you like what you see, add it to your RSS feed. A regular dose of financial content helps keep you motivated and on track.
Go to the library and check out a great book about financial wisdom. There are so many great options, from The Millionaire Next Door to 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. Instead of watching TV tonight, read instead.
At the end of the day, look back at your monthly expenditure worksheet. How did you spend your money? What are some “leaks” in your bucket that could be plugged without too much hassle? Set a budget for the coming month that assumes you fix those leaks.