How good are you with money?
Gaining control of my money has been one of the most beneficial things I have done so far since I began to revamp my life. I am a control freak, so it brings me great peace of mind to know I have things sorted in this area of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very capable of getting a bit carried away and going off the beaten track every now and then (hello Next online & ASOS!). At least I know I have a fall back now, and with my plan of action I can always get back on the right road pretty swiftly.
During this mini blog series (I’m planning three posts) I will talk in depth about how I’ve learned to manage my money with a great budgeting technique, and how you can too.
Before I jump in to the main event, I thought I would ease in gently with a quick blast of ideas on how to start looking after the pennies.
Create a financial storage solution
A folder, a box, a drawer, it’s up to you. Having everything in one place is the main aim here. You can’t sort out your money if you can’t find anything you need. If you can afford it this is a great excuse to buy some cute new stationary; if you can’t, an empty shoebox would do.
This is my preferred option. I still have a storage solution for the odd document, but the majority of my documents and statements are not sent to me and I can just view them online.
If you want to go paperless you can usually do this through your online banking website or app and choose your preferences from there.
Work out what works best for you, because there’s a risk with paperless that you will just never read a thing, hundreds of unread statements will stack up, and you could miss important information. You will need to make the effort!
This is the same principle as the paperless note. Keep on top of your emails. Aim to clear it completely as least once per week and set up folders to organise anything you need to keep. Don’t keep things for the sake of it though, be ruthless and only keep what you really do need.
Gather all useful contacts
Keep a record of any useful phone numbers and addresses that could come in handy when dealing with your cash. Obvious ones such as your telephone banking, but also things like credit cards and insurance companies would be useful to have in one place. You could even keep them in your financial storage solution from idea number 1.
List all incomes
Wages or benefits would be the most obvious here, but don’t forget about any others. Cashback and dividends might be things that people could easily forget.
Make a note of them all and include how much they are and when you receive them.
List all outgoings
It’s so easy to set up something on a Direct Debit and then just forget all about its existence! Keep a list of all your regular outgoings, including the amounts and the date the go out.
Putting your eggs in one basket
This can be debatable and it’s not the best solution for everyone, but for me personally I like to keep most of my accounts with one bank. This is so I can log into my online banking and see everything in one place. You might not always get the best rates this way so work out the pros and cons for yourself and decide what works best for you.
One way to help stick to a budget is by using the envelope method. This involves drawing out the cash and placing it in envelopes for certain categories; fuel, food, entertainment and so on. By having the cash in front of you it is much more visual and easier for you to realise how much you are spending and how quickly your money might be dwindling.
Easier said than done for some, but try if you can to put away some emergency money and leave it alone, if you haven’t already. It should literally only be used for emergencies. This way you should feel a little bit of peace of mind, and hopefully have a bit less stress and sleepless nights over your financial situation.
Never bury your head
If you do have financial difficulties, always speak to your bank and creditors. Tackle it straight on – You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much they can help you if you explain your situation.
Keep yourself in the know
Have a look at the financial news every now and then, follow some financial blogs, look for Facebook groups, gander on Twitter… There are so many places to keep yourself informed these days, It’s just about paying a little bit of attention to he boring grown up stuff.
Use comparison sites
Don’t fall into the trap of accepting your renewal prices. Use comparison sites regularly to make sure you’ve got the best price for things like insurance and utilities.
Track daily spending
Pen and paper, spreadsheet, app, however you please… Just do it. Keeping a log of where your money goes can be a real eye opener and help you evaluate and decide if you need to make any changes.
If you still pay your bills manually, are you living in the dark ages?! Seriously though, consider direct debits – sometimes you’ll get a discount and you won’t forget to pay.
If you’re a saver, congratulations! Consider a regular standing order; you don’t have to thick about it and it becomes the norm.
Pay debt first
Apart from some emergency money, don’t bother saving if you have debt. Aim to pay it off instead. Start with smaller balances first as paying them off will give you the feeling of achievement.
There we have it, 15 simple ideas to get us started on the road to calming the #@&$ out of our finances. Nothing too strenuous here.
If I had to pick one thing that I think would be the most beneficial of them all, it would probably be tracking daily spending. It’s the best way to see what unnecessary purchases are eating away at the cash… The odd coffee here, magazine there, grabbing a sandwich, eating out. It all adds up and can be a shocker!
As soon as I stopped pretending to myself that I was good with money, I actually became good with money. It’s self discipline, that’s all it comes down to. Living intentionally and organised rather than just winging it or going with the flow.
It’s all about grabbing the responsibility with both hands and getting on with it. It was time to be a real grown up even if it did take me nearly 30 years…..
In the next episode of this mini series I will talk about how I complete my budget month on month. I’ll go in depth with what I’ve found works for me and let you know what website I use for tracking everything. I’ll talk about debts I have cleared and how I now save up for things we want or need, rather than slapping them on a 0% credit card.
See you then!
No one ever truly feels like they have everything under control... do they?