We all have our own goals. Although finances are very personal and the goals we create are unique to our own situations, sometimes we get don’t make goals because we don’t know where to start. Here is a list of 10 tasks that can help to get you started.
Make time each week to review your finances
It is very important to review your finances regularly, even if it’s just 15 minutes. By tracking your finances, you make yourself aware of how much you have, how much you owe and who you owe it to. (See “Organizing Your Finances – Part 1” and “Part 2“). Without knowing these three things, it is next to impossible to get ahead. What I have learned about improving my financial life is that it is not only about how much I pay off and how fast I can do it. More importantly, it is also about building and maintaining good habits with money.
Check your insurance
Do you have enough life, home and auto insurance coverage? Are your beneficiaries up to date? Many times we get an insurance policy and never change it even though our situation has changed. At the beginning of last year, my wife and I sat down with our insurance agent and discussed all of our policies. (See “What I Never Realized About Life Insurance“) One surprising thing that we discovered was that we did not carry enough insurance for our vehicles. Our agent broke down the costs and the coverage and how it all works. I was amazed. He also did the same thing for our homeowners insurance as well. The fascinating part to me was that we were able to double our coverage for just a couple of bucks a month more. The peace of mind we now have makes it all worth it.
Make sure you have a contingency plan
In the event that something were to happen to you, does your spouse, family member or someone else you trust know what to do and where to find important documents?
Set goals and start small
What are you financial goals? If you want to change your financial situation, where are you going to start? How are you going to get there? What small steps do you need to take along the way? What is your plan so that you hold yourself accountable? Do you have an accountability partner? (See “Who’s Creating Your Goals?“)
Build up an emergency fund before paying off debt
It can seem counter-intuitive to put money away in savings when you have debt that is accruing interest, but there is a method to the madness here. Start an emergency fund of $1,000. It can seem like much, but there are ways to build this up fast. Some ways are to do some overtime at work if you can, sell some things around the house that you don’t need, start a side hustle to make some extra cash, cut out some spending for a month and put what you would have spent toward this fund. Once you have $1,000 saved, then tackle the debt. This way, when something happens (and something always happens), you can use the cash in your emergency fund rather than dig yourself deeper into debt. (See “A Good Place to Start – Setting up an Emergency Fund“)
Setup auto-pay and auto-transfer
Automating finances can free up time and also reduce the stress of seeming like you are always scheduling bills. Setup your savings and your bill pay to be automatic. This way things can be taken care of without your having to think about them. You can even start small with just a few bills. Login to your bank account and setup automatic payments for your utilities. Have these setup to be paid automatically on payday. This works well when you have direct deposit. This way, when you login to check your balance, you see what you have left to after bills are paid and don’t need to worry about scraping money together when a bill comes due. Pay the bill first and use what is left for your spending and everyday purchases. This may require you to change your spending habits, but that’s a good thing, right?
Check your retirement account contributions
Building your 401K, IRA or other retirement account is a great way to make sure you will be prepared for the future. Do you plan on retiring one day and living the life you dream? How are you going to fund it? How are you going to make sure you have enough money to life when you are no longer able to work? With a retirement account, you can do the heavy lifting now so that you don’t have to later. Also, with the power of compound interest, the sooner you start, the more you can save. Another great thing is that this savings is automatic.
Consolidate debts, but only if there is a financial benefit
In a previous post, I wrote about taking advantage of balance transfer and convenience check offers for credit cards. (See “Working Balance Transfers to Your Benefit“) Many times, simplicity helps us to achieve our goals faster. By consolidating credit cards using these options, you have less payments to worry about each month. The payments you do make may be higher, but that is ok, things are more simplified. There is a caveat to this one, however. If you do go this route, make sure to pay attention to transfer fees as well as promotion expiration dates. For me, I like to make note of this kind on info on my finance spreadsheet that I update weekly.
Be more conscious of your spending
Most of the time, it is our spending habits that get us into debt in the first place. We often spend money before we have it and then tell ourselves that we will just pay it all off when the bill comes. But life happens. That bill comes and there are other things that take priority. Next thing we know, we are digging deeper into debt rather than working our way out. Purchasing things that we need and also treating ourselves once in a while is completely ok. What we do need to be more conscious of is when we overspend on things we don’t need. To combat this, I have read many stories of people who have issued themselves a shopping ban until a particular goal is met. Then can help to keep our emotional spending in check.
Get on the same page with your spouse/partner
The road to improving your financial life does not have to be traveled alone. In fact, I strongly believe that it should NEVER be traveled alone, especially when you are married or in a relationship. Why? If you are not on the same page as your partner, progress will slow down or even worse, come to a halt. I have experience this first hand. Looking back, I realized that the time when my wife and I made the least financial progress was the time when we weren’t on the same page.
These are some ways that have helped me in improving my financial life. What ways have you found that have helped yours? I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you done any of the things listed above? I would love to hear from you too.
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