There’s an old saying that goes “actions speak louder than words.” Spending habits boils down to an action that directly or indirectly implies one’s values. The framework of finances is very personal, also challenging us to ask the burning question: what exactly do we value and why? Does a product have a functional benefit or is it purchased as a status symbol? The following are questions to ask yourself, to begin to define money solutions.
Is family the most valuable thing in our lives, are we regularly giving or lending them money?
Are friends a top of our lists, do you go out even when we don’t want to?
Are you calling off work to have fun? Do you value experiences more than making money?
Do you value convenience more than health?
Do you know how much you will get in retirement and how many years it will last?
What contributes to impulsive spending? Do you buy things to cheer yourself up?
Understanding where your money goes is significant to arriving at money solutions.
Make a monthly list of the minimum income you make and subtract it by your expenditures. Break your expenses down into two categories: necessary (rent, groceries, insurance, and other essential survival items) and luxury (entertainment, restaurants, vacation, etc.). Are you surprised by the money you should have leftover each month; is it actually over or under calculated?
Use the budget and follow it religiously. It is a “working document” so make changes as needed.
Make short-term (within 2 years), mid-term (5-10 years), and long-term (10+ year) goals of big-ticket items (buy a house, trade-in car, vacation, etc.) and/or saving goals (ie. save $5,000 in 2 years). Write them down and keep the goals visible (ie. on the wall, in your planner, in your cubicle). Don’t wait for New Year’s to refine them.
When grocery shopping, make a list and stick to it.
Debt can be apart of your money solutions. Debt is a liability but it helps preserve our assets (ie. we use someone else’s money to keep our cash in hand). It is okay to be in debt as long as you have a working plan.
Itemize your debt individually and discover the interest rates each debt carries. If your debt is high, consider seeing a financial advisor.
Order your debt from high-interest rates to lowest.
Keep paying the minimum payment on each debt instrument.
Be more aggressive to pay down those with the highest interest rate then move down the line until each is eliminated.
Remember, to improve your credit score you need to stay in debt to show your spending habits as well as your ability to pay off the debt.
Saving is an integral part of your money solutions.
Keep 3-6 months of income as your emergency fund and don’t include it as your savings.
Have a certain dollar amount or % of your income set aside each month for saving.
When getting paid, save first and pay bills with the remainder. Anything leftover goes to living the lifestyle you want, as detailed in your monthly budget.
If your employer matches your 401k, put as much money up to their match. Be careful of underfunding or overfunding your 401k.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, have multiple vehicle savings.
Avoid saving in low-interest environments such as under the mattress or in CDs. Once you have your savings and checking accounts as a solid foundation, sit down with a financial advisor to look into other vehicles such as IRAs, mutual funds, cash value life insurance, bonds, and more.
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