Last week you took the first steps to improving your finances in How to Improve Your Finances When You Don’t Know Where to Start. Like I mentioned last week, you don’t have to have to win the lottery or get a giant promotion to change things. Whether you’d like to get out of debt or start saving more money, there are many things you can do.
The first steps were dissecting your budget to see what your finances where actually like, tracking all of your spending for one week, taking some time to understand what your debt was all about, lowering your monthly bills, asking for a lower interest rate, selling some of your extra clutter for some quick cash, reflecting on financial mistakes you’ve made, and starting to change the way you think about money. Here are some suggestions for this week.
More Ways to Improve Your Finances
- Make a debt repayment plan.
Last week, you took some time to understand your debt including exactly how much you owe, what the interest rate it is, and how much of your payments are going to the balance. Now that you know the debt situation, it is time to make a plan for debt elimination. Many experts say the best plan is to start paying off the debt with the highest interest first. Figure out ways you can increase the payment amount to your debt. You can do this by increasing your income, selling your items, or cutting back in other areas to allow you to put more money towards your debt.
- Sign up for auto-payments.
If any of your bills allow you to sign up for auto-payments, where the money automatically gets withdrawn from a bank account, do so. This is a simple thing you can do to help your finances for two reasons. First, doing this will avoid any late payments, which can lead to late fees, a negative credit rating, and even higher interest rates. For example, one of the credit cards I have has a policy where if I miss a payment, the interest rate goes up. Second, in some cases, if you enroll in auto-payment, you can save money. Sallie Mae Student Loans can knock off a percentage of your interest and the same goes for certain phone companies.
- Make a budget.
Making a budget is a lot more simple than it seems. Start by figuring out what your monthly income is that you bring home. Next deduct what you spend every month on both set bills (mortgage/rent, utilities, car payment, student loans, insurance, cable, phone bill, gym membership, internet, child support, credit card payments, etc.) and also the categories that can fluctuate (food, transportation (gas, parking, tolls, public transportation), entertainment, gifts, miscellaneous items (like toiletries, medicine, etc.), clothing, etc.) Essentially, these numbers have to balance, and you need to be making more than what is going out. If not, you need to figure out a way to make your budget balance, either by increasing your income or cutting your expenses. Ideally, you can do this and also figure out a way to have money left over for debt repayment, or better yet, for a savings account.
Take time every day to update your budget to keep track of what you’re spending. Every morning, I go over what I did yesterday. If I spent money on food, I subtract that from my food budget. This helps you realize you realize what you’re spending and where your money is going.
- Get organized with your money.
There is a lot that goes into being organized with your money. This means stopping the habit of just swiping a charge card or debit card without keeping track, throwing the bills in a drawer when they come, and really not staying on track. What do you need to do to organize your money? If you are a freelancer or have any other work where your income varies, start keeping better track of your income and review how to handle irregular paychecks. Keep track of what you’re spending by updating your monthly budget daily. Just like you mark down on your calendar when you have an appointment or a party, write down when your bills are due so you can pay them on time. Have a system that allows you to keep track of whether or not you paid a bill. Take time to look at your bills when they come. I used to have a bad habit of simply making my credit card payment without looking at the statement. Then, I happened to look one day, and I saw charges that should not have been there.
- Track your savings for the week.
Last week, you tracked everything you spent money on – the pack of gum, the movie rental, the dinner with friends, filling the car up with gas, and whatever else you bought. This week, track your savings. Anytime you skip a purchase or make a switch write it down. Did you pack your own lunch instead of grabbing something while you were out? Maybe you decided to walk a few blocks instead of taking the bus or skipped the movie night to rent one at home with friends. This is a fun way to see how these little changes can really add up, and keep you motivated to keep it going.
- Brainstorm ways to make more income.
One of the best ways to help your current financial situation is to increase the amount of money you are taking home. If you already have a full-time salaried job, can you ask for a raise? Can you apply for a promotion or offer to take on extra work or overtime? Consider taking on a part-time job or freelance work. What skills do you have that you can offer to people? There is definitely something that you can do for others – teach a language, do graphic design work, write, edit work, teach an instrument, sport, computer program, etc., do housework or handy work, provide childcare or pet care, or any of your other skills, talents, or hobbies. For additional ideas see 5 More Ways to Earn Some Extra Cash.
If you have done any of these tips, how did it go? Which will you try this week? What are some other quick tips people can do to change their finances this week?