Over the last few weeks, you took steps towards improving your financial health. As we mentioned earlier in How to Improve Your Finances When You Don’t Know Where to Start, many don’t take action with their finances until they are in terrible shape. Getting out of debt or trying to save more money can be difficult, and unfortunately, many people choose to ignore these things and coast along without really understanding what is going on with their money.
In 6 More Ways to Improve Your Finances, we talked about some suggestions to improve your finances like making a debt repayment plan once you understand your debt, signing up for auto-payments on your bills, making a budget and sticking to it, getting more organized with your bills and money, tracking your savings after you already tracked your spending during week one and trying to think of ways to make more income. This week, here are a few suggestions to try to improve your finances even more:
Take Charge of Your Financial Future
- Create savings goals.
Your savings goals will constantly change, but regardless of what they are, you should always have goals. My first priority when it came to starting to save was to save for an emergency fund. This is important in case you lose your job, your car breaks down, or another costly unexpected event occurs. These things always happen, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for them. You can also have short-term savings goals, such as saving up for a vacation, a car, a piece of furniture, remodeling on your home, or another larger purchase. And you can also have long-term goals like retirement or opening your own business down the line. Whatever your goals are, make them clear. Figure out how much you have to save each month to reach your goal. Do not dip into these savings. The best way to do that is to make a commitment to yourself with a certain amount that is for saving. For example, if you have $1,000 in savings for an upcoming vacation, and you are also saving $2,000 so far for retirement, do not spend more than $1,000 on that vacation.
Read More: How to Save for Multiple Goals
- Start thinking long-term.
While you want to enjoy every day, it is also important to plan for the future. You’re never too young to start thinking about saving for your retirement. If your employer offers a 401K program, start contributing money towards it. If not, start thinking about a savings plan that could offer you benefits for starting to save towards your retirement. IRAs and Roth IRAs are also a great place to start saving. Putting away money now, will help guarantee you have a good quality life later on.
- Make an alternatives and elimination list.
Write down all of the items you spend money on. Brainstorm alternatives to that item that could save you money. Instead of paying for a gym membership, work out at home for free by watching fitness shows on the internet. Instead of paying for cable or going to the movie theatre, borrow movies for free at the library or watch your favorite t.v. shows on the station’s website or on Hulu. Cancel your magazine and newspaper subscriptions to read things for free online. Instead of getting your nails done or getting your hair colored, try doing it yourself or head to a beauty school to get the services done at a reduced rate. Instead of driving everyday to work, consider carpooling or taking public transportation if available.
Read More: You Can Afford It… but Should You?
- Consider drastic measures.
If you’re finding it hard to get ahead, consider a more drastic measure. If you’re renting an apartment, could you move to a smaller apartment with a lower rent to save more money? Or maybe you can ask a friend to move in with you to split the cost of rent and utilities to lower your housing costs. Another more drastic measure is getting rid of your car, if it is an option for you. For many people, they may need a car to get to work or around. But if you live in an area that offers public transportation or live in a walkable area, you can consider selling your car. The same goes if you are a married couple and already have one car. It may be an inconvenience, but you are waving goodbye to a car payment, insurance, gas, transportation, fees like a sticker to park or other costs, maintenance costs, and more.
Read More: Hard Times and Desperate Measures
- Start learning about money.
There is always something to learn about money. Learning about investing or other financial issues can seem intimidating and daunting. But there are plenty of resources to help you learn more about money. The more you know, the less overwhelming the issue will seem and the more you will be comfortable with your financial life.
Read More: 35 Best Personal Finance Books
- Don’t buy anything you can’t afford.
I had a friend who bought a house and then proceeded to go on a charging spree. He charged every piece of furniture for the house, décor, painting services, appliances, and more. His thought was that he was going to buy it anyway, so why not buy it now? The appliances were no interest for six months so it was great. It was great until the six months passed, and he wasn’t able to pay it off. That instant gratification ended up costing him thousands more because everything was getting charged interest. While it’s tempting to charge things, don’t get in over your head. Instead, choose to save up for an item. That way, you have it, and it’s yours, without a bunch of hidden strings and stress. I can admit that I did the same thing often in college. I felt like I was about to start earning money so let me use some of my student loan money for other items instead. “Hey, I’ll be paying it back in no time.” But things change in life, and it often does not work out like that. The best thing you can do for your financial life is always live within your means.
Read More: Can You Afford It?
What other tips do you have for those of us who want to make a change to our finances?