If you find yourself anxiously watching your credit card balance rise each month due to double-digit interest charges, or always seem to be scraping for petrol money before payday, you may feel as though it’s a constant struggle just to stay afloat.
Fortunately, regaining control of your finances can be easier than you might expect. Read on for seven achievable tips to help you put your financial house back in order.
#1: Track spending
Even those who have a monthly budget can find themselves shocked at the number of minor purchases that often go overlooked. Utilising a smartphone app or even a pen and notebook to write down each debit and credit card charge can give you a clearer picture of how your money is being spent.
#2: Prioritise expenses
Once you’ve done some tracking, it’s important to break down all of your expenditures into categories. Analyse how much is being spent on your house, your car, general living expenses and luxuries. Then, rank these categories from smallest to highest.
This ranking can give you a clear picture of where cuts in spending will have the greatest impact. For example, if you’re spending 75% of your income on housing, cutting the 5% you’re spending on entertainment isn’t going to make an appreciable difference to your budget. On the other hand, downsizing and reducing your housing costs to 40% of your income can free up a much bigger chunk of change without requiring you to feel as though you’re depriving yourself.
#3: Make a spending plan
For many, the word “budget” has the same negative connotations as the word “diet” — representing an unattainable goal that will be tossed aside in favor of old bad habits. Although it may seem like an issue of semantics, creating a spending plan in lieu of a budget can be empowering. Rather than restricting any unnecessary spending, you’ll be prioritising and planning for the purchases and experiences you value.
Your spending plan doesn’t need to be complicated — if you’ve already taken steps #1 and #2, the only data missing from this equation is your income. In many cases, you may find that your cuts have already freed up enough monthly income to begin paying down debt.
#4: Make investing automatic
You don’t need to be a millionaire to begin investing. If you have long term financial goals, or even life plans that are going to require high expenses, investing your money could provide you with great returns. There are a variety of investment options out there, so it’s important that you find one what’s most suited to your needs. With that said, don’t do it alone and ensure you seek the help of professional advisors.
#5: Watch your fees
If your eyes glaze over at the thought of comparing company prospectuses to make the best investing decision, you may want to look at some key numbers — perhaps the most important, the fee charged. Every percentage point you pay in management and administration fees is money that isn’t being reinvested into your account, so keeping these fees as low as possible is the easiest way to maximise returns.
#6: Compare returns
Once you’ve started investing, it’s important to put your money where it will work best for you. If you’re just starting out and have decades before retirement, you’ll usually need a more aggressive portfolio to keep up with inflation; someone who is hoping to tap into these funds in the next decade may want a more conservative approach.
#7: Utilise online tips and guides
When seeking investment guidance, there are many materials available online and are often free. For example, Fisher Investments UK offers free investment guides via their website, or the Money Advice Service provides calculators and how tips on saving money.
Managing your money effectively can be a difficult habit to get into, but hopefully by following these tips and seeking sufficient guidance, you’ll be able to achieve much greater financial security.