Realizing that your finances are out of whack can happen in any number of ways. You may be out with friends enjoying a nice dinner and a few drinks when your credit card is declined. Or you may sit down to pay bills and realize that there is never quite enough money to cover everything at the end of the month.
Regardless of whether you’re learning to maintain a budget for the first time or you’ve allowed some poor financial habits to sneak into your life, there is always time to give your finances a makeover and get on the right track. After all, maintaining your finances is the key to a comfortable and successful life.
Finances are a tricky beast that can cause a lot of stress and make many of us feel as though we’ll never figure them out. Although there is certainly a fair amount of belt tightening that must happen if you’re finances are troublesome, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help make everything a bit easier.
Build Greater Knowledge
It may come as somewhat of a surprise, but the majority of Americans are not very financially literate. Unfortunately, this lack of comfort and thorough understanding of finances can have a profound impact on your long-term ability to save money and get ahead. If you are looking to revamp your budget and give your finances a makeover, one of the best ways to start is by building an understanding of the system you’re working in.
Financial literacy plays a role in every aspect of what you do with your money including:
- Protecting your money
Although numerous studies show that learning the ins and outs of finances early makes a big difference in future financial decisions, unfortunately, most public schools do not require a personal finance class for their students in order to graduate. This means that if your parents don’t teach you about personal finance, you’re on your own to teach yourself.
Once you’ve got the basics in financial literacy down, it is time to start getting to work on your personal finances. Build your knowledge of your own budget by determining:
- How much you earn versus how much you spend every month.
- Which are your fixed expenses and which are your flexible ones.
- What your savings goals are.
- What your priority debt reduction payments are.
- Ways you can reduce monthly expenses.
The next step in giving your finances a makeover is making some serious determinations about the financial institutions and companies you are using for spending, saving, and investing. Are you getting the most out of your current bank and credit cards, or are you constantly getting slammed with hidden fees and ATM charges? Just because you started with one company doesn’t mean you have to stay loyal to them forever.
Do a little bit of research to gain a better understanding of the difference between big banks and credit unions and decide which is best for your lifestyle. When it comes to credit cards, look for those that don’t charge an annual fee and do offer rewards that you’ll actually use such as cash back on purchases, zero foreign transaction fees, airline and hotel miles, or points at your favorite stores. Remember though, just because you have a great credit card doesn’t mean you should rack up a lot of debt on it.
Next consider different ways you can invest money to save for future expenses. Some people invest in bonds and various retirement accounts, while others may find that investing in bitcoins or other things actually works better for them. When it comes to investments, it is absolutely worth it to speak with a professional and have them help you get on the right track in preparing for the future while staying within your current budget.
Upgrade and Budget
Now that you’ve built up a bit of a financial knowledge and revamped your account holders to make them work better for you, it’s time to start developing a budget and putting it into action. Often when we think of a budget, we think of all the things we can’t do. But budgets are just like diets — they don’t work if you cut out all of the rewards. It is valuable to build in some room for fun or else sticking to your budget will not last long.
As you start implementing your new budget and watching its progress, you may quickly realize there are things that are regularly costing you more than they should. In order to lower costs, it may be worth looking into making some simple upgrades. For instance, there are a lot of small things that can be done around the house to save a bundle on your energy bill every month.
Budgets do not have to be static things. In fact, they should be regularly updated to reflect various changes in your income and plans. For example, if you know you have a big trip coming up in the next year, you can adjust your budget accordingly to help you start saving. Likewise, if you pick up a side hustle, you may be able to dedicate all of that income to a specific bill or savings account.
If your finances feel like they are getting out of hand or just feel disorganized in general, it may be time to start a financial makeover. In order to get the most out of a makeover, build a knowledge of finances in general and consider revamping your financial accounts. Create a budget that is going to work well for you and your lifestyle so you can make financial stability a habit and not a short-term thing. Good luck!
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