Living the life you choose doesn’t happen by chance. To become financially secure and achieve your lifestyle goals you need patience, discipline and time. Follow these easy steps…
Have a plan
Imagine that you board an aeroplane and the captain announces that you’ve been cleared for take-off. He informs you that it will be a bit bumpy at first but after clearing the clouds should be a smooth flight. He goes further to say that on board is fourteen hours’ worth of fuel and that they plan to burn off that fuel and hope that when it runs out, you will land in a nice place.
Not the kind of flight you would like to be on, is it?
And yet so many of us fly like this daily. We have a job, earn some money, spend it (hopefully save some of it) and when we reach the end of our careers, hope to be in a nice place. Unfortunately, for many, we are not satisfied with where we end up.
A financial plan, much like a flight plan, is designed to help you arrive at your planned destination. Sure, there will be some turbulence along the way, but revisiting your plan will ensure a safe landing.
Keeping track of your monthly expenses using a budget is an essential tool in your financial plan. Without it, you won’t know where your money is going. Creating a budget may seem tedious, but you might be surprised at just how valuable it can be. A good budget can help keep your spending on track or uncover hidden cash flow problems that might free up more money to put towards your other financial goals.
The hardest part of creating a budget is sitting down and actually creating one. Start by taking stock for a month. Once you’ve taken the time to create a budget, it’s time to make sure you follow it. Budgeting can be like going on a diet—you start with good intentions, but after a few weeks or months you drift away from your plan.
Here are a few steps that will ensure budgeting success:
Identify how you’re spending money. What are the monthly expenses? Do you go out to dinner with friends every Friday night or go to the movies once a week? Looking at where your money is going will give you a better handle on tracking it.
Keep a journal. In the early stages of keeping a budget, it might be helpful to keep a daily journal of your spending habits. Write down what you spend money on each day. Watch for repeated purchases which might be easily avoidable, like a trip to the coffee shop every morning.
Leave your credit card at home. It’s very easy (and tempting) to whip out your credit card to buy one of those must-have specials. To prevent shooting from the hip, leave your credit card at home and allow yourself time to carefully consider the purchase.
Saving isn’t possible for everyone: repaying debts may take priority and it’s only possible to save when you have ‘spare’ money. When you’re living to a strict budget there might be little or no spare money to set aside.
Unexpected events happen, the car breaks down or medical treatment is required, and these unplanned expenses can place you under financial pressure. Living below your income allows you to save thereby creating an emergency fund to cushion the financial blow of a potential crisis.
Another important reason to save money is your retirement. The sooner you start saving for retirement, the less you will have to save in the future. As you continue to contribute over time you will be earning more interest on the money you have, then you put in each month.