When you’re constantly living paycheck-to-paycheck, financial security can feel very far away. It’s not as hard as it seems, however. All you need to get there is a plan. With a few simple steps, you can develop a plan, meet your savings goals and improve your credit.
Here are six simple steps that you can follow to get your finances organized.
1. Create a Budget for All Daily Expenses
Budgets are the basis of managing your money. When you hear that word, you may be thinking of long sheets of numbers and complicated math, but the truth is that developing a budget is really very simple.
To start, develop one that’s just for your daily expenses. Take your monthly paycheck and subtract the amount you spend on expenses like rent, car payments, and phone bills. What’s left should be divided by the number of days in the month to determine how much you have to spend every day.
This number may be a lot lower than you expect, but don’t let that worry you. Most people live a little above their means when it comes to costs like lunches, coffee, and small luxuries. Now that you’re aware of what you’re really spending, you can begin the work of organizing.
Your next step is to divert a little of that money into savings.
2. Start Saving
Use your understanding of your daily budget to start saving every day. You may have very little room to save right now, but even small amounts will pay off in the future. See how much you can save on your daily expenses by doing things like switching to cheaper brands, taking public transportation instead of your car or cutting out some products and services.
Once you get a rhythm started, it will help to open a savings account so that you have a separate place to store money. If you can’t access it through your debit card, it will be easier for you to avoid unnecessary spending.
The small amounts that you can save will be the building blocks for your long-term financial goals.
3. Set Long-Term Financial Goals
Now that you know how much you can save every day, you can figure out much you can save every month—or every year. Respond to this awareness by creating long-term financial goals.
Some good goals for beginners may be things paying off credit cards or student loans. Creating an emergency fund is a good idea for anyone, as it can be used during events like health crises or unplanned home repairs.
If you are in a better situation, you can also focus on improving your net worth by investing in stocks, or maxing out your contributions to your retirement fund.
Once you’ve completed a few of these goals, you’ll likely see an improved credit score. However, that’s only something you’ll know if you take the step of monitoring your credit reports.
4. Start Monitoring Your Credit Reports
Monitoring your credit reports is necessary to find out where you stand financially. Having a good score will allow you to save significant amounts of money on interests rates for almost any kind of purchase.
Monitoring your credit is simple with any of the free applications that you can find with a quick search. You can see your credit on your phone or your computer as long as you have an internet connection. While having your credit “checked” by companies can lower the score, checking it on your own has no negative effects.
When you start to see improvement based on the earlier steps, you can start thinking about seeing a financial planner.
5. Start Meeting with a Financial Planning Expert
You’re ready to see a financial planner once you’ve followed these steps and reached the point where your income is more organized.
A financial planner (also sometimes known as a money manager) will help you set long-term goals based on expertise and a professional understanding of the market. The retirement savings you develop with the help of a planner will likely be better than those you can develop on your own.
6. Remember, Habit is the Key to Success
All of the previous steps having something very important in common—they are only possible if you take the development of financial habits very seriously.
You know that you need to start saving, set long-term goals, monitor your credit reports and start working with a financial planner, but none of those things are going to come easily at first. This isn’ because they’re difficult, but just because you aren’t used to doing them, yet.
Put the work into creating the habits even before they’re resulting in many changes, and you’ll be on your way to reaching the financial situation you’ve always dreamed of having.