If you're not the best at managing personal finances, there's no need to worry. You're certainly not alone, and chances are it's not too late to get started on the path to smart personal finance. Here's how to manage personal finances efficiently and effectively.
Analyze Your Monthly Spending
The first step toward personal finance management is analyzing your monthly spending. Go through your credit card statements, bank statements and pay stubs to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. Look for trends and areas for improvement, and most importantly, determine whether you make more than you spend each month. Either way, your finances could almost certainly benefit from tighter management.
Create a Budget
Determine what you need and want to spend each month, and make sure those numbers work with your earnings. If you don't have the time to monitor your finances manually, budget software is a great way to track your spending and earning easily. Input your monthly numbers, automatically download your transactions and let the software do the work for you. Make your budget reasonable and achievable, and you'll be more likely to adhere to it.
Reduce Spending Where Possible
If you typically shop wherever is most convenient without considering costs, introduce comparison shopping into your plans. Look around for sales and shop at lesser-known stores to save a few bucks and stay within your budget. Shopping warehouses and bulk-buying websites can also be great choices for saving while stocking up. Be sure to confirm that the price of any annual membership is worth the cost, and then shop till you drop or at least until you've met the limits of your budget.
Sometimes the biggest budget problems hide in series of smaller purchases. If you total the amount of money you spend eating lunch out every day, meeting up with friends for happy hour or grabbing a bite to eat on the weekends, you might be astonished by how much you spend on food and drinks. If you often withdraw cash without keeping a record of how and where you're spending a little here and there, you might be surprised how quickly it adds up. Track these purchases as best you can, and determine whether you actually have space for them in your budget. If you don't, develop a plan for reducing these small expenditures.
Establish an Emergency Fund
If you don't already have funds set aside for emergencies and unexpected events, it's time to start. Decide how much you plan to add to your emergency fund each month and automate the payments by scheduling a direct deposit from your employer or a transfer from your primary bank account. You'll be relieved that you took the time to do this when an emergency, such as a serious illness, struggling car, or job problem, throws a wrench into your plans.
Know When to Save and When to Contribute
Sometimes it makes sense to save your hard-earned money for an emergency or retirement, but other times it's best to pay off existing debts. Start by assessing how much of what you owe is high-interest debt. From there, calculate how much you're paying on interest alone monthly or annually. To determine how much you should ideally contribute toward retirement, consider meeting with a personal finance manager to discuss your best options.
Once you've stabilized your personal finances, be sure to reward yourself for sorting out your funds and working toward your goals. If you don't have space in your budget for your chosen reward, don't stress. Make it a new goal, and enjoy it once it's yours.