Believe me, I know how busy everyday life can get, and it is often an excuse people use as a reason why their household finances are struggling. I’ll be the first to admit that I used that reason in the past, and even today I still use it sometimes!
While you may not want to hear this — especially if you already feel behind — I’ve got to give it to you straight. Personal financial management is a progressive process, and it needs your attention on a consistent, regular basis.
There are a few things you can do each week to help you develop financial stability:
1. Read Your Statements
Whenever you check your mail, open all bills and statements immediately, and review them. This is likely the only way you’ll catch mistakes or situations where fraud comes into play. Never just file the correspondence you are getting from creditors without first looking through everything line by line.
If you no longer receive the paper statements, since many banks are trying to phase them out in favor of the electronic statements, be sure that you carefully review the electronic versions too.
2. Reconcile Your Checkbook
Because we no longer just write checks, it is important to make sure you are accounting for all money spent on ATM, debit, and bank credit cards. Do the math each week, daily if possible, so that you always know where you stand financially to prevent overdraft fees.
3. Track Your Spending to the Penny
This can be an overwhelming task for some people to consider but it is necessary. Once you get into the habit of jotting down every single penny you spend in the course of a week, the better you will become at money management. The habit of tracking spending will also become second nature if you stick with it.
Ask your bank for a paper check register and that makes tracking each transaction super easy!
4. Review Your Budget
Think of your budget as a living organism. It’s something that needs maintenance, and constant updating. Ideally, to make your budget effective you should be writing down how much you plan to spend on things as well as how much you are actually spending to know exactly how to make your money work.
5. Account for Your Income
If you earn income from a variety of sources outside of just one paycheck every two weeks, make sure you are noting how much you’re actually bringing in. This is the only way you can be sure you have included every penny coming into your household.
6. Review Savings Goals
Ideally, you have written down savings goals for the short and long term but if you haven’t you can do it now. Having automated deposits directed into a savings account earmarked for different goals is a sure-fire way to find success at achieving the goals you set. Every week, check in with your goals, and make sure they are still relevant. When you attain one goal set a new one until all your goals are met. It’s a fun way to get excited about your progress!
7. Have a Marital Money Meeting
When one spouse is the primary money manager, it is important that both halves of the couple know what is going on. Sitting down for 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted time will allow couples to discuss money matters, goals, and stay in touch with the family finances.
Is there something you do each week to keep your finances on track? If so, I’d love to hear what it is in the comments.