Similar to achieving any goal, creating a stable financial situation requires that you make a plan, and then follow through on it. In theory, it’s easy. But as we all know, following through on your decisions can be difficult. Because of that, we’re going to provide you with six easy-to-follow steps that anyone can follow to achieve a happier and more secure financial foundation in their life.
Step 1: Stop Impulse Buying
The biggest reason why some people are always broke is because they constantly indulge in impulse buys that don’t contribute to their financial goals. Whether it be dining out or making online purchases, we’re all guilty of it. But if you can recognize the severity of this problem, you’ll be in a better position to change it. So stop the spending and only focus on what you need.
Step 2: Track All Expenses
How can you possibly develop a solid financial foundation if you don’t even know where all your money is going? By knowing what your spending habits are like, you can then see where there’s some room to save money.
If you’ve never tracked your expenses before, consider participating in the following challenge: track every expense (even tiny ones) for the next 30 days. Mark them down in an Excel spreadsheet. It doesn’t need to be pretty, just practical. Then, after the 30 days are over, cross out what you don’t need and circle what you overspent on. Now you can successfully cut down on the following month’s expenses!
Step 3: Invest in the Future
If you’re in your 20s, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the distant future. But you should. There’s no better time than now to start planning for retirement. For example, if you start a 401(k) in your 20s, and contribute to it regularly, then you’ll have a hefty safety net in 30 years. Invest money in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds too. If you’re unfamiliar with how these investment options work, then partake in some self-education (it will go a long way towards helping your financial future).
Step 4: Pay Off Current Debt (and Avoid Future Debt)
If you had to choose only one thing to apply from this article, it should definitely be this tip. Paying off current debt, and staying out of future debt, is the best way to better your financial situation. Avoid taking out too many loans or applying for too many credit cards. If you’ve got school debt, focus on paying that off as quickly as possible. The less money you owe, the more you’ll be able to save each and every month. Even if you can only afford to pay $100 a month towards your debt, that’s still a significant amount after three years (12 months x $100 = $3,600).
Step 5: Use the “Envelope System”
This simple, yet, highly effective system can make all the difference in your finances. Here’s how it works: let’s pretend that you have three different expenses that you have to pay each day (gas, lunch, and dinner). Withdraw the exact amount of money that you plan on spending for each one, and place them in separate envelopes (one envelope per expense). Now you’ll be less likely to overspend, and if you do, then you know that you’re probably spending too much in these areas.
Step 6: Pay Bills Right Away
Don’t wait to pay your bills. Sign up for automatic payments and pay them immediately. The biggest benefit to this is that you won’t forget to pay a bill, which can result in late fees. Secondly, you won’t be able to accidentally spend bill money since it’s taken out of your bank account automatically.
Building a more secure financial situation isn’t going to happen overnight. You need to be patient and disciplined. If you follow the six steps above, there’s no reason why you can’t be living comfortably within two or three years.