It’s easy to get overwhelmed by financial responsibilities. You might find that you’re ignoring your credit accounts and your budget because they add up to nothing but stress and confusion. We understand that things can get complicated. You might be trying to juggle utility bills, credit card statements, insurance premiums, an auto loan, rent payments, a revolving line of credit and even more – with all of them having different amounts and due dates. But if you do want to take better control of your financial life the secret is to first simplify things. And following are some tips that can help you create a structure for your finances that will make it easier for you to manage them.
Take some time to picture what you want your future to look like and then create the financial goals that would get you there. Then focus on them one at a time. The secret to achieving a big goal is to break it down into bite sized chunks. Your first chunk could be to increase your 401(k) or add to your emergency fund. You do, of course, have an emergency fund? If not that should be one of your primary goals – to save the equivalent of at least three months of living expenses. There’s no question that you will eventually run into some kind of financial emergency whether it’s that the transmission fell out of your car or you’re faced with a huge medical bill. You need be specific about your objectives and then plan the steps required to reach them. Writing down these goals as can help you both remember and stick to them.
Combine your insurance policies
You don’t need multiple accounts at multiple banks for the same reason you don’t need multiple insurance companies. If you have your auto insurance with one company and your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance with another you could bundle those policies and both save money and reduce stress. Take some time to compare the various companies and then choose the one that will help you save the most money when you consolidate. It’s fairly easy to do this these days with sites such as esurance.com, Bankrate.com and netquote.com. Just be sure you’re comparing apples to apples in that the policies from the different companies all have the same limits, deductibles and exclusions. Otherwise you could end up being penny wise but pound foolish.
If you have more than one checking and savings account it’s time to do some paring. There’s just no reason to have different accounts at different financial institutions. If this is true for you, simplify things by consolidating your bank accounts into one checking and one savings account at one bank. This will cut doen on both paperwork and the stress of trying to keep track of everything.
Make a realistic and comprehensive budget
If you’re ready to really take control of your finances you need to make sure you’re living within your means. This means you need to create a realistic and comprehensive budget. Then take the steps necessary to stick to it. When you track your spending and see where your money’s going you may be shocked at how much you’re spending in some of your categories. Fix these “leaks” and you’ll have money you could put to better use through saving or investing it.
Concentrate your credit card debts
Do you owe money on several high-interest credit cards? If so, consider transferring their balances to one with a lower interest rate or, if possible, to a 0% interest balance transfer card. This should make it easier for you to manage your debt as well as save money on interest. However, before you take the plunge be sure to determine if there is a balance transfer fee and what it would be. For example, the Chase Slate card has no balance transfer fee at all, which would definitely be a big plus. However, spoiler alert – you will need to have a decent credit score in order to get a good balance transfer offer. A good idea would be to check your credit score before you apply for a new card. You could get yours free at Creditkarma.com, Creditsesame.com or from one of the three credit reporting bureaus.
Lose the paper
Do you feel that you’re being buried alive by paperwork? There are important papers you need to have and papers you don’t really need to save. Go through everything and shred whatever it is you decide you don’t need. Then make your finances simpler by going paperless. Most banks and companies offer this feature and it can cut down considerably on filing and general clutter. Call your financial institutions and the other companies that bill you and set up paperless statements and then keep the bills in folders on your computer. That way you’ll have a record of them but will be relieved of the burden of figuring out what to do with all those bills.
Automate everything you can
If you find that you’re having a problem keeping track of your bills and paying them on time think about relieving yourself of the problem. Go online and set up automatic payments of all the bills you can, which are generally recurring bills or those you receive monthly. You can also set up direct deposits to your savings and investment accounts. That way you can see your financial goals being realized without having to do anything. Plus, if you never see the money going into your checking account, you can’t miss it or spend it.
Inventory all your stuff
Make an inventory of all of your possessions from furniture to clothes. Do this and it’s likely you’ll find that you have more stuff than you need and even things you’ve totally forgotten about. If you find you do have excess stuff, sell it off or donate it to a charity. You should find that getting rid of that stuff will go a long way towards decluttering your life.