When you look at your financial life what do you see? Do you see a big stack of unpaid bills? Bank statements you never bothered to open? A checking account that’s just about bottomed out?
Well, the good news, if you see this as good news, is that most of us have problems with our money. Our lives are demanding, we have busy stressful careers and our families eat up most of our calories and our energy. Again, if you’re typical you probably just don’t feel that you have either the desire or the time available to get your finances under control
In your heart of hearts you probably want to have a better financial life but it’s tough to know where to get started. Fortunately, it’s not really that difficult. What you need is a monthly schedule to get your finances on track. It’s really not much different from having a daily and weekly routine for yourself. You need to develop a plan that will help keep you concentrating on accomplishing your financial and personal goals. And you can really get the majority of your money problems behind you in just six weeks.
Here’s the blueprint.
Week one: Create two or three personal goals
Sit down and think about your life and organize your future by creating a series of short-term goals. Then make an action plan to achieve those goals that has a timeline with some small steps to get you to where you need to go. Start saving money for those goals and you’ll reach them quicker. If you have a problem setting goals here’s a video courtesy of National Debt Relief that could help …
Week two: Make a spending plan
You’ve probably heard this 1000 times but if you’re now in a money in/money out cycle that leaves you grasping for pennies at the end of a month, this is the time to take the guesswork out of it. If you want to reach your goals and in time you will need to find ways cut your spending. Good places to start are entertainment, dining out, clothing and groceries. These are the areas where it’s usually easiest to cut spending. In comparison, it can be very difficult to reduce your spending on fixed expenses such as your rent or mortgage and any auto payments. The category of groceries is one where most people find they can reduce their spending without really sacrificing anything. All it takes is menu planning, careful shopping and some coupons.
If you find you’re having a hard time making a spending plan, you might book a session with your local, nonprofit credit-counseling agency. You would be assigned a counselor that will review all of your spending and help you create a plan for reducing it. Most of these agencies charge nothing or very little for their help and sometimes the most important thing you can do is have an objective, third-party person analyze your spending and help you develop a plan for cutting it.
Week three: Work on reducing your debt
Unfortunately, it’s easy to overspend especially when it comes to credit cards. When you don’t have enough cash to pay for something it’s just too darn easy to whip out that piece of plastic and charge it. But if you’re carrying a big load of debt, you may be paying so much interest that it’s weighing down your finances. Make a plan to get rid of any debt you have that that isn’t fixed such as a mortgage. You need to find ways to simplify your payables. If you have high credit card debt, you might check into a debt consolidation loan. The upside of one of these loans is that you would then have just one payment to make a month in place of the multiple ones you’re probably making now and that payment should be lower than the sum of your current payments. However, there are a couple of downsides to a debt consolidation loan. First, it will have a longer term such as seven or even 10 years, which means you’ll end up paying more interest over the life of the loan. And if you don’t have good enough credit to get a personal loan you may have to get a homeowner’s equity line of credit (HELOC) or homeowners equity loan. In either event, you would be putting your house at risk because if you were to default on the loan, you could end up out on the street.
Week 4: Consolidate your credit cards
How many credit cards are in your wallet? If you have three or more, this is just making your financial life that’s much more complicated. This means you have to keep track of all of those different transactions and balances and which days of the month you must make your payments in order to avoid missing one, which would damage your credit score. Instead, try to consolidate down to just one or at the most two cards. For that matter, you could transfer all of your credit card balances to a new 0% interest balance transfer card. You should be able to find one of that offers as many as 18 months interest free, which would give you a year and a half to pay down your balance before you would be required to pay a cent in interest. Plus, you would then need to remember and make just one payment a month.
Week 5: Put everything on autopilot
Take sometime this week to put your savings and your bill paying on autopilot. You know you need to pay yourself first and that you want to have a decent retirement. When you set up an automatic transfer each pay period from your checking to your savings account, it’s money you hardly miss because you never really see it. Ideally you should begin with an emergency fund equivalent to six months worth of living expenses. If that seems too daunting, try for at least three months worth. You should be able to pay all or virtually all of your bills automatically and electronically. That way you could stop worrying about missing a payment and having your car repossessed or your electricity turned off.
Week 6: Review your insurance policies
Take a few hours to sit down and review all your home, life, and auto insurance policies and their coverage so there will never be any unpleasant surprises. Do you know your coverages especially when it comes to disability? They might have changed recently. Even if you’re content with your current insurer you should comparison shop at least once a year. This is relatively easy to do through sites such as esurance.com and netquote.com. Be sure to check your auto insurance’s liability limits to make sure you would be adequately covered in the case of an accident.
If you have a will get it out and review it. This is especially important if your family situation has changed due to marriage or a birth. And if you don’t have a will you need to get one. It’s the only way you can control what happens to your money should you die suddenly and without warning. Otherwise, a court will likely be required to do this for you, which could be a very bad thing.
You might not be able to solve every money problem in just six weeks but if you follow this program you should be able to take much of the stress out of your life and get your money under control. The important thing is to focus on these easy-to-implement strategies. This will free up time for you because you’ll be worrying less and more able to focus on what really matters the most – which is living your life to the best today.