Getting your personal finances in order and keeping them that way is an important skill – perhaps a more important one now than ever. Between the high-powered financial options anyone can take advantage of and the time-saving shortcuts anyone can abuse, it is all too easy to lose control of your money. Here are some basic tips about hanging on to your personal financial reins.
If you are currently paying for your checking account, it’s time to find a new one. Banks compete for your business, and so many offer free checking with amenities and services similar to those you used to have to pay for. Shop around and find one that won’t charge you on a monthly basis.
To help you keep better track of your money, be sure to categorize all of your expenses. Have one category for fixed expenses like the mortgage payment, another for variable expenses like the phone bill and credit card payments, and a third for things like shopping trips or meals out.
When your boiler or furnace breaks, look at the average life expectancy of these items prior deciding to get it fixed. If it is close to the end of its life, you will save more money just replacing it instead of repairing it since it more then likely will just break down again sometime soon after. Plus a new one will work more efficiently.
When it comes to maintaining your financial health, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is establish an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid sliding into debt in the event you or your spouse loses your job, needs medical care or has to face an unexpected crisis. Setting up an emergency fund is not hard to do, but requires some discipline. Figure out what your monthly expenses are and set a goal to save 6-8 months of funds in an account you can easily access if needed. Plan to save a full 12 months of funds if you are self-employed.
Over the course of your life, you will want to make sure to maintain the best possible credit score that you can. This will play a large role in low interest rates, cars and homes that you can purchase in the future. A great credit score will offer you substantial benefits.
Do not borrow from your 401K. Consider this the same as robbing yourself, because you are taking valuable money from your retirement account. While you are using the funds for something else, they cannot be in the market gaining interest. In addition, you are likely to pay high fees and taxes.
Set up an automatic payment with your credit card companies. In many cases you can set up your account to be paid directly from your checking account each month. You can set it up to just pay the minimum balance or you can pay more automatically. Be sure to keep enough funds in your checking account to pay these bills.
Personal finance also includes estate planning. This includes, but is not limited to, drawing up a will, assigning a power of attorney (both financial and medical) and setting up a trust. Power of attorneys give someone the right to make decisions for you in the event that you can not make them for yourself. This should only be given to someone whom you trust to make decisions in your best interest.
Gaining control of your finances is not just economically prudent. It can be a source of great personal satisfaction and even pride. Using methods like those outlined above, you can keep a tight leash on your personal finances and bring your money to heel. Personal finance is all about making your money behave the way you want it to.