Here are twelve simple but effective steps to take control of your finances by taking control of your money.
- Set financial goals
If you set goals, they can help guide you even when things get tough. When you have to make a decision about money, your goals can help you stay focused on what’s important.
- Track every penny you spend
This is the best way to become conscious of how money actually comes and goes in your life as opposed to how you think it comes and goes. It doesn’t matter how you track your spending — the most important thing is to do it. This is also one of the most effective ways to lose weight if you are on a diet - just write down every calorie you eat and every calorie you burn.
- Develop a budget
After you’ve tracked your spending for a few weeks (or months), use the data you’ve collected to develop a budget. Budgeting is one thing that sets the wealthy apart from the rest of us — 55% of millionaires keep a budget. Spending less money than you earn can put you ahead of your peers.
- Review your bills
At least once each year, you should review the contracts and agreements you have with various banks and service providers. This is also a great time to review your financial accounts to be sure everything still matches your needs.
- Optimize your accounts
Why do you have multiple credit cards? Do you really use your fitness center? Do you need to subscribe to Netflix and Hulu? Do you read that subscription to that website and can you get your news from a different source? Cancel things that you haven't used in the last 30 days and then be intentional (see below) about adding them back to your life.
- Start an emergency fund
After you’ve optimized your accounts, make it a priority to save money for emergencies. I think an emergency fund should come before anything else.
- Get out of debt
Are you struggling under a heavy debt load from credit cards or student loans? Make it a priority to unload some of this this burden. If you have the mental discipline, you’ll save money by paying down your high-interest debt first. But if you’ve tried that method before and failed, consider using a debt snowball. Pay your debts starting with the smallest balance first.
- Fund your retirement
If you’re young, you probably don’t think you need to start a retirement account. You’re wrong. No matter how old you are, now is the time to begin saving money for retirement. The extraordinary power of compound interest favors the young — and in a big way!
- Automate your finances
When you make things automatic, you remove the human element, making it more difficult for you to mess things up. One terrific advantage to automation: when you pay your bills and do your saving and investing automatically, it’s easy to tell how much you have left over to spend at the end of each month!
- Earn extra money
You can meet a lot of your financial goals by reducing your spending and using the right tools. But nothing supercharges your progress like a boost in income. How can you earn extra money?
- Learn to only intentionally spend money
Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. You’re not giving up the good stuff for the rest of your life. Instead, frugality is about choosing to spend it on the things that are important to you while cutting back ruthlessly on the things that aren’t. Intentional spending implies that you’re actively choosing to spend on some things and not on others. The biggest way to intentionally spend is to never buy something on the same day that you see it. Always wait for 48 hours after you have found that perfect item, to actually buy it. Those 48 hours may convince you not to buy it and you will have more money for the effort.
- Educate yourself
Knowledge is power. Personal finance doesn’t have to be a mystery. Subscribe to this site or subscribe to my newsletter. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and StockTwits.Most of all, read my book. It is likely the best investment to your financial future that you will make. You can purchase my book wherever books are sold such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books A Million. It is available in e-book formats for Nook, Kindle, and iPad.I will do my best to make you a more confident investor.