Better Budgeting: Strategies to Get Control of Your Finances

Strategies to Get Control of Your Finances

Guest Article (featured column)
by Kathy Gates

The bottom line is simple…you can be in control of your finances. But you must first be in control of your choices.

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Here are 7 strategies to help you get control of your finances:

1. Determine your level of integrity about money. Are you being honest with yourself and with your partner (if applicable) about your personal finances? Do you spend money, and then hide the evidence? Do you find yourself trying to justify how the money was spent? Having integrity with your money means that you feel comfortable and honest with how it's being made, and how it's being spent. It means that you're living an honest financial life. It means that you pay your bills on time. It means that you are living up to your own personal standards.

2. Determine your relationship with money. Ask yourself some difficult questions. Are you spending money to impress or control people, buy love, or to give yourself a rush? Some people end up with nothing at the end of each month because they refuse to take responsibility for how they spend or invest it. But the other side of that coin is that some people never use any of their money to enjoy their lives. By knowing where your money is going, you will be able to make decisions based on what is actually happening in the present, instead of fears or doubts that you have left over from past experiences.

3. Create awareness about your money. How much do you make? How much do you spend? Do you have a budget? Do you know how your cash flow is? Do you know where you are spending your money? Do you know your net worth? Do you know how much your credit card interest rate is? Are you shocked at the end of the year when you see how much you earned, yet can't identify where the money has gone? Do you have savings in case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances? Are you insured?

4. Identify the differences between REAL expenses, and the "going-broke-saving-money" monster. Where is money being spent but not appreciated? The GBSM monster sucks up money for items that look too good to pass up. When this monster is locked up, it frees up funds for spending on something much more useful or worthwhile to you. Would you tear up $500 and throw it into the garbage? Of course not. Yet you throw away the same amount of money on magazines you subscribe to but never read, phone services you don't use, gym memberships you don't attend. Couldn't you use that $500 a year on something that might actually bring joy to your life or help secure your future? Don't continue a mistake; look for the GBSM monster, and put a leash on it. Now that you have identified and corrected any of the problems listed above, you are ready to move into establishing a base from which you can use your money as a tool to get you what you want. Make a plan, stick to it.

5. If you are in a marriage or business situation, negotiation is key. Both partners must agree on how much and how the money is spent. Dr. Phil McGraw of "Life Strategies" says that all decisions between partners require 2 Yes's and 1 No. If either party disagrees with a purchase, it doesn't happen. Negotiate what you spend and how you spend it. Each partner should also have an agreed upon amount that he/she doesn't have to account for. You're a grown-up. Act like one.

6. Define a specific, measurable goal. Don't settle for "save for down payment". Decide how much you need and when you need it by and how much you need to save each week to get there. For example, if you need $10,000 for a down payment and you want a new house by this time next year, you will need to save $192.30/ week ($10,000/52 weeks). Next determine how that will be saved, either by automatic withdrawal, writing out a weekly check, etc.

7. Spend less than you make. Sounds simple. But it's an obvious idea that many people completely ignore. Understand that it's not a money problem...it's a lifestyle problem. You must set up your lifestyle to support whatever goal you want, whether that be saving money, eating less food, running a marathon, or learning to play the piano.

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Copyright © 2001 by Kathy Gates. All rights reserved.

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