We don’t like to think that money rules the world, but in some ways, it actually does. This doesn’t mean that money should come before family, health, relationships, or personal happiness, but we should look after our finances. If we don’t control our money, it will start to control us, and that scenario doesn’t usually have a happy ending.
Truthfully, many people are afraid of money. They don’t know much about how finances really work, so they become lost in a system designed to keep us in the dark. Think about it – if everyone knew how to make their money work for them, we would have a lot more millionaires and billionaires in the world. People who have accumulated wealth (unless they inherited it) have to start off just like we do in the world.
The only difference between them and us is that they take the right kind of financial risks because they have immersed themselves in learning about money. So, in order to get on top of your finances, we will go over a few things you should get in the habit of doing with your money.
“If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” —Edmund Burke
Here are 20 ways to have more control of your finances:
Make a budget.
If you don’t know how much you’re spending each month, it’s next to impossible to track your finances. To make a budget, simply write down how much your fixed bills are and how much you’d like your variable bills to be (such as groceries, electricity, gas, etc.). Add it all up and keep it somewhere visible so you can reference it often.
Above all else, make sure you actually stick to your budget; it does no good to make one if you don’t follow it!
Cut down on monthly bills.
One surefire way to gain control over your finances is to have more money in the bank. What’s the quickest way to do that? Other than winning the lottery, it boils down to cutting out unnecessary bills. If you’re serious about having more money, you’ll want to get rid of anything superfluous, such as cable.
Next, call your electric provider to see what you can do to lower that bill. Examine your insurance policies to see if you can save money somewhere or even switch providers if you have to. Then, call your cell phone company to see if they’re running any promotions. Perhaps you have an old plan and can upgrade to a newer, possibly cheaper one. It may take time and effort, but saving money on your monthly bills will be well worth it.
Cook meals instead of eating out.
Avoiding cooking is easier than ever with all of the delivery services and fast-food restaurants available. However, what you gain in convenience by eating out, you lose in cash. In fact, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends $3,008 per year on eating out. That amounts to a little over $250 per month, which is basically a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four.
According to a comparison of ordering delivery from a restaurant, cooking at home, and using a meal kit service, Forbes found that it’s almost five times more expensive to order take-out than cook at home, and almost three times more expensive to use a meal kit delivery service.
So, the clear winner here is learning to cook meals at home and saving thousands of dollars per year by doing so.
Learn about investing to expand your finances.
Investing is another topic that scares people, but it shouldn’t. If you invest your money wisely and do adequate research beforehand, you shouldn’t feel threatened by the world of trading and investing.
Pick up a few books on the topic or, if you have extra money, hire an investment expert who will help guide you.
Pay down debts.
Debt can cripple people, especially when they live beyond their means and rack up thousands in credit card debt. Unfortunately, that’s the exact scenario many Americans are finding themselves in.
The average American household carries a whopping $137,063 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest report. This is because many people live well beyond their means. So, if you have any debt at all, work on paying it down before adding to it.
Avoid using your credit cards whenever possible.
As we stated above, credit card debt is out of control. In fact, according to an annual Experian report on the state of credit and debt in America, the average American has $6,375 in credit card debt, which is 3% higher than last year.
The solution? Pay down your credit cards, and don’t use them unless absolutely necessary.
To take control of finances, set aside money for savings each month.
In order to get a clear financial picture, you need to know how much you should have in savings. Too many people only think about the present and avoid thinking about the future, which means they won’t have much saved when they retire. So, start now and put aside whatever you can in a savings account. Try to look for a high-yield savings account so you can earn more interest.
Buy used instead of new.
This goes for most things, but especially cars. Did you know that the average new car depreciates by 10% the moment you drive it off the lot? On average, a new car loses 60% of its value in the first five years of its life. Used cars depreciate as well, but typically at a much lower rate. Overall, you save a lot more money buying a used car than a new car.
This goes for many other items as well, such as appliances, laptops, furniture, and more. When you need something, opt for the used version instead of the new. It may have a little wear and tear, but as long as it works well, it can save you thousands.
Set up a financial plan.
Too many people live paycheck to paycheck instead of planning for the future. If you want to take control of your finances, you need a clear idea of how to utilize your money. Make a plan and include things like saving for retirement, buying a home (or paying off your mortgage), and any other big goals you have in the future.
Stick to your grocery list.
Buying impulse items at the store week after week can really add up. Make sure you write down what you need at the store and stick to that list. That way, you know exactly how much you’ll be spending each week on groceries.
Don’t buy anything you don’t need.
Furthermore, think about what you really need in life if you want to accumulate money. After all, many people are excellent at spending money but not so good at saving it. To combat this, analyze what you really need in life, which is the same for all of us: food, shelter, water, and clothing.
Once you have those basic needs met, try not to buy much else outside of that – at least not until you have met your financial goals.
Challenge yourself to a “spending fast”.
A spending fast means going a week to a month without spending any money (aside from bills, of course). This will be a perfect practice to show you what you truly need.
Have multiple sources of income.
It’s important to diversify your income in case you lose your job. For example, you could start an online business or invest in stocks in order to increase your financial security.
Improve your job skills.
The job market is always changing, so you may need to go back to school for an advanced degree or get more certifications so you can continue to compete in the marketplace.
Put money for groceries and other variable expenses on prepaid cards.
This way, you will only use the money on the cards and not fall victim to impulsive spending.
Or, set aside cash each month for spending.
Alternatively, you can take out cash for spending each month. Once that’s gone, you’ll have to wait until next month to spend more of your disposable income.
Save money for retirement.
Take whatever you can from each paycheck and put it in a separate retirement account. This way, you’ll have a nice little nest egg for the future and won’t have to worry about living expenses.
Take advantage of coupons whenever possible.
Download apps like Groupon to take advantage of savings on everything from groceries to indoor golf. Check weekly grocery store ads in your mail to see if they offer any coupons. Basically, use any coupons you can find to save money!
Make a dinner menu for the whole month.
This might seem tedious, but it works. You’ll be able to see what you’re eating for the whole month, which will make sticking to a grocery list a lot easier. You’ll end up saving money by not buying things you don’t need.
Read books about finances.
To truly gain control of your finances, you need to fully immerse yourself in the world of money. Knowledge is power, so take courses, read books, and hire a financial advisor if you have the extra cash. The effort you put forth now will pay off exponentially in the future.
Money is a daunting subject for most people, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you are financially responsible, learn as much as you can about finance, and take advantage of resources available to you, you’ll probably do just fine.