Financial responsibility isn’t always easy to learn, but it’s an essential part of taking control of your finances and using your income to its fullest. This responsibility can lead to better spending tendencies that can, in turn, help you pay off your debts faster and build up savings to protect you in the future. So if you’ve struggled to stay on top of your spending, here are a few key ways you can adjust your habits and mindset to better meet your financial goals.
Create and stick to a realistic budget
Budgeting is a great first step toward managing your finances. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Certified Financial Planner Board, people who budget feel more financially secure and confident than those who don’t. When you budget, you’re being strategic with your spending and controlling where your money goes each month. Budgeting strategies like the 50/30/20 method—where 50 percent of your income goes toward necessary living expenses, 30 percent is spent on your additional wants like eating out and entertainment, and 20 percent is put directly into savings—can help you create a realistic budget and become more financially responsible and secure.
Keep all your monthly expenses in one place
It’s essential to know what bills you must pay each month and when they’re due since missing one can hurt your credit score and end up costing you more money. It’s a good idea to have a spreadsheet that lists all your recurring expenses and their due dates. If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, you can instead use an app like Mint or even just make a note on your phone to better track your recurring expenses. It’s also important to automate your payments so you won’t have to actively think about them. Whatever method you opt for, tracking bills and expenses can help you keep up with your spending and give you an idea of how much will be coming out of your account and when.
Start giving yourself a weekly allowance
Many people receive an allowance growing up, but this tends to stop when you’re an adult and start earning a paycheck. However, setting up a weekly spending allowance for yourself can help you cut back on excess spending. You can set aside cash for each week or simply have a set number in mind to put on your debit or credit card. Either way, an allowance shows you how much money to dedicate to lunches, coffee, home goods, and anything else that you might want to buy in a given week. Having a specific number helps you to say no to that extra dinner out and instead save money by making something at home.
Consider saving as a payment to yourself
Setting aside a specific portion of your income each month can help you save for an upcoming trip, additional spending during the holidays, or emergency expenses. Putting money directly into your savings can give you a sense of security, so look at it as a payment to your future self. You’re preventing potential headaches down the road when it comes time to spend extra money on something, and you’ll be grateful that you had the forethought to put money away when you did.
Plan for larger purchases
Before making an expensive purchase, be it for a new piece of furniture or a nice outfit, it’s important to think it through. You don’t want to make a rash decision, especially if the item far exceeds what you’re used to spending. Give yourself some time to consider the purchase and plan out how you’re going to save for it. You can set aside money every paycheck for the item, allocate funds outside of your usual savings, or, if you’re dipping into your savings, check to make sure the purchase won’t bring the total amount too low for comfort. Taking control of your spending is about being strategic with your purchases and giving big expenses more consideration than you may have in the past.
Pay off your credit cards every month
Credit cards can be a great financial tool to have, but paying off the full balance every month is an important part of being more financially responsible. Just as important, they often have high interest rates that can significantly increase your debt if you don’t pay the entire balance—so it’s important to manage them the best you can. If you find that you can’t pay the full amount each month, consider adjusting your spending habits. Instead of picking up coffee every morning, eating all your lunches out, or adding a new item to your virtual cart every day, you can save money by making your own coffee and lunches and cutting back on your online shopping. These expenses may not seem like a lot in the moment, but they can quickly add up and create a high monthly balance that isn’t always easy to pay in full.
Regularly review your spending
To make sure that you’re continuing to stay on top of your finances, you want to regularly review your spending. Look at your credit card statements and your savings and checking accounts, and see what you are spending your income on each month. Carefully reviewing your accounts can help you better understand your financial habits and see where perhaps you’re spending too much and need to cut back. It’s simply a way to hold yourself accountable, allowing you to adjust your spending accordingly.
By taking a few easy steps to better control your spending, you can manage your finances and become more financially secure.