October 5-11 is Financial Planning Week. What are the best ways to improve your money and budgeting situation? These top five strategies will help.
Make saving a priority. Saving on a regular basis can be hard, but if you treat this as an expense, you’ll have better success. As with any bill, you should make it nonnegotiable to pay into your savings account each month. Even a little saved on a regular basis will make a difference. If you struggle with this strategy, consider an automatic deduction to a savings account to make it a no-brainer.
Plan for the unexpected.
A budget is crucial, but we don’t always know what is in the future. To prepare for the unexpected, you need an emergency fund. This is different from a long-term savings account because you should expect to use this money at any time. By realistically developing a working budget and having a reasonable emergency fund, you will have the means to pay all your expenses and avoid debt.
Understand your emotions.
It is important to understand your money personality and that of your spouse. If you tend to be a spender, recognizing this and developing strategies to manage your expectations is important. A person who tends toward saving as much as possible also needs to learn how to properly spend money. If you and your spouse are opposite money personalities, communication about your financial goals will help you develop a plan that works for both of you.
Set your goals.
Without goals, you will be unable to stay on track. Getting input from a good financial planner can help you see how much you need to save for retirement. Paying off debt should always be your first goal in financial planning. You also need to identify what you want to spend your money on. If you love to travel, then your extra money after savings may go toward that. If you have significant expenses coming up, like college for your kids, or the purchase of a new home, then you should be clear about those goals. Whatever your goals are, identifying them, talking about them, and tracking them is crucial.
Don’t bet on what you hope to happen.
Many people plan their financial present based on things they hope happen in their financial future. But if those things don’t materialize, you can be in trouble, especially if you are accumulating debt now in anticipation of a change in your situation. Until you actually get that bonus, move to a cheaper city, inherit that money, or see the stock market move up, don’t spend that money. It is better to have it actually be a bonus and increase in funds than to have to have it to have to deal with trying to come up with money you’ll never see.