Making sure that you have more money coming in than going out is important, but it is maximizing every dollar that comes in that will set you up for success not only right now, but to build for your future. Your salary will hopefully increase throughout the years until retirement, so it is important to live modestly, while saving as much as you can so you will have enough to live off and enjoy all of life’s moments when you no longer have to work every day.
Evaluate Retirement Savings
You don’t want it to be too late to start worrying about your retirement account, even though it may be decades before you retire. Think about how long you have been in your current job, even how long it’s been since you have been out of college. It may seem like yesterday even though it could have been many years ago. Not that decades will fly by that fast, but if you don’t start caring about your retirement account you will have nothing to live off of during your golden years. If your company offers matching 401(k), at least contribute that much to start, otherwise it will be leaving free money on the table. Beyond that, look at increasing each year, or even looking at IRA options.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
What if you have a huge unexpected charge come up, such as an air conditioner going out, needing brakes and shocks on your car, or at the worst, a job loss that could be devastating to you, how would you get by? Most likely have to put on a credit card, then causing you to pay off monthly until it’s gone, sending you into debt, since you can’t pay for it now. Experts suggest that you keep around three months’ worth of expenses in there to have available in case of emergencies so it will not put a dent in your finances.
Create a Budget
Do you know how much you are currently spending on food, gas, monthly bills, and even spending money? Or better yet, how much you should be spending? If you have more money going out compared to what is coming in that is a pretty good indication that you need some adjusting in your finances, and creating a budget is a great way to stay on track. If you have failed in the past or have never tried, you are not alone as most American’s actually do not operate with a successful budget, something that is scary to think that spending is a free-for-all.
Check all Spending from Last Month
Speaking of spending, do you know every dollar that is going out, and what is a necessary charge compared to unnecessary? Try looking at your debit and credit card statements from the previous month and go line by line to see every dollar spent. Try circling the charges that could of and should probably have been avoided. Add up all of those charges and see what that totals up. That amount is what could have been left in your account, or at least be put towards other areas such as saving or getting yourself out of debt.
Get Out of Debt
While on the scary subject of debt, what is your current picture look like? If you are currently carrying over a credit card balance each month you are more than likely paying high interest payments, and depending on the balance, could be hundreds of dollars a month. Before you continue to sink, come up with a debt payoff plan that you can get out of debt within a certain period of time. After that, the trick will be just staying out of debt so this never happens again and you can use your freed-up money for more important things: yourself.
Stay Focused on the Goal at Hand
I can’t sugarcoat this one, it will be tough. It’s like a diet, it will take time, you may stray every so often, but it will be worth it in the end if it frees up extra money every month to maximize your income so that you have now increased contributions to your retirement account, have built up an emergency fund, holding down a successful budget with limited unnecessary spending, while living debt-free. Every so often, whether it be every other week, or every month, check your progress. Try comparing to this time last year and see the improvement. Sometimes seeing this will be motivation to keep going to stay focused.