Personal finance is a difficult subject for many people. Despite its importance, financial education in America is quite lacking. Many people may leave school without realizing what an interest rate is, understanding how to budget their money, or pay down debt effectively. So, we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll go over 3 basics steps that you can take to manage your finances more effectively. Let’s get started.
1. Build A Budget and Track Your Spending
This is the foundation of all personal finance. You can’t understand how much money you’re making – and where it’s all going – without building a budget. So, you’ll need to sit down, create a budget, and start tracking your spending.
There are a few ways you could do this. Many folks opt for an online budgeting tool, like Mint, Personal Capital or You Need a Budget. These tools can connect directly to your credit accounts, bank accounts, loans, and other accounts, automatically tracking your money, debts, and other details about your financial health. You can usually also get a free credit score from these tools.
They do have some limitations, however, particularly because these apps mostly only track credit and debit card transactions. If you pay with cash often – for example, if you get tipped in cash at a service job – they may not be right for you.
The other option is to create a budget in Excel. Save every receipt and monitor every transaction and add them all to the budget manually. This may seem like a lot of work, but it becomes quite easy once you get used to it. This allows you to track your spending, and see where you can cut back, in order to save some extra cash.
2. Start Paying Down Your Credit Cards and Other Debts
Once you’ve built a budget and started tracking your spending, you should start paying down your debts as much as you can, to avoid spending extra money on interest.
There are two basic methods you can use – the “avalanche method”, and the “snowball method”.
In the Avalanche method, you start by paying down your highest-interest rate debt first, while making minimum payments on all others. For example, a credit card with a 30% APR would take priority over a credit card with a 20% APR.
In the Snowball method, you start by paying down your smallest debt first. Once that’s paid off, the extra money from each payment goes towards the next-largest debt, and so on.
Both methods have pros and cons. The Avalanche method is more efficient, but the Snowball method provides more tangible results. Choose whichever seems best for you!
3. Start An “Emergency Fund”
Most folks in America can’t cover a $1,000 emergency. If you don’t have an emergency fund, this means you’ll have to turn to credit cards or short-term personal loans such as payday loans online and cash advances in an emergency. Both of these are reasonable options, but if you have emergency cash saved, you can avoid debt, which is always a good thing.
Try to save up at least 3 months of living expenses. Then, if something unexpected happens, you can cover it out-of-pocket, instead of taking on debt.
Follow These Tips – Take Control of Your Finances!
Personal finance isn’t easy. But these 3 basic steps are enough to put you ahead of most people and ensure that you can begin building a better financial future.