Learning how to properly manage your personal finances is an essential skill that will reduce your stress and improve your quality of life. Good budgeting doesn’t have to be painful if you follow these tips and suggestions.
- Identify spending habits. Look at past months and flag any problem areas like frequent unnecessary spending. How often do you eat out? How much money do you spend a week on meals or snacks you would have at home or pack up for work or school? How much do you spend on clothes,
accessories, electronic equipment, or entertainment? Ask yourself the following two questions about purchases: is it something I actually need or want? Does a particular purchase mean that I have to
forgo something I really need.
- Create a budget. Though it may seem obvious, it is an essential step many consumers skip. Now that you know how much you spend on different items, set limits for each category. Make sure to budget for fun things too, not just rent and bills.
- Stick to the budget. Remember your goals the next time you are out spending money, and try to think long term. An easy way to do this may be to automatically put away a little bit of money each paycheck or month into a savings account or 401K. Not only will you be able save up for big-ticket items, but you’re investing in your own financial security.
Make sure you’re tracking your spending regularly, especially small day-to-day expenses, which can really add up. In the end, budgeting is really about being thoughtful with your money—make sure you’re using it efficiently. There are a number of tools that can help with this. Microsoft has a free personal budgeting spreadsheet available here, while personal finance apps such as Mint make keeping track of your purchases very easy and allow you to manage your money from your computer, smartphone or tablet.
We encourage consumers to keep these tips in mind when managing their money this year. Make sure to check back regularly for more personal finance tips.