You don’t have to have a degree in Finance to get your budget in balance. The key to finding ways to save in your budget is to simply pay attention. In my experience, when I fail to pay attention to my bank accounts that is when things get messy. Here are 5 ways to stay on top of where your money is going.
- Make a Budget – I know it’s time consuming and a pain in the ?@#$, but it would not be the suggestion of every financial guru out there if it didn’t actually work. Take the time to do it. During the budgeting process you can discover patterns of behavior you might not have been aware of. In the end, what is spending but a behavior. If we can determine what behaviors we are doing that result in money lose we can put a stop to them. When I started budgeting my money I recognized a ton of it was going to specialty grocery stores like The Fresh Market and Whole Foods. I thought I was just buying food for my family until the sheer numbers told me otherwise. Look into online budget programs like Mint.com or EveryDollar.com to make this process easier.
- Set up auto deductions into your savings account – This is something I have discussed here before because it is so easy and painless but can have some big results. Have your paycheck direct deposited into your bank account and have a coordinating set amount placed directly into a savings account. That way the money is squirreled away before you even get a chance to spend it. It is amazing how quick $50, $25 even $10 can add up over time. The key is that you forget all about it and do not touch this account, giving it time to grow.
- Learn about compounding interest – This is a key concept in making your money go farther. According to Wikipedia Compound interest is interest (money paid by borrower or lender) added to the principal (the original amount borrowed) of a deposit or loan so that the added interest also earns interest from then on. This addition of interest to the principal is called compounding. So in other words your money makes you money. Consult a financial advisor to just ask someone at your bank to explain what products they have that will give you the best compounding interest.
- Look at your accounts daily – This is another concept I have mentioned here. I know it seems like a no brainer but how many of us actually look at our accounts on a daily basis? Before I implemented this strategy I was over drafting on a pretty frequent basis and could never understand why. When I started checking my accounts every day I found auto-billers I had not been aware. I found unintended charges that I had all but forgotten I even made. Most important, I was able to control my spending when my account was low, preventing the dreaded overdraft.
- Invest in an IRA or 401K – It seems like something far off in the distance but for many of us it is a lot closer than you think. I turned 40 this year, an age I never pictured myself ever being but here I am. My time horizon for retirement is not so far off anymore. But quite frankly it is never to early to plan for retirement. Based on the amount projected today social security will not be enough to sustain anymore then the bare necessities to live on (if it even still around.) Don’t put off retirement planning! Here’s where the tough love comes in… as an adult it is no one else’s responsibility to take care of you! Not the government, not your parents through inheritance, not even your children’s. It is your responsibility to plan for your aging self and to ensure you will be taken care of. Don’t wait.