How to improve your personal finances using a checklist

Personal Finance Checklist

Revamping your entire financial plan may seem like a gigantic task, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But by breaking your fiscal dreams into smaller, more manageable goals you’ll be setting yourself up for success while gaining some confidence about your money-making decisions with each item you cross off. Making a checklist can by the key to getting your money – and long-term goals – in order. Here are a few examples of simple changes that can make a major impact.

Start small.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re trying to make a substantial change in their life is focusing on objectives that aren’t easily attainable. This is an easy way to sabotage yourself, because the task seems so large you can’t possibly reach it. Think about restructuring your budget in the same way you would expect to start a diet or exercise plan. You wouldn’t expect to be able to run marathons within the first couple of weeks, so why would you hold your finances to a similar standard? Like with most goals, the little things add up. Instead of backlogging every purchase you’ve made in the last six months, start today by tracking all of your extra expenses such as movie nights, eating out, and entertainment-related costs like cable TV or your Netflix subscription. No detail is too small when it comes to money management and financial stability.

Streamline your payments.

Consolidating or organizing all of your bill payments is another simple task to add to your checklist. Determine the bills that you pay regularly, their frequency, amount, and whether or not they can be paid online. If possible, set up all bill payments to withdraw from your bank account automatically and keep track of your email or online confirmations. This can usually be done either through the servicer or your bank. By automating the process, you’ll reduce the amount of time you spend each month gathering paperwork and information. You’ll also simplify your own record keeping, since you should be able to locate most of your payments with just the click of your mouse. Even better, you won’t have to worry about accruing late fees since you know exactly when your account will be debited for each bill cycle.

Pay yourself first.

Having a comfortable savings account is one of the most important steps towards financial security. As part of your monthly, bi-weekly, or even quarterly checklist, send a portion of your paycheck to your savings account each time you get paid. Depending on your personal goals, income, and expenses this amount may vary. However, don’t underestimate how quickly even $10 or $20 per paycheck can add up over time. If possible, set up an automatic deposit so you’ll get used to receiving a lower amount. This is one line item that will give you a bit of satisfaction every time you check it off your list.

Keep your budget balanced.

Keeping your overall budget in order is usually one of the most daunting tasks, but breaking it up into smaller sections will make it a breeze to get through. Make a list of all income sources, everything you spend money on regularly, and for at least one month track all of your expenses to get an idea of how much you should allot for miscellaneous spending. Once you have your list, break the expenses into categories such as utilities, travel, housing, food, insurance, loan payments, and childcare. Your static expenses are those that are consistent for every pay period, and your flexible expenses are the less predictable ones such as car repairs or additional medical costs. Based on what you typically spend per month, you should be able to outline how much is needed to put towards extra expenses on top of your static ones. Being able to check off when each of these obligations are met will give you some peace of mind, and you won’t have to second guess whether you paid that bill or not.

Money Management for Retirement.

Money management is a huge part of most of our lives, and many of us have areas that we’d like to improve. Whether you’re saving for a dream vacation, college, or retirement, keeping track of your goals and when they are met is a valuable tool that you can use for all of your financial plans – no matter how big or small.

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