As we get older, more and more expenses end up on our plate. From mortgages to car repairs, it can feel like there are endless bills to pay. And as we all know, with more bills, comes more pressure, anxiety and stress. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that money is Americans’ number one stressor.1 Finances have remained at the top of the list since the survey began in 2007.2
When it comes to stress, the numbers don’t lie. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted a study that evaluated heart health changes before, during and after a recent financial crisis and found that during the recession, both blood pressure and blood glucose levels increased in respondents, signaling a worsening in heart health.3
While many of us dream of being financially secure, most of us can agree that traditional education in our public schools does not properly equip us with the knowledge and resources necessary to be effective financial decision-makers. There seems to be a growing gap between financial literacy and our population, causing many people to lose hope and get trapped in a deeper hole of debt. However, when it comes to money, there are four ways you can more effectively manage your finances so you remain in control of your spending habits.
Tip #1: Automate Your Savings
It can be difficult to set aside money every month, especially after you’ve been anxiously awaiting to get your paycheck. If you’re someone who struggles with putting money away, consider setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account each month to make sure that no matter what, you’re continuously growing your nest egg. Whether you want to be prepared for any emergencies that may come up or have a dream of buying a house one day, adding money to your savings account every month — even if it’s only $100 — can get you closer to the financial stability you need to feel confident about your future.
Tip #2: Stay Away from Impulse Purchases
With so many products out there — ranging from new gadgets to the latest must-have accessories — it can be difficult to put a cap on your spending habits. Instead of putting yourself right in front of your guilty pleasures, consider putting your money towards experiences, rather than material items. If your favorite past-time is going to the mall, swap window shopping with a picnic out in the park or a day out at your local museum (some museums offer discounted prices over the weekend). While retail therapy may seem like the solution to your problems, oftentimes, you end up feeling worse than if you had spent your time making memories instead. With these memories, your craving for consumerism may gradually die down, leaving you with more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
Tip #3: Focus on What You Can Control
While it’s difficult to effectively plan ahead for every single expense we’re going to have, you can at least have an initial game plan for where your money is going to go. Theoretically, every month, you know you’re going to have to pay rent or a mortgage, buy groceries, pay other utility bills and fill up on gas a few times. So, after you get your paycheck, subtract all of these expenses from your total amount. This will give you a clear idea of how much “fun” money you have to spend each month. And, if you plan to put some money into your savings account, you’ll want to make a note of that too. The purpose of this exercise is to make yourself more mindful of the money you’re spending each month. When you know — without a doubt — certain specific expenses are going to come up, you can start planning ahead to make sure you’re not spending more money than you have.
Tip #4: Be More Goal-Oriented
For some people, the thought of having a goal can be terrifying as it means there is a chance they might fail. However, if you never set goals for yourself, you’ll never have complete control over your financial life. To get started, begin with a realistic goal that can ideally be achieved in less than five years, such as paying off your credit card debt or student loans. Once you’ve identified what you want to accomplish, write it down.
Oftentimes, the simple act of writing down your goals can make it feel more real, therefore making you more accountable. Next, create a rough timetable of how you are going to achieve your objectives. This timetable could include information such as how much money you’re going to save every month, as well as milestones for each payment you’re going to make. Over time, you’ll begin to gain more confidence about your finances, in turn leaving you feeling more in control — and capable — of managing your money on your own.
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