In these tough financial times when the dollar doesn't seem to be stretching as far as it once used to, jobs are being lost and mortgage stress is at an all time high, it seems that now is as good a time than any to take a step back and reassess our personal finances.
But this can be a daunting task for many of us who, being used to good economic times, have become complacent with our own state of affairs. I know I'm not alone when I declare my indifference to keeping track expenditure, price comparing or my seeming inability to stay abreast of my financial paperwork.
It is important to realise that money is a tool that you can use to achieve your goals. In order for you to reach true financial independence you need to have your money begin to work for you. Below are 10 useful tips about how to get started:
Your budget doesn't have to be complicated, it just needs to be a list of what money you expect to receive and a list of what you expect to spend - you just have to ensure that your spending doesn't add up to more than you earn!
2. Setting financial goals. Think about what matters most to you and make a list of things that are going to make you feel happy, fulfilled and financially secured - ranging anywhere from getting out of debt to buying luxury items. You then need to decide which items will take priority and work towards achieving those goals before you address the less important ones. If you have a partner it is important to include them in the goal setting process as in some instances you may be working towards a common goal.
3. Get out of debt. Often we don't realise how much of the monthly budget is being eaten up by interest charged on for example, car payments, credit card bills and loans. Debt often becomes a burden and limits the choices that you can make so one of the best things you can do with your money is to get out of debt. Credit cards are one of the biggest debt spinners, with banks charging exorbitant monthly interest on uncleared accounts. If you struggle to make repayments or in the case of credit cards are unable to pay back monthly amounts in full you probably need to consider shedding/consolidating some debt.
4. Save your money. Once you have freed up all that extra money from paying off your debt you need to begin to save aggressively. Sure the interest rate isn't too flash at the moment but it is bound to improve and saving is an effective way to grow your wealth and help you to prepare for the ups and downs of life.
5. Reduce household bills. Huge savings can be gained by making changes such as to which you have a credit card with, which gas and electricity supplier you use, your home insurance, broadband and home phone and even who you bank with. Be proactive and check out what the competition are charging to make sure you are getting a good deal.
6. Slash your food bills. This means a return to traditional methods of household planning in order to shop and eat smarter. Plan household meals in advance ensuring that you get to eat everything you buy before it goes off. Also research which supermarkets offer the best value for money before you fill your trolley - online shopping may also turn out to be a more economical choice to help you stick to your budget. Go to www.choice.com.au or www.getprice.com.au to get price comparisons on a range of products and outlets.
7. Cut petrol costs. With fuel prices moving around, filling up the tank is putting a serious dent in wallets around the country. To reduce costs, you should check out the best prices in your area by going to www.motormouth.com.au. You can also reduce fuel consumption through driving techniques. For instance keeping to a steady speed will save a few cents on the way - it may also pay to drive a little greener.
8. Haggle. Remember that the current financial situation affects us all - businesses as well as consumers - so learn to haggle. Every business is hungry for your money, so before forking out your hard earned cash make sure you've wrangled the best deal you can. It also pays to shop during sales time and use discount coupons.
9. Get educated. Educating yourself on how to make the most of your hard-earned money so you can create wealth should be a high priority. Attend seminars, read books and listen to information on wealth creation.
10. Organise your financial paperwork. Set up a filing system for your hard copy financial information and check your bank accounts weekly to keep track of your money.
These are just a couple of tips to get you on your way towards gaining control of your personal finances and putting you on the up and up to financial security. By practising some or all of these useful tips you'll be able to feel more in control of your money and have great money habits.