Guestpost by Cora Gold
Working with finances is a part of life. Everyone needs money to afford food, housing, transportation and entertainment, among other things.
It’s easy to get caught up in making purchases you end up not wanting or needing, which can take away precious funds you can use to save and accomplish your goals.
The good news is there are ways to get a handle on your funds, save money and accomplish what you set out to do. Here are seven ways to spend smarter.
1. Know Where Your Money Is
It’s easy to forget the number of subscriptions you have if you don’t regularly use them. Knowing where your money is can help you organize your finances, making savings by eliminating things you no longer want or need.
Take time to look at your accounts and list all your expenses from the past year. You may be surprised at the recurring charges slipping by the radar.
Looking through your expenses can also help you see where you may be able to reduce costs in other areas that you may not realize are so prominent, such as eating out or home purchases.
You can view these purchases through online banking options or by downloading your statements into a spreadsheet to look over. It’s also a good idea to save your receipts to reference them quickly when evaluating how much you have spent. Keep your spending categorized under items such as “house expenses” or “entertainment expenses”.
It’s prudent to check your finances regularly — you’ll be sure to catch things you no longer need. Analyzing your spending can help you decide what purchases are meaningful to you and which are frivolous.
2. Create a Budget
Once you know where your money is going, you can create a plan to ensure you cover your expenses with maximum savings.
One budget strategy is the “60% Solution,” where the first 60% of your expenses go towards necessary expenses, such as taxes, bills and credit card debt. Another 30% of your budget goes towards savings and the last 10% goes to recreational activities like eating out or the movies.
Keep track of your regular expenses each month, like utility bills, gas and groceries. If you notice your electric bill is unusually high, make a plan for how you can reduce your usage, such as unplugging appliances or making your home more energy efficient. If your grocery spending has increased, pay more attention to how much you actually eat in a week, and how much goes to waste.
Another method of saving involves looking at your long-term goals and coming up with the amount you are willing to put towards those goals per month. Before putting that amount into designated savings, take care of your bills and taxes first.
To determine the amount of money you can reasonably expect to save, you’ll need to calculate your net income. You can do this by subtracting employer-deducted expenses such as taxes and health insurance out of your total earnings for the month. Focusing on your net income versus your total income can help you avoid thinking you have more money than you do and overspending.
A well-organized budget will help you work towards your goals and achieve them successfully.
3. Use Multiple Accounts
Having separate accounts for different expense categories can help you spend innovatively. Having individual funds for everyday expenses and short-term and long-term savings can help you stay organized and not mentally divide your money from one account.
Have a primary account your income will go into and then transfer the desired funds to your savings. You can also set up a designated amount to move every week, month or year. You won’t be as tempted to dip into that money if you don’t see it while checking your primary account.
Separate accounts can also make it easier to track your goal progress. Having a monetary goal allows you to see a specific account climb closer to its target without other savings or expenses interfering with the numbers.
Having multiple accounts can be hard to manage, so keeping track of fees or minimum amounts for each is good. You can also look into ones with no fees to eliminate that issue.
Accounts specifically used for different types of spending can help you eliminate frivolous spending.
[Jonathan: I really love having separate accounts (one for savings, one for fun stuff,…), the trick is to automate distribution as much as possible so the money goes into the account you want with every paycheck]
4. Set Up Recurring Payments
If you have recurring charges — such as water and electric bills — one way to spend smarter is to set up recurring payments. Many companies will allow users to set their accounts up to draw from checking on a specific date each month automatically.
Automated recurring payments can keep you from worrying about remembering to pay, which can lead to late fees or debt if you fail to pay them on time. Additionally, paying your bills on time will have a positive impact on your credit score and improve your chances of being approved for a loan should you need one.
You’ll want to ensure that the amount of money will consistently be in your account monthly to cover the cost withdrawn without worry.
5. Manage Your Debt
It will be challenging to experience the full benefits of spending smarter if you have a mountain of debt looming over you. Student loans and medical expenses can be hard to avoid — or you can owe a lot when you struggle with gambling or credit card spending.
If you struggle with debt, various organizations can help you get a hold of it through counseling and management services.
You can also set up a separate savings account to draw from to help with debt and add your debt-reconciliation spending into your monthly budget.
An additional part of managing what you owe is avoiding new, unavoidable debt. You’re not going to be able to cut through your current deficits if you’re adding on new ones as quickly as you get rid of them.
While debt is sometimes unavoidable, working to reduce and eliminate it will help you be able to look towards your future spending.
6. Spend With Envelopes
Try to pay with cash you can divide and have. Research shows that you’re likely to spend less with physical money than with a credit or debit card. You can apply this principle to any frivolous or recreational spending to help you avoid impulse buying more than you’ll need.
You can take an amount of your income out of your account as cash and separate it into categorized envelopes you use to save and draw from. You can use these for groceries, vacation or a car down payment.
Some apps and spreadsheets can help you create a virtual envelope saving system if you’d prefer that to physically spending and saving with envelopes.
If you establish an envelope system, one of the hardest things will be to resist the temptation to take from the cash readily available in the other envelopes. If your savings money must be out of sight and out of mind, this saving and spending system may not suit you.
7. Know Your Goals
To spend intelligently, you want to be very specific about your future spending goals. If you’re saving for a memorable trip, braces or a down payment, know how much it will cost and aim to keep slightly more than that amount.
It’s nice to have a general idea of what you want, but prices for homes, cars and vacations can vary greatly depending on the type of what you’re looking at.
For example, a car costs anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over six figures, depending on your wants and needs. Knowing the make, model and year of the vehicle you want to purchase will allow you to research the amount of money you will need to pay for it by the time you reach the end of your savings period.
Once you have your specific long and short-term goals, you’ll know how to save more effectively.
Make Improvements to Your Spending
If you want to start spending smarter, setting goals and cutting back on frivolous spending is a great way to get started. Saving is also a big part of making smarter financial decisions to achieve your future goals.
About the Author
Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist. She has a passion for living life to the fullest and inspiring others to do the same. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
I would like to thank Cora for her awesome tips on how to handle your money in a smarter way, automating invoices and having separate accounts are my favorites! How about you, which ones are your smart money spending hacks?
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