Money is a game. How well you play the game determines the choices you have in life. Here are 10 things you can do to take charge of your money and get ahead financially.
- Learn About Money
If you don’t know what to do or where to start, and you were not taught in school how to manage money, you end up doing the best you can but often can’t see what you are doing ‘wrong.’ If you feel that you have no money each week but ignore the issue, it will only make it worse. The definition of insanity is to keep doing what you are currently doing and expect a different outcome. The good news is that anyone’s financial position can be improved. Learn from others’ mistakes, then learn from those with results to help yourself get ahead.
- Earn Consistent Income
The amount of income you earn is not as important as the consistency in which you earn it. If your income varies very significantly from payday to payday, or you work on a contract basis or chop and change your jobs with large periods of unemployment or irregular income, then it’s hard to make a plan on how to use it most effectively. You need a regular income year after year to be able to stick to a plan. If you are currently unemployed or jumping between jobs often, then get a stable job ASAP. Without an income, you can’t do much in life.
- Pay Yourself First
If you are paying your taxes, housing, bills, and other expenses all before you pay yourself, then you are ‘living to work’ instead of ‘working to live’. It will always be harder to save at the end of the month (after paying everyone else), than if you save first (before anything else). Often there is rarely any money left over at the end of the month, so you need to switch it around and give you the priority which you deserve. This will help you to save more and save regularly.
- Have Emergency Money
Things change in life. Unexpected expenses pop up in life. You always need access to some cash. Having a cash buffer will give you peace of mind that you have funds to draw on if an emergency or an extraordinary, unexpected bill arises, or worse yet if you lose your job or get hurt and can’t work. It’s financially savvy to have an emergency fund. Be smart with money.
- Don’t Waste Money
Have you ever tracked your expenses for a month or two? Written down every single dollar spent? If not, then how can you possibly know where your money is being spent? You may have a rough idea, but you need concrete figures. It’s hard to redirect money to what you really want in life if you don’t know where you are really spending it. Without analysing your actual spending, it’s hard to know where your money is going and to create a budget and know if you are overspending. Knowing where you spend money helps you to cut back and to not waste money.
You don’t need to earn more money to get ahead, you just need to spend differently.
- Don’t Spend More Than You Earn
This is a recipe for disaster. Living within your means is crucial. You will go bankrupt unless you make changes. You can change your spending habits. You were not born a ‘spender.’ You learnt that habit over time, so you can also change that habit. Spend less and give yourself some breathing room. Later, you can also look at ways to increase income, initially however, your budget will show you areas where you can make some immediate savings. There are always solutions. Credit card debt is not the answer.
- Don’t Spend Too Much On Housing
Spending too much on housing (rent or mortgage) is a major reason why people struggle financially which is easy to do, especially when property prices and rents keep increasing. Prices will continue to rise; you can’t control that. What you can control is the amount that you choose to spend on housing, especially if you are living a lifestyle that you can’t afford (right now).
Whilst there is no definite rule, aim to spend no more than 25% – 35% of your gross income on housing and that amount includes all property related expenses such as utility bills (electricity, water, gas) and property insurance or other fees, etc. If you need to, consider living in a smaller place, change suburbs or share the cost with someone else. Live within your means. You can always upgrade later down the track when you can afford to do so.
Even if you earn a good income and can afford to spend more on housing, consider spending a little less rather than always the maximum – leave yourself some breathing room because life circumstances change.
- Avoid Personal Debt
When your day-to-day finances are not in order, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of using bad debt to help you along the way, so you can buy whatever you want, or make ends meet as a short-term fix when you have no other cash funds available to you (for emergencies or unexpected expenses). Whether it’s a credit card used incorrectly or a ‘Payday Loan’ type of scheme, the cost of holding personal debt can increase quickly and see you in a position whereby you have several credit cards, a car loan and maybe some store debt (Interest-free Payment Plans) – none of which will help you to get ahead financially, and will send you broke.
Spending money you don’t have, on things you don’t need and racking up personal debt with high interest rates is a vicious cycle which will not end well. You will not get rich, you will go broke. Personal debt is not the way to financial freedom.
- Don’t Buy Stuff, Instead of Investing
If you keep buying stuff which goes down in value over time such as clothes, tech gadgets, household items, bikes, cars or holidays, dining out etc, then your wealth also goes down. Remember, those are not assets; they are liabilities, regardless if you use debt to buy them or not. Regardless of whether you spend money on things or experiences, spending is spending! If you are using credit cards and/or personal loans to fund those items, you will cripple your financial life. Knowing the difference between an asset and a liability will help you make better choices about where you spend your money. Knowing the difference between good debt and bad debt can be a game changer for successful money management. If you don’t start investing, then you will never have more money than what you can save up.
- Save Regularly
Are you putting today’s happiness before tomorrow’s needs? Instant gratification is the desire to have everything now. Spending everything you earn. Living payday to payday, whether it’s intentional or somehow just how you ‘end up’ each week, because of circumstance. If your budget doesn’t match your lifestyle (extravagant or not), then you need to reassess. Sometimes you need to sacrifice a little now, to get more in the future, especially if you are jeopardising your financial security by not having money left over. What does it cost you in the long- term to be spending everything now and never saving? Without regular savings, you will not progress, and you will be tempted to use personal debt. If ants can put a little away for tomorrow, then so must we. Surely ants can’t be smarter and more disciplined than us humans?
Don’t be stingy with money, be selective. Live deliberately. Spend in a balanced way.
It’s o.k. to consume, but not o.k. to ‘compulsively consume.’ You will not get happier by consuming more. Keep your ego in check. Really think about what you need vs. want. If you are a consumption machine and constantly spending money on stuff (liabilities) to the detriment of your finances, stop – rethink – take a breath – refocus your spending.
If you do in fact have money left over each payday, and you do regularly save, but are still not getting any- where with your finances, then reassess what you do with those savings (does it eventually get spent)? Essentially, you are in the same predicament as those who don’t save.
So, you see, financial freedom is achieved through smart money making strategies, which all starts with how you use your income. You can get better with money, you just need to use money wisely.
-Angela, The Money Messenger
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Disclaimer: This information provided is general in nature. It is based on the knowledge and experiences of the author and not intended to be taken as financial advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of you or any other particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on the information. You may have to modify the information and do further research, for it to suit your personal financial situation. Therefore, before acting on the information, it is recommended that you consider its appropriateness to your circumstances or consult a financial adviser, tax advisers or legal professional to assist you in doing this.