Like anyone, you want to feel secure when it comes to your finances. This could mean having a reliable stream of income, saving up a certain amount of money for retirement, not being in debt, and being able to make investments.
Unfortunately, many people are not in a good financial position and struggle to just pay for basic expenses. For instance, only 39% of Americans could afford an unexpected emergency expense, while 21% have no retirement savings and 10% have less than $5,000 in savings.
To ensure that you have money when you need it and can meet your financial goals, you can come up with a monthly financial routine to follow. Knowing that your finances are in order will save you from a lot of worrying and ensure your financial freedom.
Here are some tips to get started with your routine.
Regularly Check Your Account Statements
Ideally, your money management should include a look at all your account statements more than once a month. Some accounts may include checking, savings, credit card and loan accounts. By checking your account balances, you can analyze your spending habits, see if you’re being overcharged for goods, determine if there are any subscriptions you can cancel, and make sure that no fraud has occurred.
Create and Stick to a Budget
When you spend every paycheck you get right away, you aren’t building strong financial habits. Instead, you can exercise some restraint by creating and following a budget and reap the rewards for your financial life in the long run.
A popular way to structure your monthly budget is 50/30/20, where 50% of your money goes to your needs, 30% is allocated to wants, and 20% is for savings and debt. For instance, your needs could include housing and utilities, your wants could be your entertainment and nice clothing, and you could put that 20% towards credit card and student loan debt as well as your savings account. If you don’t want to use a spreadsheet to budget, simply sign up for an app like YNAB or Mint, which will make budgeting much easier.
Pay Down Your Debt
If you have credit card, student loan, or other types of debt, the interest can quickly add up. When paying your debts, you can take the 20% from your budget and use the avalanche or snowball method. With the avalanche method, you pay your highest-interest debts first and pay the minimums on all your other debt. If you use the snowball method, you pay the lowest balance debts first and pay the minimums on everything else. Both methods have been proven to work, but the snowball method may be more helpful psychologically if you like to see quicker wins.
Additionally, you could transfer your high-interest balances to a no-interest balance transfer card. Just keep in mind that you’ll pay a small transfer fee, and if you don’t pay your new balance down by the time your 0% APR promotional period ends, you could face sky-high interest rates once again.
Search for Coupons and Discounts
Why pay full price for things when you don’t have to? Part of your monthly finance routine could be finding coupons and discounts to save money on your purchases. If you shop online, you could spend less by installing the browser extension Honey, which will automatically search for and apply coupons when you’re checking out in an e-commerce store. You can also find coupons and promo codes on sites like Coupons.com and RetailMeNot. For grocery coupons, check out SmartSource.
Contribute to Savings and Retirement
It’s a good idea to contribute part of your paycheck to a savings or retirement account. Keeping at least $1,000 in your emergency fund will help you in case you have to pay for unexpected expenses. Ideally, you should have several months’ worth of expenses in your account if you lose your job or other income sources.
When it comes to your retirement, you should allocate 10% to 15% of your income to your account every year. So, if you make $80,000 per year, aim to contribute $8,000 to $12,000 per year, or around $667 to $1,000 per month to your account.
There are a few different types of retirement accounts you could contribute to, including employer-sponsored 401(k)s, a traditional IRA, or a Roth IRA. Your 401(k) contributions are pre-tax, and you can put in up to $19,500 per year or $26,000 for those 50 and older.. If you are in the 22% tax bracket, an $8,000 contribution to a 401(k) can reduce your federal income taxes by $1,760. You should always take advantage of employer matching limits with 401(k)s so you can build up your retirement account as much as possible.
Traditional IRA contributions may be deductible on your tax return and are taxed when you withdraw the funds. While Roth IRA contributions are not deductible but the distributions are tax free once you turn 59 1/2 and you’ve met the 5 year holding period. Both traditional and Roth IRA contributions are limited to $6,000 or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older. Some income limitations could apply if you or your spouse contributed to an employer sponsored retirement plan.
Consider Investing Your Money
If you have money left over after paying your bills and debts and contributing to your savings and retirement, then look into different places to invest your money. You could open a high-yield savings account and make about 0.50% to 0.60% APY on your money. Other ways to invest your money include the stock market, bonds, real estate, index funds, and exchange-traded funds. If you’re just starting off with investments, it’s best to go with the options that present the least amount of risk. For instance, investing in a startup is very risky and you could potentially lose a lot of money, but investing in an established company with a history of solid returns is a lot less risky and a smart path to good financial health.
Write Down Goals for the Next Month
If you track your finances from month to month, you’ll be much less overwhelmed than if you try to manage it on a year-by-year basis. Every month come up with goals for the next month that you want to try to achieve. Then, take some time to review your previous goals and see if you were able to accomplish them. If you are having trouble, perhaps you need to take baby steps. For example, instead of saying that you want to get out of $5,000 in debt next month, you could say that you are going to pay off $1,000 worth of debt next month. By making sure that goals are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound – it is much more likely you will complete them.
Getting Your Finances in Order
With a monthly financial routine in place, you will be able to feel more confident in your personal finances as well as guarantee that in the future, you will have the money you need to not only survive, but also thrive.