Money, that fickle mistress, is very hard to keep. It seems like the more you get, the more you need. Most of us have said something along the lines of, “If I only had $X more per month, then I’d be fine,” at some point in our lives. However, it rarely works out that way. Money can be a difficult, painful, frustrating subject for anyone. It doesn’t have to be, though. With the right tips and techniques, you can start creating better financial health in your life. Here are ten of the best ways to start.
1. Slash Your Debt
Slashing your debt might seem like an easy thing to do, until you look at all that credit card debt, that is. While you might “know” how deep in debt you are, it often requires a very hard look to actually understand how bad your situation really is. The first thing you need to do is list all of your debts from smallest to largest. Start repaying them now, starting with the smallest and working your way up.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan
Before you can enjoy better financial health, you have to know where you’re going. What IS financial health to you? A good financial situation is different things for different people, and how you get there is up to you. The best way to start building better financial health is to make a plan. Write down your goals (for the week, the month, the year, the decade, what have you). Having a plan will give you something to fall back on, to look at and say, “I’m here and need to be there, and this is how I’ll do it.”
3. Prepare for Hardship
This is one of the hardest things to accomplish, but you need to build a financial buffer. You need to have money in your account so that if you lost your job, or some other emergency occurred, you would have the cash to cover it. You need the security that only having good savings can offer. Moreover, this should be separate from your investments – it needs to be readily accessible.
4. Budget Your Pants Off
Any good financial situation is founded on a solid budget, even the rich have to budget some things. Make a budget before you do anything else (and it’ll help you with building that cash cushion, as well). Identify areas where you can cut back spending (stop buying $5 cups of coffee, for instance), and then DO IT. Creating a budget can be tough, but it has to be done. You can use online budgeting and financial tools to help if you’re more comfortable using these services than going it alone.
5. Build for the Future
While the recession has made the investment market a murky, frightening place, you need to keep going. Choose the safest investments out there and keep putting your money away. Sound financial health means having the money that you need when the “golden years” finally sneak up on you. Find a good financial planner or advisor who understands that slow and steady really is the best option and follow his or her advice. Keep investing, but do it with an eye for constant, steady growth, rather than making a fast buck.
6. Evaluate Your Job
While the recession has forced hiring to a halt, it is slowly beginning to pick up steam once more. If your career is not what you want, or not enough to give you financial security, then now is the time to get where you want to go. Where do you want to be in five years? How will you get there? Make your plan, change your job (or apply for a higher-up position) and embark on your journey. Now is the time.
7. Rent or Own?
The housing market has certainly seen better days. Investing in real estate now might not be the best idea, so many people are choosing to rent. If your rent is low enough, this can be fine. However, if you want to OWN a home and have the credit to get a loan approved (criteria is tighter these days), then now may be a good time. You’ll enjoy lower interest, far lower home prices and more.
8. Slash Your Expenses
Your spending is yours to control – no one else can do it for you. You need to identify where you can cut costs and then follow through on it. For instance, if downsizing your car will save you money, and you can make it work, then do it! There’s no need to pay for more car than you need. The same principle can be applied throughout your life.
Your partner needs to be kept in the loop. Communication is the cornerstone of any good relationship, and you need to make sure that you keep a two-way flow of communication with your partner at all times. Discuss your financial goals, and possible ways to achieve them.
10. Free Investment Money
Yes, there is free money out there for many folks. If your employer offers 401(k) matching, then take them up on it! That’s more money for you, that you don’t have to work for – free money.