By Judy Lawrence, M.S. Ed.
Financial Counselor, Money Coach and Author of “The Budget Kit 6th Ed.”
1. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Remember the last time your budget was thrown out of whack with some weird, unexpected emergency? The nasty dog fight that landed Fido at the vets. The washer breaking down when you had a load full of soaking, dirty clothes. And yes, that last precious bite that broke your tooth.
You’ve heard it hundreds of times, but the “Pay Yourself First” mantra still holds as a solid way to be better prepared for an emergency. Consider emergency savings as a fixed expense, like a bill, where you pay yourself first.. This fixed amount of money automatically deposited into your savings on a regular monthly basis (even a small amount to get you started) can pay huge emotional and financial dividends in the long run.
Guidelines recommend anywhere from 6 – 8 months’ worth of take home pay to cover your basic fixed living expenses. But really, having any amount in savings and consistently adding to that fund is the most powerful habit you can start.
2. THINK AND ACT PREVENTATIVELY
Put thought, money and action into caring for your health, your teeth, your kids, your pets, vehicles, home and equipment. At first the effort may seem like a pain, but the huge savings of money and time by avoiding unnecessary emergencies will pay off greater than you realize.
You know the drill…
- Get your regular exercise, eat the right foods and enjoy your sugar, beverages and fats in moderation.
- Floss and brush regularly – the whole family– avoid those expensive periodontal issues. Including Fido.
- Have the oil changed and proper scheduled maintenance for your vehicles.
- Change the heating filters in your furnace.
- Wrap the water pipes with insulating material.
3. COUPLES – TEAM UP INSTEAD OF TEAR DOWN
Remember you are a team as you manage your household, family and personal expenses. Outline your true family values, priorities and goals that guide your financial decisions. Be mindful of your overall household spending and ask yourselves if your spending is in true alignment with your values, priorities and goals.
Stop the finger pointing. No one is ever blameless. Get over it. Focus on your team effort and constructive next steps for planning out your budget, cutting back where necessary and being more resourceful and creative to get your needs met.
Keep your long term focus on the future for your family and your retirement. How can you manage and invest your money more wisely to be sure your money is working for you.
4. BE PROACTIVE INSTEAD OF REACTIVE
Anticipate your bills and expenses instead of reacting to them. Have a plan for not only the monthly fixed bills but all the additional discretionary spending that occurs in your day to day spending.
Instead of operating on automatic pilot throughout the day, mindlessly using your plastic for every expense, have a proactive, conscious awareness of how that expense is impacting the bigger picture of the month. Have a plan for a specific monthly amount to cover those monthly video game, music, and book downloads, apps, and lattes.
Instead of being thrown off when an annual insurance, auto registration or quarterly tuition, tax bill, or a significant birthday or anniversary comes due, anticipate this periodic expenses in advance. Have a plan and set money aside to anticipate the upcoming periodic expenses.
5. REALIZE A CREDIT CARD IS NOT SUPPLEMENTAL INCOME
How often do you find yourself pulling out your credit card, not your debit card, for payments? Are you using the credit card for convenience or because you know there’s not enough money in the checking account to cover the expense?
Often people get in the habit of using their credit cards regularly as if these cards were supplemental income. Using credit cards instead of your own money, and letting the balance of debt grow can be a very seductive habit. You almost start to think you can actually afford something, losing sight of the bigger picture of the growing debt and living above your means.
Do you have a plan for paying off those charges from last month, or the last year? For some the answer is a tax refund or family gifting or a company bonus. However, now the classic Dr. Phil question, “How’s that working for you?” Are you finding it harder and harder each year to actually pay off the total debt?
This is the time to get back to basics and create a realistic spending plan.
Remember, one of the best ways for staying on top of your money, is to have a spending plan that works. Please check out my course “Create a Budget that Works”. This course will guide you through the five step process for creating and maintaining a practical budget that fits your personal financial situation.
Judy Lawrence, MS Ed. is a Financial Counselor and Money Coach in Albuquerque, NM, Founder of www.MoneyTracker.com and the author of the best-selling book The Budget Kit: Common Cents Money Management Workbook 6th Ed, (published by Kaplan Publishing) in print for over three decades with over 425,000 copies sold. She has appeared on CNBC, Style Network, Iyanla Show, many national news networks, radio shows, online interviews and more. Visit Judy’s Media Page here.
Her down-to-earth style and focus on the emotional as well as the practical aspects of basic money management through her books, coaching, seminars and www.moneytracker.com website has helped thousands. Judy shares fundamental money management tools, concepts, and behavioral psychology developed and gleaned over the past thirty years from sitting at thousands of kitchen tables (physically and virtually) and guiding people towards a healthy relationship with money.