In my school, I had to know how DNA is replicated and why the War of the Roses was called that – but finances, nope! Mathematics and arithmetics are fun (not really), but they did not provide me with what I really need today – and that is how to have enough money to survive from one paycheck to the next.
In this article, I presume that you have a job, or at least some sort of income, and I have a good guess that you are not good at managing your finances; well, guess what? Nobody is. Unless you are Donald Trump and you are born rich.
The rest of us, we have to make do with what we’ve got, and it usually isn’t enough. Mortgages, credits, student debt and other nasty words such as these can creep up on you when you least expect it and ruin your chances of visiting Italy this year, or the next for that matter.
Well, unless you’ve developed a great singing talent while reading my introductory paragraph, and you’re planning on making big bucks while singing country songs, prepare to read our 5 tips for making yourself more financially stable.
1. Know Your Expenses
This is the first, and probably the most important item here. You need to know exactly how much you and your family are bringing in, and how much is going out. This might seem like a true hassle and a lot of paperwork, but you need to know the current state of affairs.
It might seem obvious, but you should spend less than you earn, as that would be the perfect case scenario; then, you’re done and you can stop reading right now. If you find yourself on the negative side, no matter how impossible that might sound, a lot of people actually live like that, yes, it is somewhat stressful, but it is possible.
Once you get to know where your money is going, and what kind of life it is living, it is also important to know terms like investing, taxes, insurance and retirement plans. Once again, nobody mentioned those things while you were in college, and somehow, they are trying to actively ruin your life. Remember: Google is your friend – if you don’t know something, google it immediately; only knowledge can help you with your financial troubles. Or rich uncles – they are also a nice solution.
When creating a list of expenses, try to find something that looks like something you can live without. Maybe you don’t really need that gym membership, since the last time you visited, Christina Aguilera was still popular. On the other hand, maybe you can give a few dollars more on a bank account that will make all ATM withdrawals free – you never know where some hidden expenses might be unless you play this game of hide and seek.
The most important thing here – be honest with yourself; the only person you could be lying to here is yourself (and people are quite good at that; I know I am – I’m looking at you, diet). The more honest and reasonable you are, the more rational decisions you will be able to make. Ask a friend to help you, your mother or father, unless they plan on nagging about how fiscally irresponsible you are.
2. Learn What to Rent, and What to Buy
Many people do not agree about whether it is better to buy stuff or simply rent it – in the long run, that is. For example, if you are planning on renting a home, where you plan on living with your family, it is better to think about buying it permanently, via bank credit. Renting may sound like a good solution for now, but after 10 years (and trust me, time passes by quickly) you might regret only renting, when you could have paid off 70% of your home by that time.
On the other hand, renting a DVD might be a much better solution than buying it. I know, nobody buys DVDs anymore, but you get my point. Do not go in blindly and buy everything you need; there is probably a service that can provide you with the same result, for less money. If you’re having money issues, it’s a better idea to join the local library than buy every book you want.
If you plan on using something for a long time, then it is better to buy – it is called cost analysis, and it sounds difficult, because it is. It involves not only money, but whether you actually need that item, and how much money that item will cost you in the future.
Even though I mentioned that you should take a bank loan and buy a home, it is not a piece of advice I give out lightly.
You should be 110% sure that you can survive such an adventure, and then decide. Think about your future mortgage and when you should start paying it off. Maintain a high credit score, which means that you cannot use your credit card like Monopoly money; only buy what you can actually afford.
3. Play the Responsible Game – Invest
Now, this is something everyone needs professional help with. Finances are all around us, and they are way more complicated than we’ve ever imagined. Investing may sound like magic from a Harry Potter book and, while it might actually be quite similar, it has real-life consequences, and you should be on the winning side. The more you know about the financial instruments at your disposal, the better choices you’ll be able to make, and you’ll know when to back away.
Investing into your 401(k) plan is also an investment, even though many people don’t consider it that way. Whenever you get your paycheck, a small portion is set aside, and after years, especially when you’re older and unable to work, you’ll have money on the side, or in case of an emergency.
If, on the other hand, you’re interested in stocks, there are many options that we cannot cover in an entire article itself. That is why it is better to find someone who does that sort of thing professionally, but even then be mindful of what you’re doing.
Another type of investing can be insurance. There are many kinds of insurances. You can insure almost anything (it’s even said that Jennifer Lopez insured her behind, so there’s that fun fact). You never know when you might need a large sum of money for something unexpected. Hey, nobody likes thinking about this kind of stuff, but it is a part of life.
Life insurance might help your family if someone unexpectedly dies, and health insurance will help you with doctors’ bills. Home insurance will help you in case of break-ins, natural disasters and what-not. Like I said, it is all dark stuff, but dark stuff happens.
4. Always Have a Savings Account
Once you’ve surveyed your finances, and found some money you are willing to set aside, then it is a good idea to start a savings account.
Choose any bank, just don’t try to hide your money under your bed. Not only will a bank give you a small interest (in this case, you are lending your money to a bank, and they are paying interest to you – and isn’t that a nice turn of event?), but it will keep your money safe and sound, and always at your disposal. Even a small monthly amount can accrue to a lot of money over a few years, and that can easily become your kid’s college or emergency fund.
When creating a savings account, you should always have at least 3 months’ worth of money – so that in case you suddenly lose your job, you have some time to find another without worrying about survival. Another great piece of advice here is to create a special savings account that is not connected to any credit card. This is to prevent yourself from spending that money when you do not really need it. You should not even have easy access to it. It might sound counterintuitive, but it will help you save some money.
5. Find Additional Income
Another great piece of advice that might seem too obvious is that you should find another job. There are many agencies that will give you an opportunity to work online as a tutor of almost anything you are good at. Do you know a bit of German or French? Why not use those skills and earn some money in the process. The Eastern markets are full of people who are more than eager to learn Western languages, so it is even possible to be an English teacher, even though you are not fully qualified.
If you need more radical changes, you can sell off the stuff you don’t use, and make some money that way. Make a yard sale, or even better – put all the things you haven’t used in the last year on eBay, especially things like clothes and electronic appliances.
Mind you, this won’t solve your finances, but it might help in the short run, especially if you are struggling to get your hands on some quick cash. An additional job will help you in the longer run, but it will probably ruin your personal life, but who needs that anyway.
All joking aside, finances are no laughing matter. Money can ruin your life or make it great, so it is extremely important to always take care of it. Spend it wisely, invest it properly, and always have a small backup.
If you are in dire need of some help, either find an additional job or ask a friend for a quick loan. Refrain from banks, but if you cannot avoid them, use their services cautiously, and always bring someone with more experience to the bank; they can help you understand the fine print and make a better decision. Good luck!