Most of us are no stranger to money troubles. Sometimes these problems are a bit more muted, while other times they are serious, and significantly interfere with our lives. Regardless, the core actions that will help improve the situation are generally the same, the intensity of these efforts will simply vary. If your current financial situation is in need of some tweaking, here are just a few tips to get things back on track.
Organization is key to good financial health. If you are constantly looking for financial papers, have trouble tracking when bills are due, etc… this is the first place to start. Designate a spot you will keep financial documents, and get various folders, labels and what have you. There is no one best system—it is important to find one that works for you, and you will maintain.
Get your bills set up on automatic payments. You can use free online bill pay through your bank in most cases, where you will have the option to schedule one-off payments or set up recurring. Automatically schedule credit card payments—typically you can choose a set amount to recur, but at the very least, get set up with minimum payments, and then make extra payments, so at least you will never be late.
When periodic payments come due, such as car insurance, make sure to write down the due date so you don’t miss it.
Prioritize Goals and Focus on One or Two Things Initially
If you have several areas of your money life that need some attention, it can feel overwhelming to try and tackle everything at once. We want to avoid that sense of overwhelm because it tends to paralyze us, and lead to taking no action at all. So, give some thought to the various issues, and prioritize them. Focus on just one or two for now. What is gnawing at you most? Is it your debt? Do your retirement accounts need some more love from you? Is your budget non-existent, or in need of revamping?
Determine Why You Want to Improve
Bad money habits, as much strife as they cause us, can be tough to break because they are so deeply ingrained. Without some strong motivators, you’ll fall off track quite easily. Sure, you want to be more responsible, get rid of debt, or increase savings. But, these surface, broader desires are not meaty enough to really motivate you. You have to dig deeper and ask yourself why you want these things. You have to get at the root. So, write down your bigger reasons like the ones mentioned above, and then ask why you want that, and then that, and that. Keep going until you get to the core reasons, which are likely much larger issues. This clarity will set the stage for a success.
Write down those core reasons and keep it with you—refer to it often when you are feeling discouraged, or when you mess up. It will help you regroup and refocus.