Do you struggle to make ends meet? Do you constantly run out of money before the end of the month? Are you late paying bills or miss payments altogether? Are you living paycheck to paycheck and feel like no matter how much you make you can never seem to get ahead?
Taking control of your finances can be overwhelming if you have never done it before. Trust me, I know because I have been right where you are now! No matter how bad you think your financial situation is, you can’t improve it without a clear understanding of where you are right now.
Facing Your Fears
Knowing your entire financial situation can be scary at first, but once you get over the initial shock you will soon realize that knowledge is power. Knowing your entire financial situation allows you to make better, more informed, decisions.
Think of it this way…
If you plug in the location of where you want to go but don’t know the location you’re starting from, the GPS can’t get you there.
Similarly, if you plug in your current location into the GPS but don’t know the location of your final destination, the GPS still can’t get you there.
The GPS needs to know where you are right now, the starting point, and where you want to go, the final destination, in order to create a clear roadmap to get you there.
The same is true for your financial situation. If you don’t have a clear, detailed understanding of where you are right now (financially) and where you want to be with your money in three to five years (your destination) you will never be able to create a clear roadmap to get from your current status to your future status. When you are starting from ground zero and don’t have a clue where to start it can be very overwhelming. To relieve the stress, start small. Take baby steps and celebrate all your wins, no matter how small they may be!
Here are 3 Simple Steps that helped me start taking control of my finances when I didn’t have a clue of what I was doing.
Step 1: Write Down ALL Your Income for the Month
On a piece of paper list your TOTAL monthly income. If you want to make it easier and accessible to you anywhere, you can use my free Income / Expense Tracker, add your partner as a collaborator if you are married! This includes any money coming in for the month, including but not limited to:
- Child Support
- Interest Income
Step 2: Get a Clear Understanding of ALL Your Debt and Expenses
On the same sheet of paper, write down ALL your expenses or use my free Income / Expense Tracker to write down everything you spend money on every month. This should include your fixed and variable expenses as well as any debt.
- Fixed Expenses are typically bills you pay every month. They are usually the same amount each month.
- Variable Expenses are expenses that vary from month-to-month, such as groceries, gas, shopping, and entertainment.
- Debt should include all your loans such as credit cards, student loans, vehicle loans, mortgage, home equity line and/or private loans, etc…
Start simple by making a list of all your debt and expenses you can think of off the top of your head. As the bills start to come in start tracking it with an expense tracker, covering the following categories:
- Account Name
- Category (Bill, Loan, Subscription, etc…)
- Category Type (fixed expenses, variable expenses or debt)
- Payment frequency (monthly, quarterly, or annually)
- Due Date
- Minimum Amount Due
- Auto Pay (Yes or No)
- Auto Pay Account Used (checking, savings, credit card, etc…)
Once you have all your income and expenses written down, subtract your total expenses from your total income to determine if you have a surplus, income leftover, or a deficit (money shortage) at the end of the month.
Even if you are behind, you can start to use this list to strategize ways to get ahead. This is just a stepping stone to getting on the right track with your finances.
Step 3: Keep Your Eye on the Goal
Once you have a thorough understanding of your financial snapshot, your income, debt, expenses, savings, and spending, don’t dwell on it; this is just your starting point.
Start to dream and visualize where you want to be, long-term, in the next three to five years, and gain clarity on what that looks like and how it feels. Then you can outline your roadmap and focus on the directions to get you to your final destination instead of the obstacles that are in your way.
You must face your fears in order to overcome them.
Living paycheck to paycheck has nothing to do with how much money you bring in each month.
Money is not the problem, the real problem is staying informed and understanding where you are with your finances, and learning how to manage your money with clear vision, goals and direction.
Take out a piece of paper and try this:
Start to hone in on your vision and dreams by writing down where you want to be with your money in the next three to five years. Paint the picture and get really detailed. Are you lying on the beach in Hawaii?
- What is the name of the beach?
- What are you doing on the beach?
- Are you working in the same job?
- Did you start your own business and become your own boss? Do yo work from home?
- How many hours are you working?
- Are you retired?
- Are you living debt-free in your dream home?
- Are you using your wealth to make an impact on your community?
- What does a typical day look like and how are do you feel?
Write out your weekday, in detail, using a planner to mark the times and exactly what you’re doing.
Stay motivated and inspired with a vision board.
Cut out vivid, colorful pictures and strong, powerful words that relate to your vision and who you want to be. Put them on a big poster board that you will see daily to keep your dreams in front of you and on your mind all the time. Use a small spiral index notecard book as your “to go” vision board that you can keep with you and look at it throughout the day for inspiration and motivation.
Stay motivated and inspired by the use of quotes and keep them where you will see them regularly. Read them over and over again and really think about how you can relate to them in your life to keep you focused and moving forward. Here are a few of my favorite to get you started.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”
-James W Frick
CONGRATULATIONS you have taken your first baby steps toward financial freedom so celebrate your first WIN!
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