You don’t have to be in serious trouble financially to take a look at your personal finances. Too many people wait for problems to develop before they take a good long look at how much money is coming in and where it’s going. What you should really be doing is analyzing your personal finances on a monthly basis. However, if you need to get control of your money, here’s how to do it.
First, you have to assess your income. How much money are you bringing in? If all you have is a paycheck, this is an easy step. But don’t forget about any other sources like odd jobs you might do, alimony, etc.
Now you need to take a look at how much you’re spending. This begins by examining your fixed expenses—things that really aren’t open for much leeway one way or the other. This usually means things like your mortgage, rent, car payments, utilities, insurance, etc. Realistically, there’s probably nothing you can do about them.
Then evaluate variable expenses; these are things you could potentially adjust like gas, food, cable, entertainment budget and similar costs.
With these two steps done, you should have a good idea about where your money is going and how much you’re leftover with each month. That means now you have to trim the fat, so to speak.
Sometimes this step is easy. Maybe you’re spending $100 a month getting fancy coffees every morning. Perhaps you’re going out to lunch every single day and racking up quite the bill. Another easy way to shake out these expenses is by assessing what is actually a “need” and what is a “want.”
Finally, begin cutting down on these unnecessary “wants” and putting that money into a savings account. There is no better metric for healthy personal finances than how much money you could call upon if you needed it. Plus, the act of building these savings means building the kinds of habits it takes to be in control of your finances.