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By Dee Dee Sung
Q. I’m determined to get my finances on track this year and would welcome a few pointers on where to start. There’s so much information out there that it becomes confusing. I’m tired of feeling like my debts are overwhelming and I have no money available at the end of each month. What’s bothering me the most is that I don’t really know where my money’s going.
A. Congratulations on your commitment to get your finances in order! The cynics believe that New Year’s resolutions are meant to be broken but it doesn’t have to be that way. The truth is that it’s important to have a plan of action in place that’s simple and easy to follow. Remember, it’s the baby steps that lead to giant results. Okay, let’s talk about these 5 STEPS to a financially healthy new year!
- Set realistic goals – unattainable goals are a surefire way to set you up for failure. I emphasize the word “realistic” as you will build your confidence when you start to see positive results.
- Track your spending – this may seem tedious but it’s the only way you’ll be able to see where you precious dollars are really going. Many people like to remain vague so they don’t have to confess to the miscellaneous expenditures that are eating up their hard earned cash and preventing them from reaching their goals and dreams.
- Envelop system for budgeting – this is all about getting back to basics. Create an envelope for every category within your budget and when you receive your paycheck, allocate a percentage into each category. Generations before us successfully used this system and, in my opinion, it’s still one of the most powerful ways to create and stick to a budget. Believe me, it’s empowering to know where your money’s being spent and it will allow you to make necessary adjustments over time. More so, once the cash in a particular envelope has been depleted, you know you’ve hit your spending limit. As they say, proof is in the pudding!
- Progress not perfection – it’s all too tempting to set lofty, unattainable goals. Unfortunately, that usually results in taking your commitment to that goal from excitement to overwhelm and defeat. I like to remind people that any journey is more about making progress versus striving for perfection. You will find that focusing on progress will take a lot of pressure off of the task at hand. It’s also important that you have some fun and be willing to laugh as you learn!
- Save before you spend – consistently allocating a portion from each paycheck into a savings account (no matter how small the amount) will go a long way to build your money confidence and give you a sense of freedom. Usually, the #1 excuse for not doing this is that there isn’t enough money from each paycheck to save. This is where the envelope and tracking systems come into play as they will both allow you to determine where you’re spending your money that you could cut back on. It doesn’t matter what amount you start with – $25, $50 per month – what matters most is that you start. As you see your savings account balance start to grow, you’ll be inspired to find ways to free up more cash to save.
Embarking on these steps requires you to make a commitment to yourself. You might also consider finding a friend who wants to take these steps with you. The best way to creating a healthy relationship with money is to connect with other like-minded people who are on the same journey. Although there will be discomfort along the way, believe me, the rewards will be many!
Metro Detroit speaker, author and radio personality Dee Dee Sung is the founder of Debt Free Divas, Inc. with a mission to educate, entertain and inspire people in reinventing their relationship to money.