The first step toward better financial health is getting organized. When you’re organized you avoid missed payments and unnecessary late fees, you start tracking and reducing debt, and embrace opportunities to pursue your saving and investing goals.
Organizing your financial life isn’t hard, you just need to get started. This easy-to-use checklist can help. You can also download a copy of these 7 Simple Steps here.
- Track Your Spending –
Taking note of your daily spending is the only way to know where your money is going. Take a few moments each day to record your daily spending in a pocket notebook (old school), spreadsheet, or an app on your smart device.
- Calculate Your Cash Flow –
Cash Flow = “money in” (income) minus “money out” (expenses). The result is “cash flow.” If you want to get where you to go in your financial life the result of this calculation must be a positive number. Earn more or spend less until it is. This is why you also need…
- Create a Budget –
A Spending Plan (that feels better than the “B” word, doesn’t it?) is your tool for keeping spending in alignment with your priorities and goals.
- Automate Saving and Bill Paying –
Successful savers understand two principles:
1) Pay yourself first
2) Automate the process
Your employer’s 401k plan is also an easy way to automatically save for retirement. Your employer may even make additional contributions that match yours (free money). Be sure to also automate your bill paying by using the online bill payments options offered by your vendors and/or your bank.
- Set Up a Filing System –
Sometimes you need to find an important document, or prove a payment was made. An effective filing system can keep you organized and save time. Where possible go paperless so you can receive and store documents digitally, preferably using a cloud-based storage service.
Create a folder system (analog and digital) for the statements you receive so you only have to spend a few minutes organizing them each month.
- Update Documents Periodically –
Review your financial documents annually to make sure that all of your personal information, including emergency contacts and beneficiaries, is accurate and up to date.
- Set Financial Goals –
Set specific, measurable financial goals, whether it is paying off debt, saving a specific amount each month for retirement, or reaching any other important financial milestone. Once again, wherever possible, automate it.