Here are five steps to help you on your path to financial organization, and ultimately, freedom from debt.
- Collect all necessary documentation in a single location.
- Take a day off each quarter from work, known as a "personal finance day," to gather your account information and place it in organized files. Ideally, there will be files for banking information, credit cards, investments, mortgages, and insurance.
- If you are not utilizing your bank's online resources, sign up for an account. Many banks provide an array of tools that can also aid in organizing expenses and income.
- Create a written budget, and review it monthly.
- Once you have gathered all your account information in a safe, central location, create an accurate budget that includes a savings trigger and properly notates your money needs. Adjust spending in key areas such as food and entertainment, and allocate those funds to debt elimination and savings.
- At the beginning of each month, review your budget. Holidays and special events will give your budget a different look than in other months, and your spending plan should reflect those changes to give you the best idea of where your spending should be for that time.
- Set a schedule for paying bills.
- When creating your monthly budget, write down specific dates to pay various bills. As a rule of thumb, it is best to pay bills in bulk on key days of the month. For example, if Sam & Diane's mortgage is due on the 1st, their phone bill on the 5th, and electric bill on the 7th, it would be ideal to pay all three bills on the 1st. This ensures these bills are satisfied, and eliminates any chance of incurring late fees from the creditor, or overdraft fees from their bank.
- Write down all one-time expenses for the year
- One stumbling block many face when embarking on budgeting is the occurrence of one-time expenses that pop up throughout the year. These may include license plate renewals, professional dues, or insurance premiums. Divide these costs by 12, so that you can include them in your monthly budgets. By employing this method, you can save towards those costs as they come, rather than losing large amounts of your monthly income in one fell swoop.
- Shred, shred, shred!!
- If possible, invest in a shredder. In the age of rampant identify theft, it is imperative that you take every available precaution to protect your personal information. Not only will shredding documents keep you safe from possible theft, it also frees your home of tons of unnecessary paper.
By taking these steps, you are, in a way, deputizing yourself to free yourself from the prison of indebtedness. It all begins with a willingness to say, "Yes, I'll do it." We'll be here to help you along the way.
With you on the journey,
Daniel Sims is the newest member of the Madam Money team. He is the creator & host of Financial Rebirth Live!, a personal finance podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com, and managing partner of RDSF Consulting in Little Rock, Arkansas. We look forward to his insights in the coming months.