Hut, Hut, Hike.
Whether you like sports or not, you know that before each game the team has a game plan for how they will win. I want you to think of your finances the same way. We need a money game plan, an action plan and goals that we are trying to achieve to keep us on track. Otherwise, most of us feel like we are just shooting in the dark, and this stuff is hard. Even if you are in a great money situation, I’m sure that there are a few things that trip you up, or maybe that you aren’t paying enough attention to.
This is the 8 step money game plan that I came up with years ago to keep me focused at the start of each month. I use it month after month and wanted to share it with you. It’s helped a lot of my clients as well take “control” of their money and make some positive changes.
Create Yourself a New Budget–
Here is my proven 2-column budget template for you to use. What I want you to do is fill in the what I think I will spend column- aka budget – at the beginning of the month. This is an easy process and shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes at the most. Most months you can simply copy and paste from the previous month, and some months you will need to account for extra expenses that you know are coming up.
Get to Printing-
Print off last month’s bank statements or go online and take a look at your most recent statement. From there, categorize your spending so it aligns with your budget. Add up each category and input in your 2nd column- What I did spend- for the month prior. This might take you a bit longer, but the more and more you do this, the easier it will get. Then analyze that sucker- what worked, what didn’t, and make changes for next month.
Set a monthly savings goal
If you goal is to save $500 for the month, then break that down into easy to manage chunks. It gets too overwhelming when we have a big savings goal, and as a result, we just don’t save anything at all. Here’s an example, $500/30 (days)= $16.66 a day to save. Figure out what you can cut out of your budget, or how you can allocate that much a day to your savings account. Make it easy for yourself.
Invest in You
The whole month you invest in others- work, family, friends and your relationships. This month it’s all about you. Grab a new money book each month and commit to reading for 30 min-1-hour a week. That’s all it takes to learn something new. Hey, if you can do it every day, even better. Use the library for free books or get cheap ebooks online when they go on sale. You can always do a book exchange too with friends. Get knowledgeable about the topics you want to learn about.
Check Your Credit
If you have a Discover or Citi card, you can check your credit score for free each month on the monthly statements. This enables you to check trends and see what is happening with your credit score. If you notice the score going down dramatically, then you might want to pull a free credit report to see what is going on. If you don’t have a credit card that shows your score and you haven’t checked your credit this year, do it this month. Check out some of my favorite sites like annualcreditreport.com, Credit Sesame, and Creditscore.com.
Take a listen to my podcast on this very subject.
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Create a money “star of the month”
Pick one area of your finances that you want to focus on this month. It can be your 401(k), IRA, ROTH, savings, paying off debt, budgeting, giving, teaching friends, or a spending challenge. It doesn’t really matter, the point is that you are going to have a singular focus on one area to boost it up. Create a goal and action plan that you can achieve, and give yourself a little reward afterward. Be silly and take a picture and post it on FB, or Instagram and shout out what your star of the month is- it will keep you accountable.
If you are anything like me, you like a good challenge. Challenge yourself to up your savings % by at least .25% this month…if not more. While this might not seem like a big deal now, you can really supercharge your ability to meet goals, and save your butt in times of emergencies
Create a “What’s Coming Up” List
It’s good to look at the next month and see if anything is coming up on the horizon that might be an extra expense. Things like car insurance, changing health insurance, renters insurance, or any of those little sneaky expenses are worth planning for. You want to create a plan for those things so you don’t have to turn to the credit cards to pay for them. If you want to be an overachiever, create a document that lists out each month in the year, and those sneaky expenses so you can see the whole year at a glance.
Disclosure: The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which financial products may be appropriate for you, consult your financial adviser prior to investing and selecting a financial product. There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes.
Shannah Compton Game is a Money Wellness expert, host of the to-rated Millennial Money podcast, and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER with an MBA. Millennial Money has over 15 million downloads in 164 countries. Shannah’s years of experience as a skilled Certified Financial Planner have set her on a mission to revolutionize how people think, act, and feel about their finances…and have some fun doing so.