Start: Your Finances Won’t Get Better Until You Do

startYou know you need to pay attention to your finances and create some kind of spending plan. So why haven’t you started? Are you just waiting for the right software, book, or moment? Maybe you feel overwhelmed. The reasons for not starting and maintaining your spending plan are endless, but your window of opportunity closes a little more with every day you put off taking care of your financial well-being. What are some of your reasons for not starting?

If I only had the right software

Financial software, like Quicken or Microsoft Money can be helpful. These types of programs allow you to download your account transactions, create a budget, analyze your spending or investments, etc. Online options like Geezeo, Mint or Wesabe do the same thing as the software options, but also have social networks consisting of other users to compare notes with, give encouragement or advice, etc. Best of all, they’re free.

However, if you are waiting to find the perfect software, chances are you never will. I’ve tried all of these and I still find things I don’t like. I say just pick one you like the best and stick with it. They all take care of your basic, spending plan needs. On the other hand, you can also go analog and just use a pen and paper.

If I only had the right book

The personal finance section of your local bookstore or library has a tremendous amount of books offering various plans, systems and advice. Maybe you have read many of these and are waiting for the right plan that fits your situation? The reality is they all teach the same basic financial principles, just using different buzzwords and packaging.

If you haven’t read any personal finance books yet, read the cover blurbs and book reviews, find one that appeals to you, and stick with it. If you have read a lot of these, pick the one you liked the best, or write down the best ideas from them all and create your own personal financial guide.

If I only had the time

We all wish we had more time. The fact is you have to make time for the important tasks in life, and keeping on top of your financial situation is one of these tasks.

If you don’t think you have the time, start small. Take pen and paper with you everywhere you go and write down what you spend as you spend it. Do this for three months. At the end of three months, you will have all the data you need right before you. Reorganize this data to see what you spent your money on, where you can cut back, and create a spending plan that lets you spend less than you earn and allows you to save for your future.

In addition, you can try using one of the software or online options mentioned above. These can go a long way to help you organize in a hurry, though if you were worried about time, I’d go with one of the online options.

You can also save time by using online banking. After the time of the initial set up, you can cut the time you would have spent writing out checks and mailing your bills by setting up online bill pay. Check with your bank to see if they offer this. Most do nowadays.

So now what are you waiting for

Unless you are in real financial trouble, you don’t need to be an expert financial planner in order to start a plan. You know your needs and spending habits better than anyone does. You don’t need software or books to make financial decisions. Use these if they truly help you and appeal to you. Anything that gets you moving toward your financial goals is worthwhile, but the important thing is to start. If you remember to spend less than you earn, and save what you can, you are already on your way to financial success.

Image courtesy of CellPhoneSusie

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5 Responses to Start: Your Finances Won’t Get Better Until You Do

  1. A Marino says:

    This article reminds me of the same reasons that people use to procrastinate, namely diets or exercising.

    The truth is that all you need to do is to get a sheet of paper, list your income and outgo. Pick up a small memo pad and track your expenses for a couple of months. List any debts that you want to pay off and make a scedule and pay-off date. Just paper and pen.

    Next, if you want to get a library loaner book; there are many out there to choose from. In the beginning, don’t read too many. Try to stay with one and change later on when you know that you need to tweak you budget.

    You can buy just about any software to start with and stay with it so you will know what it is that you like or dislike about it.

  2. IVSPORT says:

    If people spent as much time working on tracking finances as they do shopping for luxury items, this country would be in far-better shape.

  3. Dana says:

    I agree with A Marino comment and the article. When I use to do budget counseling with couples, they listed all the above excuses for why they couldn’t manage their finances.



  5. Gail says:

    I used to use Money and found when I quit, I had more time as I didn’t have to keep double listing things; first checkbook then input into computer. I balance my checkbooks weekly via the bandk websites and then do bill paying and keeping track of things with pen and paper.

    One of the best things to do is set aside a particular day each week to do your financial stuff (best day is payday, second best is the day after) and get in the habit. Once I started getting SS I swapped days to Wednesdays as that is the day my SS check is deposited. So every Wednesday is bill paying day. And looking at what is ahead and coming up and transferring funds as needed so you have them on time so you don’t have late bills.

    I suspect many people have no habit established for doing their bills. Just getting into that weekly habit will go a long way to helping them get on track financially.

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