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Seven Steps To Improve Your Money Habits

Aug 17, 2007
Does any of the following apply to you?

* You'd like to get your money under control.
* Want to be more financially aware
* Just getting by from day to day.
* Not be able to afford the things you need.
* Up to your limit on your credit cards.

Well, I'd like to share with you some of the money habits I've adopted over the years that have enabled me to keep my finances under control, invest for my future and almost without realising it, reach a comfortable state of financial freedom.

The Seven-Step Approach

If you follow the steps outlined below, you will significantly improve your money habits and increase your financial well-being. You will be less stressed and therefore improve your physical and emotional well-being too.

Learn how to take control of your finances and get a clear understanding of where you are financially.

* Step 1 - What Are Your Money Habits? What money habits do you currently have? What is your spending pattern? Take stock of where you are now and you will start to understand what being in control means to you.

How does money or the lack of it affect your life? It's your decision as to how you spend your money. If you are spending more than you earn - you have a choice, carry on and get into debt or stop. Spend money for short-term gain and gratification or spend your money on longer-term financial stability and for your future goals. Every time you're tempted to spend money on a new pair of shoes, a meal out or a new outfit - think! How much more could that money be worth to you in the longer-term?

* Step 2 - What Does Money Mean To You? What's stopping you from being financially free? Understand where your beliefs and money behaviours come from, so that you can address the underlying reasons for your bad habits and start to put in place some new ones.

You probably have some beliefs about money you hold today that developed through your childhood as you grew up. Beliefs based around what your parents, society and religion taught you about money. The way your parents dealt with money will affect the way you deal with your money.

* Step 3 - Get Organised! Develop a crisp, clear picture of your expenses and your income. Do this and you'll be in better shape and have a clear picture of where you are.

The reason this is important is to work out whether you're earning enough to meet your expenses. If not, you either need to a) cut your expenses or b) you need to earn more money. The reason people get into debt or overspend is because they are unaware of how much they actually need to earn.

Gather together all your salary slips, receipts, bank statements, credit card statements, details of loan payments, mortgage, your money diary, etc. Work out all your incomings and outgoings.

* Step 4 - Reduce Your Outgoings. Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves. Begin to look at ways you can reduce your outgoings and start saving.

Even if you're getting by, you may be surprised at where your money goes and how much you could save with a little effort and some careful thought. Look at the items that cost you the most and see what you can do to reduce these first.

* Step 5 - Dealing With Debt - neither a borrower nor a debtor be. There's no escaping the fact that we live in a consumer society where possessions sometimes seem to be everything. This can lead us to accumulate things we don't actually need and run up debts we can't afford. Credit is just another form of debt. It may seem like an easy solution, 'Buy Now, Pay Later' but how much do you really end up paying for that short-term pleasure?

If you're in debt, then get clear on what your debts are. How many debts do you have? How much is your debt actually costing you? Decide that today is the day you're going to take responsibility and you put yourself in a much better position to do something about it. You're not the first and certainly not the last person to be in debt. As soon as you start to bust your debt you'll become more financially free.

* Step 6 - Savings - speculate to accumulate. First create your Emergency Fund and then start saving and investing for the long term. Even if you don't have enough money to invest you can at least start saving. Set up an automatic payment straight out of your account into a savings account.

Place it somewhere with easy access, preferably earning the highest rate of interest available. Never under the mattress! Keep 10% of your savings readily accessible for emergencies. As you build up your savings fund - move it into a high-interest, long-term savings scheme. Make your money work for you!

Your first savings pot should be your Emergency Fund. Aim to accumulate 3-6 months of your basic monthly outgoings that you need to survive. Should the worst happen and you lose your job, go sick for a period of time or decide to have a change of career, you will have a financial cushion to support you.

* Step 7 - Moving On - Good Habits. Keep yourself on track with some new money habits.

- Get organised and put a structure in place to keep you financially in control.

- Get all your regular, monthly expenses on direct debit - that way you won't have to remember to pay bills, miss a payment, get unnecessary charges or risk getting cut off.

- Check how much you are paying for things on a regular basis. Check your bank statement every month when it comes in.

- Set aside a little time, every day, once a week or once a month to organise your finances.

If you follow these seven steps you should start to feel more in control of your money and be in a far better position financially. By reducing your outgoings you will be able to start saving and investing in your future. Money is the means to an end - it is not the be all and end all.

"...if you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, a place to sleep, money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere... you are richer than 75% of this world."
About the Author
Clare writes on several topics to help busy, stressed individuals and small business owners organise their lives more effectively.

Download a free Money Habits Checklist and an extract of her ebook More Month Than Money at http://www.clareevans.co.uk.
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