One of your top priorities should be taking charge of your money. A great way to get on track is to develop a feasible budget that meets all of your financial needs. However, it can be hard to figure out what you need to consider, outside of the most obvious things (paying bills, etc.). Begin by thinking about what’s necessary, what’s important to you, and where you’d like to be in the future. Setting goals is an important part of budgeting, because it gives you something to aim for. One of my few regrets in life is that I didn’t plan better financially when I was younger, because it took quite a bit of my 20s to catch up to where I wanted to be. The sooner you plan, the better off you’ll be! Consider some of the financial goals listed below as possible starting points to set you up for future success…
Pay off your debt in a reasonable amount of time. One of your ultimate goals should be to get rid of your debt, and to continue to live debt-free. Some debt is kind of unavoidable (i.e. student loans, a mortgage) so come up with a plan for paying it off as quickly as you can while still being able to meet the rest of your budget requirements. The sooner you get rid of it, the more money you’ll have left for other things that are more important to you.
Build your savings. You never know what might happen, so it’s a good idea to have a nice emergency cushion built up to fall back on. It’s a good bet to have at least 3 months’ worth of expenses set aside, or even more, if you can swing it. Even if you have to start small, it’s better than having nothing at all.
Prepare for big life events. In addition to having an emergency fund, it’s wise to start preparing for any momentous occasions that could be in your future – think about things like getting married, buying a house, having children, or planning for trips. Budgeting for these things now will also give you a better idea of what your finances could look like down the road, helping to avoid future debt.
Live within your means. Learn to work with what you have and be comfortable with it. You may never be able to afford a life of luxury, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the one you ARE living. If you love something, make it a priority, no matter how small it might seem to others. If you can’t, find ways that you could possibly make adjustments in other areas to make it work, or set it as a new goal for yourself as something to work towards in the future.
Plan for retirement. It might not seem important now, but you’ll regret it later in life if you don’t. It’s an especially good idea to max out anything your employer might contribute in order to get the most for your money.
Be consistent. Come up with a plan and stick to it! Try to avoid breaking promises to yourself, and follow your own rules that you’ve set in place. Once you develop the habit, it becomes hard to break, and before long, it’ll just be second nature.
Continue to learn. I’m constantly making changes to my budget to reflect my current needs and future goals. I’m also always looking for ways to better manage my money. Continue to re-evaluate your finances and improve on what you’re doing to be even more efficient than you are now. You never know what new tricks or tips you could learn to help improve your financial situation.
What financial goals have you set for yourself? How do you keep yourself on track?