Tips for Managing your Personal Finances

In these tight times, when big corporations seem to be at a loss as to handle their finances long enough to keep from going bankrupt, the rest of us are realizing that handling our own personal finances can be just as hard.  Here are a few tips that help.

*Get it together.  Pull out all that paperwork that’s been stuffed in your desk and preying on your mind.  It’s not impossible, although it may seem overwhelming.   Sort it all out, file what you need to and THROW AWAY what you can.  You will feel so much better when everything is where you can find it.

*Work out the cash flow.  First list all your bills in one column, your income in another.  Add up the good stuff, subtract the bad, find out how much you should theoretically have left over.  Don’t forget groceries, gas, dance lessons for the kids, school lunches and any luxuries that you just can’t do without. 

Write down when each bill comes due and decide how many bills each paycheck can cover.  In a space at the beginning of each week on the calendar, list the bills that need to be paid out.  Then nothing can sneak up on you for that week.

*If you need to, talk to your utility suppliers, credit card holders, etc. about adjusting the due date for your bills so that the cash flow works more efficiently.  Most bill collectors are thrilled to cooperate with someone who is trying to work with them.

*Be diligent about balancing your checkbook.  Record everything you spend meticulously, whether spent by check or debit card.  Don’t, for heaven’s sake, wait for that once a month balance statement.  Either get on line, or call the bank and go through the automatic computer system of listing what debits have gone through, and do so every few days.

*Be diligent about keeping track of what you charge.  If you are still using the plastic, record that as meticulously as you do the checkbook.  Go online and check your transactions often.  Question the ones the ones you don’t understand.

*Be diligent about filing your invoices and bill stubs.  Take one day a week and sit down with your folders, filing away the bills you have paid.  Don’t get too nitpicky about categorizing everything.  You don’t have to have a separate folder for the power bills, then the cable, then the gas bill.  Put it all under “utilities” and save yourself some time.   It will encourage you to file frequently.

*If you find that you are consistently overspending to your amount of income, do something about it!  Don’t continue to live “beyond your means”….that old-timey phrase that now seems to make sense again….and just charge and charge and charge.  Those days are past.  Be a grown-up and do something about it.

You can keep on top of your personal finances.  You may as well figure it out now so you don’t have to go through repossession and chapter 13.  It will be a lot easier in the long run.