We have put together a list of tips for managing your money that may be useful in achieving financial stability.
1. Have a plan – a budget.
Budgets are rarely something that people regularly look at but what they do is help you understand what you’re spending your hard-earned money on and to set some boundaries for how much you allocate to your various expenses. Preparing a budget shouldn’t feel overwhelming, there are many templates out there to help you create something that works for you.
For example, the MoneySmart Budget planner is a great starting point. If getting into specific details with your spending feels too difficult, you can simplify the process by listing those things you are currently spending money on and allocate general amounts as a guideline to better understand your expenses.
Next, you could set up different accounts for specific purposes. This could be to having a specific account for automatically paying utilities bills, or one for groceries and general expenses, and one for savings.
As a general set of guidelines, ensure that your budget includes the following:
- Income and expenses
- Money coming in needs is more than money going out
- Expenses is personal – so look at how to determine your needs versus wants
- Pay first for the things you need
- Use the money left over for the things you want
- Keep in mind that small expenses (i.e., takeaway coffees) build up over time so a coffee a day, over the course of a year can add up to over $1,000.
2. Pay down your loans
Even though we need to borrow money for those larger purchases like a house, starting a business or otherwise because most people don’t have the resources to buy these things outright, it’s important to work out whether it’s critical to borrow for those smaller things that you might be better off saving to purchase later. For example, borrowing money to buy household white goods is something that you might be better off saving up to buy once you have enough money for it. This includes buying things that will be paid for later i.e., Buy now pay later schemes.
If you do borrow money for something, try to pay down loans faster than the schedule.
A general rule is borrow for things that can have the potentially to appreciate (grow) in value – i.e., a home, education, a business and avoid borrowing to fund ‘lifestyle’ purchases.
3. Pay off credit cards
Most credit cards attract high interest rates. If you can avoid paying interest on these, it will save you money. Before you take out a credit card, work out how much you will pay in interest if you go into debt on these and whether it’s worth it.
4. Credit scores matter
Credit scoring is important because this can determine the availability and terms of credit you can access. Read more on credit scoring at our other articles Part 1 – Understanding the Basics and Part 2 – What can you do if you believe something is wrong on your credit report.
5. Get assistance when you need it
It can be tempting to dig upwards out of a hole but admitting you are struggling to make repayments on any of your loans is critical to dealing with an issue before it becomes too overwhelming. If you are in financial hardship, it’s important to ask for help early. If you are struggling to pay off your debts, talk to your bank about what they might be able to do. If this isn’t helping, speak to a financial counsellor through one of the many financial counselling services. If you meet the criteria for Way Forward, we can assist you. The sooner you get assistance the sooner you can remove those stresses from your life.
6. Borrowing money always has obligations and risks – including By Now Pay Later
Borrowing money in any form is a type of loan, which carries risks. This includes buy now, pay later. It may seem on the surface to be interest free loans, but if there is an issue with meeting the obligations that are set out in the terms and conditions you may be subject to fees that can make a simple purchase expense. As these loans are much smaller, it can be easy to lose track of these payments and you may end up borrowing more than the funds you have available. The National Debt Helpline have useful information on their website about Buy Now, Pay Later.
7. Be wary of scams
The nature of scams is varied and can be anything from an unexplained inheritance to hacking bank accounts. More information about scams is available at Scam Watch, which is a service provided by the Australian Federal Government.
8. Have a regular savings plan
Savings take time but it’s worth it. This is the most important buffer to help you if you ever encounter unexpected expenses. Some ideas for how to build savings are to set up a special account where money is automatically transferred each fortnight/month once you reach pay day. This means you won’t see it coming out, but you will know it is there if you ever need it.
9. Build your wealth over time
The basic principles to building a nest egg of any size is that savings are key – putting aside more than you earn. All savings count, whether they are big or small. Borrowing money for things that will appreciate over time rather than for items you may not need is important so working out if something is a ‘need versus a want’ can help to determine whether you should borrow or save.
We have drawn inspiration from Brad Burnett, Financial Literacy – 9 things a college student should know