Posted: 4:11 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013
No one likes chores. Whether it's doing dishes, folding laundry, walking the dogs in freezing temperatures, or vacuuming, there's really nothing fun about doing chores.
That's probably why we have to pay our kids an allowance of some sort to get them done. Without incentive, there's no reason to complete them (except living in a clean house and having clean clothes). Unfortunately, there's no good way to make chores go away so the best we can do is to devise a system that makes them go as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Managing your money works the same way. It's something that has to be done but it can be so cumbersome that most of us avoid doing it until it becomes a big mess that seems almost impossible to clean up. But it doesn't have to be that way. Just like you do with household chores, why not develop a system to make daily money management as quick and as painless as possible?
Here are three steps to get you started:
1. Set a weekly appointment time. As you would a haircut or doctor appointment, write it on you calendar so you don't forget. Treat it with the same importance. Use this time to balance your checkbook, review online statements, pay bills that aren't automated, review your budget, and plan for upcoming expenses. Doing this all at one time helps keep you from feeling overwhelmed about money during the rest of the week and it helps keep your finances organized.
2. Use cash. This tip also works if you are good about paying off your credit card each month. I am not so I use cash, mainly organized via the envelope system. Using the envelope system with designated amounts of cash for each budget category accomplishes two main goals: it means I only have to go to the bank once every pay period (yay for one less errand) and I know exactly how much money I have to spend. No guessing, no worrying about overdraft fees, no stressing that there's not enough money in the account. I have what I need upfront and, when I have to buy something, I take the budgeted amount right from the envelope and go. Very easy and simple.
3. Create a budget. It doesn't have to be fancy or perfect or even rigid. Budgets are fluid and change with your income, expenses, and needs. It's okay to review it each month and adjust it if you need to. But the important part is that you have one. A budget is the simplest way to manage your money. It is your roadmap, your guide, your navigation system. It tells you where you stand, what you need to do, and how much money you have to do it. When you have a budget in place, it makes all of the other aspects of money management that much easier and simpler.
If you are anything like me, you want to spend as little time on doing what you have to do so you can get to the things you want to do. This includes managing money. I like to know that I have what I need (and sometimes a little extra) and if I can figure that out in one hour per week instead of one or two hours per day, that's even better. Because there's no reason to add anything extra to my daily agenda.
Readers, what tools do you use to make managing your day to day expenses simpler?