Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wealth Creation Tips

As someone who loves to shop, enjoys holidays and owns way too many pairs of shoes, managing my finances is definitely something that does not come naturally to me, I have had to learn. Managing your money is so important in becoming more organised, less stressed and more productive in your life – you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with your money when it starts working for you, rather than you always working for it!

Seek advice. It’s funny how most of us will go to experts for help in so many different areas of our lives, but we seem to think that somehow managing our money is something we can tackle for ourselves – usually when all evidence is to the contrary! Look for a financial planner or accountant who can help you set a course for your financial future – you’ll identify your future financial goals, get real about your budget, set up investment strategies that will help you to achieve your goals – and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Budget is not a dirty word! I know for many people ‘budget’ and ‘diet’ are in the same category, but a realistic budget is a phenomenally powerful financial tool and is imperative if you want to take control of your money (budgets can, and should, leave room for money to have fun with and to reward yourself with for all of your savings efforts!). If you find establishing a budget difficult to do (or to get motivated to do) on your own, seek help from a financial professional or even a friend, colleague or family member who has it all together financially.

Keep track. Keep a written record of every cent you spend for 30 days to see where all your money is really going. This activity serves a number of purposes – firstly it probably shocks you into reality and secondly, it helps you to identify categories of spending which you’ll need to include in your budget. Remember, keep track of every single cent…at the end of the month, if you’re spending more than you’re earning that’ll be a good indication of where some of your financial stress may be coming from!

The big picture. As well as looking at your day-to-day spending, estimate your annual expenses by looking at all of your regular bills and financial commitments and totalling that amount for the whole year. Once you know what your total fixed liabilities are for the year, divide that amount by 12 for a monthly figure. This is the amount you should be putting away each month just to pay your bills.

Keep on top of it. Review your budget weekly – this is a great habit to get into and helps you to keep on top of where your money is going and to quickly identify areas where you are spending too much – it can be quite an eye-opener! You might create a spreadsheet to enter your income and expenses into and to keep as an ongoing record.

Credit or charge? Change your credit cards for charge cards that you pay off in full each month. Knowing that you’ll have to pay it off at the end of the month is a great motivator to help you get past those impulse purchases. If you do want or need a credit card, keep your credit limit low to help stop you from spending too much.

Go online. Bank fees and charges are one of those small expenses that don’t seem like much each time, but they can add up. You can easily avoid them by changing your banking habits. Online banking is ideal; it’s cheap, convenient, reliable, saves you time and helps you to understand your financial position 24-hours-a-day.

Keep your receipts. How many times have you wished you kept the receipt – whether it’s so you can return or exchange an item or claim it on your tax? Set up a simple receipt filing system – it doesn’t have to be complicated, perhaps just an alphabetical file – and you’ll be able to find anything you need without the stress.

Tax time. Keep a separate file for your tax receipts and other documents relating to your annual tax return. This will save you from the frustrations at the end of the financial year and help you (or your accountant) to make sure you maximise your chances of receiving a tax return.

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