Anyone can be good with money – here’s how to start!
Anyone can be good with money – here’s how you do it!
It runs out when you don’t expect it.
Debts can get a bit squeaky bum.
Red bills (and worse) arrive demanding money because you forgot to pay them on time. Or just didn’t have the money.
I wouldn’t say I am now the dominatrix of money – if I was as brilliant at managing money as I plan to be, I would have no debt, a nearly full retirement pot and an income that didn’t involve me selling my time for money.
But I’m working on all of the above and I know that all of the above will happen and roughly when.
And if I can do it, so can you!
Setting goals is important for being good with money.
If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you can’t make a plan. So before you even get to grips with money, think about what you’d like your money situation to be like.
Keep it realistic – we’d all like to be millionaires, but at a basic level most people would just like to be secure, not in debt, and able to stop work at a point when they want to or are too old or infirm.
My money goals (to give you an idea of what you can aim for):
2019 is when I plan on getting rid of all my debt, through repaying from salary, side hustles and selling stuff.
A nearly full retirement pension pot:
2029 is the target for this one. I am planning on having a nearly full pot in 10 years time. By “full” I mean £500k – although this looks increasingly like it won’t be enough to retire on so I may have to revise this over time. (Current estimates say to have £20,000 a year I will need £700,000.)
I have almost a fifth of my target now. Compounding will get me some of the way, but I will need to up my contributions to double the amount they are now.
An income that doesn’t involve me selling my time for money:
2023 is when I hope to have generated enough passive income to allow me much more financial flexibility than I have now.
Ask me in a year how on track I am! I think I am on the way.
Getting organised is also important if you want to be good with money.
There are lots of different ways you can do this.
You can do a budget (recommended). This is a lot more interesting than it sounds if you haven’t done it before.
For some people, it’s revelatory!
There is more info here: The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting.
If you just want a rough rule of thumb for how to organise your money try the 50 30 20 rule, which basically just says spend 50% on your needs, 30% on the fun stuff and put the remaining 20% towards sensible things. You can read more detail about it here: how to budget with the 50 30 20 rule.
For my monthly finances, I have a budget on a spreadsheet and I dish out my money into various accounts every month so that my tax gets paid, I invest a little, my pension gets added to and my bills are paid off. I still spend a bit more than I mean to a lot of the time and occasionally miss a payment that I shouldn’t have, but I have a busy life so I don’t beat myself up about it – I do pretty well overall.
I like to give every bit of money I earn a job so that I know exactly what I should be spending on what (in theory). This kind of budgeting is called zero based budgeting – for those who want to get forensic about it, and it really really works.
You don’t have to be good at money now – if you want to get good at money it is something you can learn.
If being good with money is a gazillion miles away for you – I’ve been there too!
I used to be crap with money. When I was younger I had no-one in my life to teach me about money because my folks weren’t too hot on finance and we didn’t learn that stuff at school. Money was a thing to be spent on sweets, chocolates and later, clothes and booze. I never had enough and there was never anything left over.
I shiver to think how much debt I would have notched up at university if I’d had to pay tuition fees. I feel for people who have to pay for their education and living costs now.
My spending patterns at university usually involved spending my termly budget in the first 4 weeks and then living on iceberg lettuce, dressing and toast for the rest of term. Healthy…
So how do you ditch the boom to bust pattern?
Getting in control of your finances just involves one major thing: AWARENESS
Most people (my past self included) worry about their money, but they are not aware of how much they have, what needs to be spent and when and how to spread it out.
They don’t know when bills are coming out or when the next dollar is coming in.]
Is that you? You’re not alone if so and it is something you can change.
Plus you can still have luxuries when you are aware of your money situation – we all want a nice life – but being aware of how big your money pie is and how to divide it up means that you can have treats AND pay the bills.
Being good with money step 1: Decide what your money organising style is going to be – work with your nature
Depending on what type of person you are this could be easy or hard…
You need to decide where you are going to keep all your financial info as you gather it. Make it something that you will find satisfying,
If you are a tactile kind of person, you might want to pin pieces of paper to a cork board.
If you like typing on a computer and are OK at using word or excel then start a table or a spreadsheet.
If you like colours and visuals, maybe try something like Google Keep which lets you save lists and pictures and coloured post its all in one place.
Being good with money step 2: Gather your information
If you don’t already have a handle on it, list out the following:
- What bank accounts and savings accounts you have. Get your online logins (don’t put passwords down where anyone will find them)
- Credit cards, store cards and loans.
- Any other accounts that involve money going in or out. e.g. pensions, shares.
You can write each one on a post it and pin it to your board, stick it in a table/ spreadsheet, write it on a bit of paper or whatever works for you.
If this is something you’ve never done before but you’re cracking on with now – well done! Reward yourself with a tea/ wine/ snog in the mirror and come back when you’re ready for more…
Being good with money step 3: Put some numbers on it
Righty ho! Bring on the numbers…
Simply put, you just need to know how much is coming in.
And how much is coming out.
So for most people the money they have coming in is from their income.
Start a column in your table or a new post it or whatever your thing is for MONEY COMING IN
and then just put the amount on it. If you get money from benefits put it on. If you get maintenance or child benefit, put it on.
Now you have your pie. Well done! This is all the money coming in – you’re rich beyond your wildest dreams….
OK. That was nice for a moment. Now you have to account for what’s going out.
For me this is the hard bit. I have a mortgage, 3 credit cards, several direct debits and a joint account the bills come out of. There are a LOT of things I am paying for.
Even when I’m on top of things there are sneaky bits that I forget about. So have a go at this, have a squizz at your statements and remember it’s a work in progress – you may not remember everything at once but you can add to this list as you go.
Being good with money step 4: Some help nailing your outgoings
Some people list out everything they spend money on. You can choose how in depth you want to go at this stage.
The main thing you need to do though is work out what you have HAVE to spend.
Then everything left over goes into things you want it to do –whether this be sensible things like invest in a pension, or save for the near future (emergency fund) or a fun fund for hobbies and socialising.
For me, stuff I HAVE to spend includes:
- Utilities: electricity, water, gas.
- Commuter costs
- Running a car
- Various insurance policies
Stuff I regularly spend so I need to account for it (but I could lose it or reduce it if I needed to tighten my belt):
- TV subscriptions (not the expensive ones – but Netflix is great! More on this elsewhere)
- Slightly more expensive but lovely customer service contact lenses
- My son’s pension and savings
- My pension and my savings
Being good with money step 5: Work out what you’ve got left
So after you’ve taken off all your regular expenses, what’s left?
That’s your spending money – just work out how you want to spend it. And don’t spend any more that that amount!
I love food shopping for posh nosh so I always put that in my personal expenses but for most people it’s something they would put in their necessities – we all need to eat… So most of my spending money goes on food shopping and eating out.
Before I did my budget I would have spent a lot more on clothes, toiletries I never used or makeup and rubbish food or magazines I only half read.
It’s up to you what your things are that you love to have and things that you mindlessly spend money on because you don’t think about it, but once you know what there is to spend, and what will tip you over the edge if you splurge, it helps you make good decisions about what you spend your money on.
Knowing what your money situation is won’t make you good with money overnight.
But if you want to change, being aware is the first step and it gives you the power. After all, it’s your money and you get to say what it gets spent on. This is your empire. An emperor knows what his kingdom is up to and then gives orders as to how he or she wants it to be run. Once you get to know your empire you can be the boss of it and make it work for what YOU want.
If you are interested in learning more about budgeting you might find the following useful:
And one tip I recommend is the Money To the Masses MOT tool if you want a 360 degree overview on all your finances: here.
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