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Finances are an important part of every American’s life. Keeping track of finances is not something that most people know how to do, but they should. Keeping track of finances can be an easy way to save money. While some people decide to hire financial agencies, others would rather save time and money by keeping track of personal finances themselves.
Here are a few ways that the average person can keep track of their personal finances like the pros.
Budget Your Finances!
Budgeting involves tracking all household income and expenses to then figure out how much is left over- once the rest is allocated towards necessary expenses. Some people keep a budget by writing in a journal or keeping a log. While others may prefer budgeting through a spread sheet on their computer. To easily track spending, keep all of your receipts, (online and paper ones), and all of your paystubs. Once a person knows exactly how much they make and are spending, they may be able to find small or even big ways to cut down on spending.
Tips for Success in Your Financial Future
Millennials are projected to surpass every other generation to become the nation’s largest living adult generation. Millennials currently represent the largest generation still in the workforce, and therefore, have a large effect on the American economy.
The millennial generation faces a financial hurdle that no other generation had to really deal with. That financial hurdle is student loan debt. The price of an education is through the roof, and the price of a good education is just beyond the clouds these days. This is something that the Baby Boomers did not have to deal with. Americans have accumulated about $1.3 trillion worth of student loan debt. Most of this student loan debt is from the millennial generation.
So, whether you just graduated from college, getting married soon, or are just deciding that it is time to get your finances together, here is a place to start.
Develop a plan for your future
Once a person knows exactly what their budget is, setting up short term and long goals is crucial. This is because finding a smart way to spend, save, or invest money is an important part of keeping track of personal finances. Think about where you want to be and what you want to do with your life. Look into different investment options, like stocks and bonds for instance. Also, investigate insurance and retirement funding options. Setting yourself up for your senior citizen years now will prove to be good preparation as you near the retirement age.
Know Your Monthly Bills/ Subscriptions
A person can set up monthly bill payments or subscriptions that are paid to a business for their services. These payments typically go through every month from a bank account. What happens is that, when most people begin these subscriptions or automatic payments (because they are not setting up the payments themselves each month) they forget about these as an expense. It is important to keep track of what services a person is being charged for and if they are still using that service in the first place. For bills, it is important to make sure the charge is correct.
Keep things simple
Finances and all the terms that go along with them, can be overwhelming. However, the main goal in financial success is to save more and spend less. So, don’t get so caught up on paying down your debts that you don’t have enough to eat or to even save. Make your plan make sense for you. Stop the frivolous spending and increase your earnings.
Skip out on the credit cards
Don’t become the next victim of an overwhelming credit card. If you decide that a credit card is indeed a necessity for you, be sure to double check the interest rates and the rewards system. Talk with your banking institution or financial advisor before making big decisions.
Increase your savings
One of the most important financial moves you can make for yourself, is to start saving. If you get a bonus at work, get a raise, or even get some overtime pay, put that extra money into a savings account. If you cannot afford to put the entire sum into a savings account, put in a portion.
Talk to someone with financial knowledge
You can speak with your parents about your finances and how you wish to handle them. Even if your parents are not in the best financial position, it is still a good starting point, they can tell you exactly where they went wrong so that you won’t need to make the same mistakes they did. If your parents are in a good financial place, they can help to set you up with a good plan to start you on the right track.
Invest in yourself
The job market is full of fierce competition. You need to position yourself to be the best of the best. There are several free/cheap online certification classes that you can take relative to your field that you can add to your resume. Take that low-paying internship during the day, and hustle as a server at a restaurant at night. No one can take your momentum from you.
Check Your Credit Reports Often
Credit reports are huge aspects of a person’s finances. In the United States there are three major credit reporting agencies. A credit report showcases the financial habits of a person. Financial history like payment history (on bills and when repaying debt), the type of debt taken out, the amounts borrowed, the amounts paid back, etc. Checking a credit report offers the advantage of understanding what kind of spender you are. Having a person’s finances visualized can be a great tool when trying to keep track of, or improve, personal finances. It is recommended that a credit report is checked often for mistakes, and because credit reports can show the first signs of identity theft.
Know the Interest Rates on Your Debt
Many Americans have some type of debt that collects interest. Sometimes this interest is annual, most times it is collected on monthly terms, while for others some combination of both. Most people don’t consider interest as an expense when trying to track their finances- but interest should definitely be considered an expense. The interest is usually a percentage of whatever the borrower has to pay back. If you find that interest rates on your credit cards or loans are extremely high, it is best to pay off the balance as soon as possible. It may also be helpful to speak to the initial lender about lowering the interest rate. Some people may want to look into finding a new lender, with lower interest rates to consolidate debt.
Remember that you are in control of your own destiny, even if it may not feel that way right now. By creating a plan and tracking your expenses so that you know where you can cut down and by looking for opportunities, you will be able to move forward, even if you are also taking a few steps back. While you work on your plan, if a cash crisis arises, you can always get auto title loans online based on the value of your car and the ability to repay to help you make ends meet. Once your crisis is over, you can get back to your plan.
Don’t wait too long
The problem most people have is simply waiting entirely too long to start to care about their financial future. The longer you wait, the harder it may be.
You are in control of you and your money. Don’t wonder where it all went, tell it where to go. Remember that budgeting and planning is essential. Time will fly by, and before you know it you will be close to retirement age and wondering what happened to the time Enjoy your life, but also remember that your financial freedom is extremely important. The goal is to make your money last for as long as you can.
The Next Best Thing to a Pro, Personal Financial Software
There are many personal financial software programs out there. This software can make keeping track of personal finances extra simple. Personal financial software can do everything from helping you manage money, to figuring out and setting up short term or long term goals.
There are many trusted software products out there, and it is easy to do research before committing to one. Often times financial software have some sort of fee associated with them, but are usually a cheaper option than going to a professional. In addition, they may teach a person financial tools that they could not have learned on their own, tools which can be translated to other financial aspects of their lives.
When people think of tracking their finances they think about going to a pro. Often times, this can be expensive and time consuming. There are many ways in which the average American can track their personal finances themselves. From budgeting to finding helpful financial software, there are many solutions for those who want to take a crack at learning the skills to manage finances. Keeping track of personal finances can do more than just save a person some money. Many people find that it is extremely empowering to be able to manage their financial situations by themselves. Additionally, they find that it helps them reach financial goals they couldn’t have otherwise reached before.
Pros and Cons of Shopping with Digital Wallets
With financial exchanges moving to online platforms and digital shopping increasing, it is no surprise that digital wallets have emerged very recently. Digital wallets are apps or add-ons that store a person’s payment information for online or in-person shopping.
Generally, they exist on either a web browser or as an app on a phone. For a computer browser, this is usually an add-on that can be activated. For smartphones, this is usually an official app that comes standard with a phone; and a person can set it up as they please.
Before shopping with digital wallets, it may be helpful to understand the pros and the cons associated with this form of digital payment. Here is some information on shopping with digital wallets.
The Pros of Shopping with Digital Wallets
- It May Eliminate the Need to Carry a Physical Wallet
Nowadays, many in-person vendors and stores have accommodations in place if their customer prefers to use a digital form of payment. This can eliminate the need to carry your wallet around. For those who want to slim down the amount of personal information that they carry—digital wallets may be a great option.
- Digital Wallets Could Make Budgeting Easy
Budgeting traditionally involves tracking all your expenses—the cool thing is that using a digital wallet means that a person does not have keep track of their receipts. All transaction information will be stored for you. In addition to this, a person has the ability to allocate certain monetary amounts to different expenses.
Lastly, there are many budgeting apps that could help a person figure out what they should be spending to reach financial goals. Having a combination of a budgeting app and a digital wallet can make budgeting more successful and much more convenient.
- Convenience when Shopping In-Person or Online
Digital wallets can make both online and in-person shopping much easier. When shopping online, digital wallets eliminate the need to type in credit card information. This can save a person a lot of hassle and time—as it will automatically put in the right information for the user. When shopping in person, transactions require a simple ‘hover’ over a card terminal—no pin numbers or swiping required.
The Cons of Shopping with Digital Wallets
- The Dependence on Battery Life
This con is more for shopping in-person. Since digital wallets exist on a phone, if a person’s phone dies, then they are left without a way to pay for purchases. So, it is a good idea to also have some form of physical payment handy when using a digital wallet.
- The Concern of Safety
When a person sets up a digital wallet, they must provide important, personal information such as: email, phone number, name, credit card information, and sometimes a billing address. Although most digital wallets are secure—this does not mean that personal information is safe from hackers. If a digital wallet does get hacked, then it can be used to steal accounts and worst of all, a person’s identity.
- Not all Vendors Accommodate Digital Wallets
This is a pretty big con that comes with digital wallets. Although many vendors are accommodating for digital wallets, many places just aren’t there yet. This is especially true for smaller businesses and for rural communities. So, although having a digital wallet may be convenient, it may not be useable in a lot of places when traveling or outside of major corporations.
Things to Consider When Shopping with Digital Wallets
Here are a few additional tips if a person wants to primarily use a digital wallet:
- When going out, carry a physical form of payment along with a digital one—just in case.
- Set limits on the amount of money that is being added to your digital wallet so you don’t overspend.
- If you prefer your information not be used for advertising purposes—you have the option to turn that off or request it turned off.
- Pay attention to any perks, rewards, and coupons that come with digital wallets.
- If your phone (which is also your digital wallet) is stolen, immediately cancel all the cards stored on the digital wallet.
- Protect your password and account details when shopping in person.
- When shopping online, use only secure websites, networks, and hardware.
Many people have made the switch to digital wallets, and if a person is thinking about switching to this form of payment, they may want to consider the pros and cons. Like a lot of things in the financial world, there are definitely pros and cons associated with digital wallets.
In addition to weighing out the good and the bad before signing up for a digital wallet, it is important to know a few general tips that could make a digital wallet even more helpful. As everything financial moves online, the way we pay for things is also following suit. Digital wallets are not just a tool for people to use, they give critical insight into the needs and changes of our society.