1. Create a Dedicated Space for Managing Your Finances
Designate a space where you can budget and plan. It could be an entire room, just a desk or even a dedicated drawer for monthly bills. Also, consider a digital space for the same purpose. Services like EveryDollar, You Need a Budget and Mint create all-encompassing digital spaces that help you stay on top of your finances.
2. Decide Which Documents to Keep
Too much paper can be the downfall of good money management intentions. As a general rule, keep these documents and info in a safe place:
- Legal documents
- Social Security cards
- Marriage license
- Wills, living wills and powers of attorney
- Business licenses
- Vehicle titles and loan documents
- House deeds and mortgage documents
- Insurance policies
- Birth certificates
- Valid and expired passports
- ID cards
- Pension plan documents
- Financial Information
- Seven years of tax records and filing receipts
- One year of medical records and bills
- Warranty documents and receipts for large purchases
- All home purchase, sale or improvement documents for at least six years after you sell your house
- One year of pay stubs and bank statements
- Annual insurance policy statements
- Social Security statements
- Retirement plan statements
Shred everything else. Once you’ve paid a bill, there’s no reason to keep it. Shred anything containing personal information like your name, address, phone number and banking details. You don’t want your data falling into the wrong hands.
3. Create a “Budget Binder” to Organize Your Monthly Expenses
Start a dedicated folder (whether physical or digital) to organize your bills, budget and additional documents, like vet bills, kids’ sports registration fees and warranty information. Tracking all your deposits and deductions will indicate where you’re spending. A budget binder is also the ideal spot for a financial calendar. Plot upcoming paydays and bill deadlines to help you visualize your expenses.
4. Prioritize Your Bills
Which bills should you pay first? This is an important part of budgeting. We recommend prioritizing your bills in the following way.
- Mortgage or rent
- High-interest credit cards or loans
- Low-interest credit cards or loans
- Other bills or recurring payments
5. Schedule Time to Review Your Finances
Set aside time each pay period to review your finances and upcoming expenses and bills. Developing a routine will help you prepare for what’s ahead, eliminating costly surprises. And each quarter, schedule time to think about big-picture financial questions. Should you start building a bigger emergency fund? Is it time to save for a new house or car? Are you ready to contribute more to your retirement?
6. Consider Automatic Deductions
Putting bills on autopay can help you stay on top of your bills, reduce the incidence of late fees and establish a consistent payment history that improves your credit score. But it also means you need to plan ahead to have the necessary funds available each month for predictable bills such as mortgage or rent payments, credit cards and car payments. The paperless convenience isn’t worth it if you’re overdrawing your account. Set up calendar alerts before your bills are due to make sure you have adequate funds available.
7. Manage Your Subscriptions
Your subscriptions might fall into a few different buckets, such as music, streaming entertainment, classes or food — but all of them come with a monthly fee. To better manage your finances, it makes sense to take inventory of your subscriptions and get a clearer picture of what you’re paying for. Evaluate whether they are worth what you get out of them, then cancel the subscriptions that do not make the cut.
8. Consolidate Retirement and Investment Accounts
If you have multiple retirement and investment accounts, you might think about combining your 401(k)s, IRAs and other accounts accumulated over the years. Some pros to consolidating your accounts include:
- A simplified view of your portfolio and financial outlook
- Lower transaction, administrative and other account fees
- Easier tax preparation and retirement planning
9. Choose Your Lines of Credit Carefully
Lines of credit can include credit cards, personal lines of credit available at banks and credit unions, personal loans and home equity lines of credit. Limiting your lines of credit is a good rule of thumb when it comes to keeping your personal finances organized. Also avoid store credit cards, which frequently have low credit limits and high interest rates — both potential hazards for your credit score.
10. Get Support from Someone You Can Count On
Managing your finances can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Your Farm Bureau agent is always here to help. For more financial planning tips, speak with your local Farm Bureau financial advisor about ways to plan for your future.