The majority of us will live paycheck-to-paycheck at some point in our lives, just hoping that our monthly or weekly wage can stretch just that little bit further and make it to the end of the month. This can get tiring and stressful, right? If that’s what you’re facing each month, have you considered taking a different approach to your financial goals so you’re not constantly worrying about money?

If you’re one of those people who rarely opens letters from your bank or ignores your balance online because you just can’t face it, then read on. Taking a more structured and systematic approach to our finances is an excellent way of removing the fear and anxiety out of managing money. You don’t need to be in a high paying job to do this. Breaking down our money goals is the best way to start, so get into the habit of looking at your financial goals every year, month and week is a great way of getting over that fear and being in control of your spending. 

Yearly spending

We suggest you choose a set date each year to do this. January is always good because it’s the start of the year and the start of the IRS tax year. Sit down and ask yourself the following same financial goals questions each time:

What kind of budget will work for this year?

Working out how much you need for each expenditure is one way of setting a budget. This works wonders for keeping you on track for meeting your long-term money goals. 

What are my financial goals for this year?

List your biggest yearly or quarterly expenses, such as insurance premiums, a tax bill or a retirement or college fund payment. Make sure there’s money ready for those inevitabilities. Your goal may be to go on a family trip; you’ll need to plan for this financially. 

How can I save a set target this year?

List all how you can put money aside, or maybe start a subsidiary way of earning money, such as selling things online. How about taking a look at what you have at home that you don’t need. Maybe you can sell items that were impulse buys, or clothes you no longer wear? Also, take a look at what consumer goods you buy. Do you really have to have that expensive skincare regimen/music subscription/haircut? Can you find a cheaper alternative? They do exist!

What might stop me, and how can I improve my financial status this year?

Try and work out what financial mistakes you’ve made in the past and set more positive spending habits. Are you an impulse shopper, do you feel rich on payday and splash the cash and then struggle the rest of the month? Identifying your spending triggers will help you rein them in. Maybe you can set yourself a goal of not buying anything new for a year? You’ll have money, and it’s more eco-friendly! 

Monthly 

Each month, take a look at the previous month. Just before or just after payday is as good a time as any to ask yourself some money questions. Look at what you’ve spent, overspent, and why? Is there any money left over? If there is, instead of blowing it on something you don’t need, put it aside in a savings account. Ask yourself these money questions:

Am I kidding myself about my spending? 

It’s so easy to pretend to ourselves we really “needed” that weekend trip, new outfit or magazine.  Be honest about how you spend money and look at changing bad habits. Can you live without certain non-essentials? Do you really need that expensive TV package? 

Have I put money aside for savings before anything else? 

Pay yourself each month, put money aside for those important longer-term goals. 

Have I put money aside for essentials? 

By essentials, we mean real essentials: the kind that keeps a roof over your head! Rent, mortgage, insurance payments, groceries, and so on. 

Am I still on track for my yearly goals? 

Keep an eye on those longer-term goals. They may fade into the background as the year progresses. Keep checking in with yourself about what they are. 

Weekly 

This is absolutely the best way to keep on track with your finances! Having a weekly date with your budget is an excellent way of staying in control. Setting yourself a weekly as well as a monthly budget is a great way of creeping towards meeting your longer-term financial goals. 

How much did I spend this week?

Can you account for every dollar? How about writing down each expenditure and keeping receipts so you can list what you spend your money on. It’s great for keeping an eye on your spending habits. 

Do I have enough for living?

Ensure you have enough to cover rent, insurance, groceries, mortgage payment, or fuel.

Is there anything left over? 

Great news if there is, and consider putting it aside to save. If there isn’t, is there any expenditure that isn’t necessary? Can you live without that magazine subscription or iTunes download? 

Have I really accounted for everything? 

Don’t forget ATM withdrawals or that round of drinks you paid cash for. 

All this may seem daunting at first, especially if you’re a bit of a financial ostrich, however, keeping your long term goals at the forefront of your mind is essential for changing your spending behavior and reaching your financial goals. Visualize that dream car or home. Good luck!