There’s a lot to learn within the realm of personal finance. If you feel like you’re too busy to sit down and really work on upping your financial literacy, you’re certainly not alone. Luckily, you don’t have to know everything to manage your money well, get out of debt or hit your financial goals. It’s more important to have a solid understanding of the basics—and know how to put these principles into action in your own financial life.
Here are some basic concepts and tips pertaining to personal finances, budgeting and beyond.
Budgeting 101: Getting and Staying Organized
Budgeting itself is a relatively simple concept. Oftentimes, the hardest part is finding the time to actually do it. It’s not always easy to carve out a few hours to create a spreadsheet; it’s even easier to start slipping on keeping it updated over time. So, how can today’s busy consumers stay on top of their finances without having to significantly interrupt their hectic lives?
Hint: The solution is likely already in your hand, pocket or bag. Your mobile device can become a big helper in creating a budget and tracking your expenditures over time. Nowadays there are plenty of apps available to help with all aspects of personal finance.
Here are a few budget apps and personal finance tools recommended by NerdWallet:
- Mint: This free app syncs with user accounts to help you closely track spending.
- Acorns: This app rounds up purchases and invests the change.
- You Need a Budget: This app for “die-hard budgeters” helps users allocate spending into envelopes so they can avoid overspending in certain categories.
- PocketGuard: This app provides a simplified snapshot by letting users know how much they have left “in their pocket” to spend.
- Prism: This app provides a platform for organizing and paying bills directly.
- Albert: This app acts as a “do-it-all” personal assistant for users.
Apps are great for keeping personal finance top of mind so you can continue fine-tuning your budgeting and spending habits.
Finding Creative Ways to Save More
Looking to tighten your budget even more? Sometimes it’s all a matter of getting creative in how you approach it.
For instance, the holidays are a notoriously “spendy” time for many people. Instead of resigning yourself to going over your budget—thereby possibly cutting into your savings or racking up credit card debt—instead use this season as an opportunity to change your habits for the better. Debt relief expert Andrew Housser advises consumers to reduce entertainment costs, cancel unused memberships, enjoy making food at home instead of eating out and sell unnecessary items around their home. This goes to show there are many painless, and sometimes even fun ways to tighten your belt that you may be missing by thinking of only the most obvious solutions.
Think outside the box when it comes to reducing spending. Not only is it an exciting challenge, but you’ll be left with extra money to save or invest.
Building Long-Term Wealth for the Future
The cornerstone of building wealth is setting goals. The more specific they are, the better they’ll do at guiding you toward the financial future you want to achieve. Many experts recommend writing these goals down explicitly and returning to them regularly. One self-made millionaire recommends making them realistic while still challenging yourself. These goals can pertain to hitting retirement benchmarks, investing, saving up for big-ticket items like a mortgage or college education, etc.
There’s a lot to know about personal finances, budgeting and beyond. But you can always start small and work toward bigger goals by taking the reins of your finances.