A major part of adulting is gaining control of your finances. The less complicated your financial life is, the more secure you’ll feel and the easier it is to make headway on your financial goals. So where do you start simplifying your money issues? Here are 11 easy tactics to getting your financial life together.
1. Create a Simple Filing System
Many dislike filing work, but it still needs to be done! Don’t let your financial statements, bills and letters stack up and be disorganized. Arrange your incoming letters in a file boxes with dividers. Make use of separate the dividers to organize the many types of printed documents, such as receipts, bills, documents to destroy and to file, and so on, pending the right time to handle them. Store the file boxes in a convenient location.
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2. Use Cash When Possible
Consider embracing a cash-using lifestyle. Use cash as your method of payment for small value items, regular or general purchases. Once purchases are made, keep the receipts to keep track of expenditure.
One major benefit of using cash is it results in lower spending. You will be surprised at how much less money you’ll spend when you have to pull that hard-earned cash out of your wallet. It’s just much harder to pay cash than to use a credit or debit card. Use your credit cards for bigger value purchases that may need buyer protection or a refund case.
3. Restrict Usage to One Credit Card
If you have an obsession with rewards and zero interest rate promotions, you may have built up a remarkable list of credit cards. But when the rewards and zero interest are consumed, the cards have not much value. Keep them wide open for credit scoring purposes but direct your credit card spending on a sole card.
Choose one credit card (or at most two) that offers the greatest benefits and set the rest away. It’s much easier to control your expenses and manage outgoings with one credit card than with three or five.
4. Automate Your Savings
Why not establish a routine on your savings activities? When you have determined an amount you want to set aside every month, arrange an auto-debit, or standing instruction on your banking account to be credited to a special account just for savings.
This is an excellent way to make sure you pay yourself first instead of spending it. You will then have the funds available when needed whether it’s an emergency, to travel, or take advantage of opportunities that arise.
5. Automate Regular Bill Payment
Have you ever overlooked paying a utility bill? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people genuinely missed payments and incur late fees or penalties. Make use of auto-debit options available to automate the payments and have one less worry each month.
Some folks are concerned about security and having transactions automated. But with the advancement of internet security technology, you should not be too stressed about it. Your bills will be settled on-time, besides, security concerns are relatively low compared to the large amount of transactions that occur. Do practice good online and financial security habits.
6. Keep a Financial Routine
Maintain a routine for handling your financial transactions. List down and categorize all your financial transactions such as car and housing loans repayment, credit cards settlement, utility bills according to daily, weekly and monthly transactions. Then schedule the day and time for each. It need not be followed strictly but at least you have a guided, systematic way, and schedule to follow.
7. Store Documents Digitally
Opt to get your bills and statements through digital means, i.e. e-bills and e-statements. Most financial institutions, credit card companies, utility companies, and service providers suggest delivering by email. E-documents guard you against identity theft, lessen the quantity of physical documents you have to deal with or put through the shredder, and facilitate you to centralize all your incoming financial documents.
Archive old documents on the cloud. Most basic cloud storage are free these days, such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Storing important documents as digital copies also protect your documents from fading away or being lost due to natural disasters.
8. Live Debt Free
Carrying debt around costs you more money. Debt is a significant source of constant worry and will make living more strenuous. Getting rid or reducing debt removes a major complication in your life. It won’t happen overnight but have a strategy to make it happen. Clearing your debt is part of the journey towards financial independence.
9. Simplify Your Investing
It’s exciting and worthwhile to do your own analysis and invest in individual stocks. However, it does require your time to do research, buying, monitoring and selling. Imagine the time you have to spend if you have a dozen or more stocks in your portfolio. You can stay away from all of these inconveniences by investing in exchange-traded funds, low cost unit trusts and/or investment solutions managed by professionals. Do make sure that you aren’t paying an arm and leg in fees though!
10. Drop Unused Services
If you are paying for subscriptions and services that you barely make use of, it’s time to get rid of them! Stop subscriptions and services that are not giving you value and reduce yet one more expense from your budget. The smaller number of expenses you need to make, the less complex your finances will be. Keep the services that help save you time.
11. Consider Renting Instead of Buying
Traditionally, Malaysians love their properties! A common viewpoint is the long-term economic advantages of buying instead of paying rent to someone else. However, being a property owner comes with a lengthy list of costs and obligations including repairs and, Malaysia’s #1 past-time, renovating your property! Renting can be a good alternative and is surprisingly often just as good (or even better!) choice for some people.
The original version of this article by Eric Kiang was published at MyPF.my helping simplify and grow Personal Finances in Malaysia.