It has been reported that a staggering 86% of the population don’t know how much money they are spending every month. The most common reason given for this, is that it’s just too hard to calculate the expenses. It may be a relaxed approach to take about money but those who don’t understand their expenses are anything but relaxed. The research found 59% of people admit their current financial situation causes them stress or loss of sleep and nearly half (44%) constantly worry about their financial future.
The 2 Levers For Adjusting Your Budget
There are 2 levers that everyone can adjust in order to understand their spending and get a better result from their budget, these are income and expenses.
The first (and easiest) is to reduce expenses. I know, I know, you’re already rolling your eyes because you don’t want to have to change your lifestyle, but, if you really want to start getting control of your money, start saving, or be able to afford that overseas holiday next year, then it may be necessary to make some sacrifices.
Start by looking at our fixed expenses, because if you can reduce these, it will affect your lifestyle less than the discretionary. Fixed expenses are all the items that you have to pay, and you can easily estimate the ongoing cost for, for example: Your home loan, car loan, electricity bill and insurances. It does not include items like groceries, because even though you have to pay for this, the amount that is spent can be adjusted quite significantly, and perhaps not easily estimated.
Then, looking at discretionary expenses, are you paying for things you don’t even use! (I know that at one stage of my life I was paying for cable TV, Netflix, Apple TV and Prime all at the same time and that was just unnecessary). Do you actually use your gym membership? Ask yourself some tough questions about your eating out and Uber eats habits…
To adjust your 2nd lever; income, you only need to think a bit creatively, what we’re talking about here is trying to improve your income in almost any way possible. Simply, that might be asking your boss for a pay-rise or promotion (if they say, “no”, then perhaps ask what you would have to achieve in order to receive a pay-rise/promotion), if you’re sitting on some savings already could this be put into a high-interest account or something else that will produce more income? Do you have a share portfolio that could pay better dividend income (please review investments with a financial professional before making any changes, there will be tax and long-term financial consequences for these decisions).
Think about starting up a side-hustle business; selling baked goods, selling stuff you don’t need any more on eBay, drive for Uber, deliver groceries with Instacart or Airtasker, Tutoring, Transcribe on Rev.com, do odd jobs on Taskrabbit, review websites on Usertesting.com, start a cleaning business, freelance on Upwork.com, give haircuts, give music lessons etc. There are plenty of things that a person could do on the side to generate some additional income (please take care not to work yourself into the ground. I also do not advocate working more than you or your family can handle, but some additional jobs can really help your bottom line).
Automate, Automate, Automate…
Business Insider once asked financial planners to share their favourite way to build wealth; they all said, “the best strategy is to automate your savings and retirement contributions”. Automation helps you save consistently, which is the key to building long-term wealth. Don’t underestimate the power of this step because it is all too true that when it comes to saving and budgeting, once we get our emotions involved, we can start to make bad decisions – AUTOMATE, take the emotion right out of it. I like to automate the transfer of funds for saving, fixed expenses, retirement and emergency funds, and to do this before spending anything on myself. This is a strategy known as paying yourself first.
Adding/sending money to the most important but often overlooked areas first before you give yourself the chance to frit it away on discretionary spending. There are many different ways you can begin to automate your cash flow and start your New Year with a better strategy. You can find help for this online or from my budgeting e-book.
How much could you save by making some changes this year?
About The Author
Lachlan Anderson has been working in personal finance for over a decade. He has helped hundreds of individuals and families to better manage their cash flow and finances. He has written an e-book specifically on how to build a budget and use a cash flow system and has a passion to see more people in better control of their money and less susceptible to common “get rich quick scams!”, with a strong belief that real wealth is built through wise financial decisions.
Lachlan is a partner of the financial advice firm, Discover Financial Partners, www.discoverfinancialpartners.com.au, and can be contacted directly through the website. His e-book can be found at www.discoversimplemoney.com