Do You Control Your Money or Does Your Money Control You?

money troubles

money troubles

I had a conversation with someone who has consistent financial troubles. I learned the main issues were a lack of sufficient income and money management skills. I began to offer suggestions such as searching for a higher paying job, limit eating out and carpooling to work. Unfortunately, every suggestion I gave was immediately shot down with what I considered to be an excuse. In the middle of the conversation I realized I wouldn’t be able to help this person. In hindsight, I don’t think the person wanted my help. It made me realize that some people aren’t truly ready to make improvements to their finances. If you want to improve your finances you have to be ready to get real. The first step is to take responsibility for making your situation better.

I began noticing a pattern when speaking to people about their money issues and concerns. What I heard was complaining about not having enough money and not getting ahead in life. The few times where I interjected and asked what they planned to do about it, I could tell my question was unexpected.

I pose the same question to you, if you are unhappy with your financial status, what do you plan to do about it?

Do you honestly want to put in the work required to generate change? Or are you hoping your money issues will work out on their own?

Do you believe that you can live a better life? Or do you quietly tell yourself that everyone struggles with money and you are no different?

Today I saw the quote, “In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.”-Nikos Kazantzakis

The mind is an incredibly powerful tool. If you don’t have the correct mindset you can sabotage your journey before you even take the first step. You can be told over and over that it is possible for you to increase your quality of life and decrease your financial stress. However, it will never happen if you do not BELIEVE it can happen.

If you are having a hard time taking control of your finances and you think the task is too big, then start small. Set small obtainable goals and prove to yourself that getting a handle on your finances is possible. Your goal should have clear and measurable results.

For example, if you need to increase your savings, make a goal that every time you get paid you will put a certain amount into a savings account. You can start out small with $25 or 5% of your pay. Challenge yourself to do it for three months. Another goal could be to decrease the amount of money you spend on eating out. Allow yourself to eat out only once a week for a month.

The goal is for you to turn these trial practices into habits, but you have to take the first step. Once you have smaller challenges under control you can then begin to focus on your bigger financial problems. Remember you didn’t get into your current financial situation overnight. It may take some time to get you on the right path, but slow progress is better than no progress at all.

Continue to remain encourage and move towards progression. “If you believe it, you can achieve it”, may be cliché, but it holds a great deal of truth.

What is Coming In and What is Going Out?

Every time I hear the phrase “living paycheck to paycheck” it makes my ears hurt. There are so many things wrong with this phrase for so many reasons. I can’t help but want to ask a series of follow-up questions, such as how much money is being made and what is it being spent on? Please, understand I am not being judgmental. Right now, there is a major debate in this country about people being able to earn a wage that allows them to live a decent life. I fully understand that trying to make ends meet can be difficult. However, I do think there are things that can be done so that people can start to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle. I want to help you create and manage your monthly budget. Before we do that, we need to evaluate your financial state.

Calculate your monthly income

First, figure out exactly how much money you make and/or receive each month. This is a fairly simple process. If you work the same number of hours each week or you are salaried, add up the net amount of your paychecks for a month. The net amount is the actual money that you receive after taxes and any other payroll deductions you may have. If you are paid hourly and your hours worked fluctuate each week, use three months of pay stubs. Add up the net amount of all the paychecks, then divide by three. This should give you a good estimate of the amount of income from work you can expect to have on a monthly basis. Also consider any money that you rely on from sources other than a job. This could include funds from a Social Security check, disability check, alimony or child support.

Calculate your monthly expenses

Once you have calculated your monthly income, make a list of all the bills that you pay on a monthly basis and the amount you spend on each. The list should include expenses such as your monthly mortgage or rent, car payment, electricity, water, credit cards, cell phone, etc.  No bill is too small. If you pay $15 a month to have the paper delivered to your house, include that as well. For utilities that fluctuate such as gas and electricity, take a six month average of what you pay. Add up the total bills for six months and then divide by six. Use this number as your monthly amount. Personally, I like to include food and gas for my car as part of my monthly expenses. I include them because they are necessities that I spend roughly the same amount on each month. However, since they aren’t actual bills, for this exercise it is your choice to include them or not.

Determine your disposable income and what to do next

Now, that you have your net income and monthly expenses, you can determine your disposable income. Disposable income is money that you have left to spend on whatever you choose.  Subtract your monthly expenses from your net monthly income and the amount left is your disposable income.

Below is a sample chart of an income and expense comparison.

 

Income Source Monthly Amount
Net Bi-weekly paycheck-$1500 $3,000
Child support $400
Total $3,400
Monthly Expenses Amount
Mortgage/Rent $1,500
Car payment $350
Utilities $300
Student loan $100
Cable $100
Cell phone $80
Car Insurance $80
Credit Card $75
Total $2,585
Monthly Income-Monthly Expenses Disposable Income
$3400-$2,585 $815
*This example does not include food or gasoline, because they aren’t fixed debts. Include them if you want a more precise representation of your disposable income.

Now that you have this very important information, how do you feel? Are you surprised, shocked, happy or was it what you expected?

If your net income was lower than your monthly expenses, you have no disposable income. You are in a deficit each month and living above your means.  A deficit is the amount by which something, especially a sum of money is too small. You need to review your expenses and figure out which ones can be reduced.  Target the expenses that are luxuries and figure out how you can cut back. For example, if you are paying for the premium cable package discontinue service or at the very least downgrade.

If you fall into the category of having some disposable income but not as much as you would like, go through the same exercise. If you conclude there aren’t areas where you can cut back, then you need to focus on ways to increase your income.

Finally, if you are pleased with the amount of disposable income that you have, congratulations on being a good steward of your finances. Creating a monthly budget can still be beneficial to you. A budget is a plan about how you are going to spend your money. It is important you have a plan to help you achieve personal financial goals.

In my next post I will give details and instructions on how to create a monthly budget that will work for you. My hope is that the information I have supplied was helpful and just the first step in our journey of making your finances simple!