When a person sets any goal, financial health is almost always a boon for its success. It’s hard to afford the gym membership, the piano lessons, the new curtains, the extra groceries, the knitting supplies, or any other learning tools needed when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. And for a large portion of us D.I.Y learners, financial success is one of our main goals.
The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing by Benjamin Graham and Jason Zweig (Warren Buffett as Collaborator)
Cashflow game — Free to play online
–Go through your bank accounts. Write down each account, what the balance is, and print off the statements for as far back as you can go. (This step is for major beginners. If you have a budget in place, you can skip this step.) With these statements, you’re going to figure out where your money is going every month. Decide what categories you spend in, then divide it all up by month, averaging them all to come up with a generalized budget.
–Once you’ve got a budget of what you have been spending, look just at your monthly income and see how far over or under you’re spending. This is the time to go through all of your debts, find their current balances, note their monthly payments, and write these down also. You want to balance your budget with your income so that the end result is zero; if you have “extra” assign it a category such as “extra debt payment” or “savings” so that every dollar is accounted for. This is the part were you are going to “make a budget.” You need to adjust certain things where you’re overspending, add to things like savings, and think of ways to cut back where you can in order to meet your financial goals. Don’t forget to budget for irregular expenses like HOA dues and Christmas shopping as well as emergencies, setting aside a little bit each month.
–Set those financial goals. If you have debt, getting out of debt will probably be your first goal. Maybe it’s following your new budget for three months. A good goal to have is working that budget enough months in a row so that you can have the full coming month’s worth of budgeted expenses covered in advance, that money being available to you after the previous month’s expenses are cleared. Look at the budget you’ve set up and see if you need to make adjustments further to meet those goals. Set your “ultimate goal.” What kind of lifestyle do you want your new financial health to afford? Things like buy a farm and homestead, go on a big trip around the world, hire a housekeeper and chef, have a huge emergency savings, fund your kids’ college, or simply become completely debt free are some examples, but that main goal will be different for everyone.
–Make a list of spending and saving habits you need to put in place to meet those financial goals. Maybe you need to stop smoking, grabbing coffee to go, turn down the AC or heater, sell a few things from the garage, stop eating out, etc. Do you have a side hustle? Now is the time to think about getting one.
–Follow your new budget for three months. Track it faithfully. You can make small adjustments during this time, but mostly you’re practicing those new habits and working your side hustle to meet your initial goals.
Meet your ultimate goal. Your final project can be any goal at any point along your financial path (if you have very poor financial health to begin with) or it can be your grandest dream. Financial peace comes when you start feeling like you have control over your money, not feeling trapped in a state of financial worry. By following these steps, you’ll start gaining that control.