Financial worries can add to the stress levels of individuals. For many families it can become one of the biggest sources of disagreements and tension. The most common financial concern is that the money coming in never ever seems to match the money going out. The most obvious way to address this is by taking control of your finances. This is easier said than done.
An important thing to remember about financial concerns is that it should be resolved before it becomes severe. The longer you procrastinate over resolving the issue, the worse it becomes, and the more stressed you become. Another important element is acknowledging that controlling your finances is more than simply just getting control of your money. It involves changing your habits both in your thinking and spending, as well as your short and long term financial goals.
Financial management and control revolves around one very basic concept: Spend Less, Save More. Start spending less by setting up a family budget, that is, agree on a figure that you will not spend over for a specific period say per week or month. To track how you are going, keep a record of all your expenditure items. As a receipt comes in log it. You may even decide to categorize it so you know where it came from, for example, Groceries, Insurance and Rates, Dining and Entertainment, etc. The use of a spreadsheet package such MS Excel is a very useful tool that can help maintain a list of items you have spent as well as compute on the fly your current expenditure total for the month. By keeping track of what you are spending money on, you will be able to assess areas that need improvement and examine ways to save money on the items purchased.
A financial budget is just the first step to controlling your finances. Other things to consider include changing your lifestyle. For example you may reduce the times you go out to dinner, save on petrol by car pooling or take cheaper vacations. Also stop purchasing big ticket items that are rarely used, such as things for hobbies that you have not taken up or expensive toys that are never used. It is important to review your lifestyle to assess whether it is within your earning potential.
Set short and long term goals that work towards decreasing your debt. Put aside a specific amount each month towards reducing your loans, not just paying the minimum amount each month but adding enough to make a significant debt reduction over a year.
Finally it actually helps if you look at a bad financial situation as a war. It is you and your family against the debt. You must work together as a team, communicating, planning and analysing your ongoing financial situation. In severe cases, it might be helpful to engage the services of a financial consultant. What ever you do and however you tackle the problem, the most important thing to remember is to work together.
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Written by: David Tomaselli