Below are ten pieces of information I passed on at a Lansing Community Library program. It includes websites, information, and insights from my time as a Cornell Cooperative Extension Money Management educator and VITA Assistant Site Coordinator at AFCU.
1. Money management, like most things, is a behavior. For any new habit you wish to add into your life, write down answers to the following questions:
- What do I want to do?
- When will I do it?
- How will I do it?
Remember, change is hard and may come slow…For simple strategies to select from see the book: Small Steps to Health and Wealth.
2. Write down $MART goals? There is much written about these, in a nut shell, SMART means:
- Attainable, Agree
- Review, Revise,
- Time Limited and Trade Offs.
(Different sources use different words but the concepts are the same.)
Here is a link to a free template: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/MCMS/RelatedFiles/%7B14132911-AD75-440E-B001-F7D813F36BC8%7D/2.2+SMART+Financial+Goals.pdf.
3. Track your expenses. Use a notebook, excel sheet, piece of paper, or calendar: knowledge and accountability are power. At the end of the month, compare what you spent to what you think you spend and/or look at one regular cost you might be able to change.
4. Write a spending plan. Use a notebook, excel sheet, free template on-line, calendar. Guesstimate the first month, compare your expenses to your plan before doing next months, where are the leaks? What is preventing you from reaching your goals?
5. Review you goals, are they realistic? Do you need to revise your goals? What changes can you make? Small changes add up…see Step Down to Change in the Small Steps to Health and Wealth book linked in number one above.
6. Use community resources: do you need to buy it or do you want to buy it? Is there a resource in the community where you can purchase it?
One place to call is 211 in Tompkins County, it is an information and referral line. Also the Tompkins Count Human Services Coalition provides a wealth of information on community resources.
7. Get insight…read books: Suze Orman, Small Steps to Health and Wealth (free online), financial websites:
8. What is your spending style, do you need to adjust it to reach your goals? There are many quizzes on-line and a particularly good resource: Money Habitudes at…http://www.moneyhabitudes.com/
9. Finally, do you check your credit report annually for accuracy?
It is free at annualcredit report.com, watch out for trickery. Do not enter any credit card information unless you know you want to pay for your FICO score and then check the site. In addition, avoid the links to free credit report.com, this is not a free site.
I was able to get my free credit report recently. I saved it as a pdf and can get access to it at anytime. Since each of the three providers must give you a credit report annually, some experts suggest checking one report every four months.
10. If is your path, only you can chart it out.