Money worries are the most common source of stress among US adults. Most of us would like to have more disposable income, but it can be challenging to save when it feels like money is flying out of your account on a continual basis. If you’re keen to improve your finances, we’re here to help. Here are some simple steps you can take to save, invest and grow your money.
The first step on the road to improving your financial situation is saving. This involves reducing outgoings and putting more cash aside each month. The most effective way to take control of spending and identify areas where it could be possible to make savings is to learn to budget.
Budgeting is not everyone’s idea of fun, but it can make a monumental difference to your bank balance. One of the main reasons we struggle to manage our money is a lack of awareness when it comes to where our monthly paycheck goes. If you don’t check your balances on a regular basis, and you have direct debits, you shop online and you use contactless payments, it’s very easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. Use your budget to monitor outgoings, to set spending limits and to try and save more every month. You can draw up a budget using an app, create a spreadsheet, or stick to good, old-fashioned pen and paper. Your budget should cover your income, your regular outgoings and any additional expenses you expect to incur during the month ahead. Once you have a set of figures in front of you, you can work out how much you can afford to spend, how to divide your income and how much to save. Update your budget as you go, use accurate estimations, and always round up if you don’t have the exact figures. Once you’ve compiled your budget, take a moment to look at your outgoings closely. Many of us spend money on things we don’t need or even want, and having a budget is a great way to eliminate any non-essential expenses. Are you paying for a gym membership you never use, or have you forgotten to cancel a free subscription that is now costing you money?
You can also save money by making your cash stretch further and altering your spending habits. Take your weekly grocery shop as an example. Do you go into the store thinking that you’re going to spend $100 and get to the register to find that your bill is closer to $150? Supermarket layouts, marketing campaigns and promotions are designed to encourage us to spend, and it can be difficult to resist the temptation to fill the cart with all kinds of items that you don’t actually need in the name of grabbing a bargain. If you are heading to the store, and you’re keen to save money, always make a list in advance and ask yourself if you really need any of the items you put in your basket that aren’t on that shopping list. Use a calculator to track spending as you go, and avoid special offers that don’t feature products you plan to buy.
Comparing prices on household expenses like utilities, TV and broadband and insurance is also beneficial for maximizing disposable income. The Internet enables us to look for better offers and cheaper deals in a matter of seconds without even leaving the couch. If your health, auto or pet insurance deals are due for renewal, for example, don’t automatically renew with your current provider. Take a few moments to enter some details into a comparison site and see if you could save by switching to a different company. Competition is fierce, and businesses often go all-out to impress new customers with incentives like low introductory prices and free gifts.
If you dread your energy bills arriving, especially in the winter, it’s also worth taking some steps to increase energy-efficiency at home and try and reduce consumption. Using a smart meter can help you keep a close eye on usage and spending, and you can also lower bills by improving heat retention through insulation and double glazing, turning appliances off at the socket and replacing old bulbs and appliances with modern, energy-efficient versions.
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If you have a pot of money set aside, and you’re keen to invest, there are several routes you could take.
One of the most popular investment options is buying real estate. With property investment, you can take on long or short-term projects, boosting your income through rental fees or sales. Buying bricks and mortar requires significant investment, but it can be extremely lucrative, especially if you buy at a time when demand is soaring. When acquiring real estate for investment purposes, it’s crucial to focus on the figures. This is a very different proposition to buying the home of your dreams.
Before you start looking for a property, figure out how much you want to spend and what kind of house or apartment you’re searching for. Who is your ideal buyer or tenant, and what would they be looking for? Think carefully about location, and select properties that will appeal to your target market. If you’re keen to invest in a family home, for example, proximity to good schools and transport links is attractive, and it’s also wise to search for houses with features like large gardens and open-plan kitchens. Take your time to explore possibilities, research the local market and contact real estate agents, and keep a close eye on the news headlines. Buying at the wrong time can be costly. If you find a property that seems perfect, arrange a second viewing, make sure you know the local area well and consider whether it makes financial sense to proceed. It’s always worth trying to negotiate on the price if the house has been on the market for a while or the vendor is keen on a quick sale.
Antiques and collectibles
Have you ever thought that your attic could be an unlikely treasure trove, or wondered if you could make a mint from a collection of vintage dolls, silver coins or oil paintings? It’s not easy to make money from antiques and collectibles, but if you make the right choices and you sell at the right time, this can be a lucrative option. If you already own antiques, or you have a small collection, take good care of each individual item. Damage and signs of wear and tear can affect resale value. You can use toothpaste to clean silver coins, protect vases and ceramics with heavy-duty wrapping and preserve decorative items like trinkets and ornaments by keeping them behind glass. If you’re a beginner, or you’re keen to add to an existing collection, always buy from a reputable dealer, negotiate on the price and carry out thorough checks to look at the condition of the item and its history and value before you shake hands on a deal. It’s hugely beneficial to research before you buy and to look out for products, collections or pieces that are in demand.
Stocks and shares
Investing in the stock market can be exhilarating and it’s possible to reap substantial financial rewards, but this can also be a high-risk strategy. When you buy stocks and shares, you pay a price and then hope that the value increases. It is up to you to decide when to sell or to appoint a trader to act on your behalf. If you haven’t bought stocks and shares before, it’s useful to analyze the market, to keep an eye on movements in the weeks and days leading up to your first investment and to read business and financial news posts. If you’re a novice trader, take advantage of free trials, which enable you to use virtual funds to buy and sell. This will help you learn the ropes and get used to the processes.
Growing your money
Saving and investing go a long way to improving your finances, but it’s also useful to identify ways to grow your money and make your funds work harder. You can do this by putting money into high-interest accounts, setting up a side hustle and paying into pension and retirement schemes that offer incentives for savers. It’s wise to speak to a trustworthy, experienced financial adviser to help you make plans, reduce risks and protect your money.
If you’ve already invested money, and you have more funds available, build on successes. If you’ve sold a property at a profit, for example, you could put the capital into a new property and eventually create a portfolio. Look for ways to keep adding to your balance, but be aware of risks that could threaten to undo all your hard work. Economic uncertainty has a direct impact on the real estate market, so it’s vital to buy and sell at the right time.
Many of us would like our financial situation to be healthier. If you’re looking to reduce debts, save money and work towards boosting your savings balances, there are ways to improve your finances. Start by learning to budget, lowering expenses and putting more money aside each month and work your way up to investing and growing your money.