I think it was Benjamin Franklin, our famous first American, who told us: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” If he were alive now, he’d know how to create a budget, school us on learning to save money, and he’d certainly buy into a house contents insurance plan. No wonder he was such a successful and revered man, because he really hit the nail on the head.
Applicable to any situation in life, I like to use his now famous quote as my little mantra. Here, of course, we’re going to apply it to your finances. The best way to prepare for financial success (and by ‘success’, I want you to think about what that word means to you) is to plan ahead, and to plan ahead is by learning to save money and how to create a budget.
It may first seem like a daunting task, but don’t be scared. If you’re the type of person to bury your head and ignore a problem, then you’ll know that it doesn’t feel good. You may think you’re able to forget about your finances (or lack of), but, deep down, the problem will weigh you down, just like the cross our Lord Jesus Christ carried up to Calvary.
But your cross needn’t be so heavy. Take stock, and make the concerted effort to list all of your incomings and outgoings (monthly and/or weekly - whatever’s appropriate). Make sure you account for everything: food, rent or mortgage, auto and house contents insurance (and any other policies), gas, credit cards, loan repayments, utilities, childcare, clothing, school books, school trips, incidentals… Whatever you spend your hard-earned dollars on, it needs to be down on your list.
You may well be pleasantly surprised and find that your finances are relatively easy to balance. You may, on the other hand, have discovered that there’s a massive discrepancy between what you’re bringing in and what you’re spending each month. Don’t be overwhelmed. You’ve done the hardest part: the only way is up.
Now, make two lists: the essentials (rent, food etc.) and the non-essentials (incidentals, clothing etc.). Figure out how big the discrepancy is, look at where you can afford to make cuts in each area and create a budget. You’ll discover quickly that you can probably make up quite a bit of the discrepancy by doing that, and you can go even further by looking at whether you can get your essentials cheaper than you do now.
Contact your energy suppliers, look at the food you buy and whether you can buy less expensive brands or even spend time making homemade meals instead. Do you buy lunch at work every day? The odd coffee here and there? Are you and your family a little wasteful with energy and general household stuff? It all adds up, especially if you’re talking about a family of four.
Do yourself a huge favor and take the steps towards making a budget. You may well find that rather than being worse off by cutting back, you begin to be able to spend your money on good things like family vacations, day trips or cinema outings.
Don’t let your finances career out of control – you have always been and always will be in the driving seat, so where you and your family end up (and how good your journey to get there is) is completely up to you. Create a budget today and you can’t go wrong, even if the worst happens and your home or contents are damaged, destroyed or stolen. Why? Because you will be financially ready for it!