Personal Finance: Keys to Making Smart Financial Choices
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One thing that you need to get used to as an adult is that there are always multiple priorities for your money. Sure, some expenses are non-negotiable. You need a place to live and you have to eat. You have to have a way to get to and from work. There are plenty of discretionary spending areas, and it can be a real challenge to decide how to allocate your funds.
No matter how much you enjoy your job, it is a challenge to get up and go to work each day if you don’t have something to look forward to. This may mean planning to purchase a home, taking a trip, or having the occasional frivolous shopping trip. Balancing the different categories of spending can be stressful, and you may feel like you will never have enough money. Taking the time to set some priorities and goals can make your choices easier.
Don’t Let Lack of Knowledge Create Problems
It may feel easier to remain in the dark about some financial matters than facing them head-on. Knowing exactly what you are facing allows you to make a plan, and having a plan can be a tremendous stress reliever. An added benefit is that once you educate yourself, you may find the situation is not as dire as you anticipated. One example is college. If you have one or more kids, it may seem irresponsible to even consider a vacation, new vehicle purchase, or any other expense that is not mandatory.
There are many options available to help you and your child pay for college. There is no reason to avoid creating memories with your child now, with the idea the money needs to be directed toward future education expenses. To help ease your mind, you can use a FAFSA calculator. This will show you how much aid your child is likely to qualify for. This gives you a pretty good estimation of the amount of money you will need to cover the gap. If this number seems intimidating, remember, you can use private student loans to cover these costs.
Set Long- and Short-Term Goals
You may feel that there are so many things you should be saving for; it is impossible to prioritize. Breaking down your expenses and creating separate savings accounts allows you to add a little money at a time and easily keep an eye on your progress. So, for example, you have a big annual expense, such as auto insurance, divide that by the number of paychecks you get each year, and you know how much you need to save. For more abstract goals, such as trips or saving for a down payment for a home, using tricks such as emptying the balance of your checking account into your savings the day before payday, directing any monetary gifts straight into the account, and, if you are someone who gets paid bi-weekly, taking your extra paycheck and putting it straight to savings, can add up quickly.
Don’t Forget About Your Emergency Fund
The priority should always be your emergency fund. Regardless of what your other savings goals are, having a fully-funded emergency fund, equivalent to at least 3 months living expenses, and preferably six, is important for your financial well-being.