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Conversations about money might be uncomfortable for some people. When speaking with individuals about money I often hear comments like, “I don’t have enough money to budget” Or “it’s so overwhelming I don’t know where to start”. According to a FINRA Investor Education Foundation survey, 60% of those surveyed feel anxious when thinking of their finances and 50% felt stressed discussing their finances. If you are like many, you just want to know how to get started. One of my favorite sayings from Aristotle (and Mary Poppins) is “well begun is half done”.

Person with face in her hands near a computer

So here are three basic steps to get started.

 1. Reduce debt

 2. Increase savings

3. Make a plan

Let’s break it down.

First, know your debt. Make a list of each item you owe, the length of time until paid off, and the percentage rate. This information allows you to plan for debt reduction with the most success. The interest rate directly impacts the amount of tomorrow’s money you’re using today. Consider the types of debt you may have: credit card or revolving debt, installment debt like car payments, and student loan debt. Using an online tool like Powerpay will help you form a plan to reduce debt with the most effectiveness.

Second, begin to save or increase your savings. Establishing an emergency fund can help you avoid future credit card use by having funds available when emergencies happen. In addition, establishing a savings account can help you plan for future goals. The emergency fund is for the unexpected while the savings are for the expected. There are many ways to begin saving, choose what works best for you, and then stick to it. It could be automatic deposit from a paycheck into a savings account, saving change in a jar and taking it to the bank when full, setting aside extra funds from bonuses, overtime, or tax returns, or utilizing a savings app on the phone. Whichever you choose, resolve to start today!

Lastly, it’s time to make a plan, a spending plan that is! If you have never formed a budget (also known as a spending plan) now is a great time to start. A spending plan is an intentional look at the money you need each month to meet your obligations. Start with fixed expenses like mortgage or rent payment, loan payments, and utilities. Then, consider flexible expenses like food, entertainment, gifts, and clothing.  To get started you may choose to use a calendar or notebook to record all of your expenses and income. This allows you to track when, how much, and what you are purchasing. Using a tool like Eight Easy Exercises can help you shape your budget.

Well begun is half done. What can you begin today to improve your financial well-being tomorrow?

Written by: Melissa J. Rupp, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County.

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County.

References:

https://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Anxiety-and-Stress-Report-GFLEC-FINRA-FINAL.pdf?x85507America Saves (September 14, 2021)

https://americasaves.org/resource-center/insights/54-ways-to-save-money/ (September 14, 2021)

https://www.fdic.gov/resources/consumers/consumer-news/2021-02.html (September 14, 2021)

Photo by Pixabay

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