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5 Tips For A Personal Finance Spring Clean 
by Michael Halls-Moore

It’s that time of the year again when you know you should be checking over your current personal finance and investing situation. Is there anyway that it can be given a bit of a clean up? I believe there is. Here are my 5 tips for a personal finance and investing spring clean.

1. Personal Finance Long Term Goals

The most important step is to decide what you want out of your personal finances and investing. My primary aim is not to have $1 million, although that would be very nice. My goal is to have enough assets to generate a monthly income that exceeds my monthly outgoings (my liabilities). This will ensure that I do not have to work. I may choose to work, but I can make that choice. To me that is being wealthy. I want to achieve this by the time I am 40 years old, which gives me 15 years!

You may decide that you want to be a millionaire. In order to reach that goal, you are going to need to figure out how to get there! Sounds simple and obvious, but most people forget this first step. Lay out a plan for your finances using the following 9 tips and you will be well on your way to achieving your personal finance and investing goals. There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme. Get rich slowly, but surely. This is my plan.

2. What Is Your Current Situation?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you don’t know where you’re coming from with your personal finances then you certainly don’t know where you’re going. You need to be aware of all of your assets and liabilities, take into account every part of your spending and lifestyle. Don’t throw away those bank statements every month. Take the time to look through them. You might be surprised to learn that banks are “mistakenly” overcharging you for services to your account that you never even requested. You should not have to pay any fees for a checking or current account! If you are, then either get them stopped or change banks. Changing banks is ridiculously easy - they want your business.

Once you’re more aware of your current status, it is time to get serious and start budgeting your personal finances, which brings us to the next tip…

3. Budgeting - Where Is It All Going?

You’ve checked out your bank statements, you’ve got a vague idea of where all the money is coming from and going to and now you’ve decided to do something about it. Good, you’ve just taken the first step that many people will never bother with. One of the first things you need to do is get hold of some personal finance software. But that will only cost more money Mike, I hear you cry. Not so. There are plenty of free/open source money management packages available on the internet. One of my favourites is SimpleD Budget. It’s got a great graphical user interface, is highly intuitive, and has most of the features you’d expect out of a simple package. It doesn’t tie into your online banking - you would need a package like MS Money for that. However, I think it’s a great start.

At the end of every month, open up your online banking (if you don’t have it, why not?) and ask it to categorize your personal finance transactions. This will show you income from employers, checks and outgoings via debit cards and cash withdrawals. The card purchases are particularly handy because it allows you to see where the money was spent. Put all of this information into SimpleD and it will give you a pretty good idea of where your money is going and how you can reduce that spending!

Use that information to try and reduce spending in certain areas. Did you really need to order a pizza every week last month? Could you have saved money by making it yourself?

4. Cut Up Those Credit Cards!

Credit Cards are the exact opposite of living within your means. They are a great little earner…for the banks. I’m sure many of you have one and use it. I used to use mine frequently and have trouble paying it off, but I’ve figured out a way to sort it out. It’s simple - CUT THEM UP! That’s right, take some strong scissors and cut each and every one of your credit cards up (being careful to slice through the chip so that nobody can use it, of course!) and destroy them. Once they’re destroyed it’s time to think about paying them off. How can you do that?

The best thing to do is pay off the ones with highest interest rates first. Now that you have a grasp of your current/checking account you will be able to put some aside to pay off these debts. If you plan it out in advance you will even know how long it will take to pay off. It is almost always best to pay off debts first, rather than save as the interest you get on the savings will usually be dwarfed by the credit card interest rate (and this is without taking into account tax). You will also have the added piece of mind that you are not indebted to anybody.

You can get started on this approach right now!

5. Savings - Are You Putting Enough Away Per Month?

Now that you have your debts under control and know your monthly position, it is time to think about investing some of the money.

You should be putting approximately 15-30% of your monthly income away in savings. Ouch! That’s a lot of money. However, if you have followed the above 3 tips this goal should not be too difficult to achieve. Let’s say you have reduced your monthly personal finance spending to such a degree that you can afford to make an investment of 30% per month. How and where should you put it? I advocate splitting your savings into two parts. The first 50% (of the 30%) should go into one savings account that is used for “Rainy Days” or “Emergencies”. This ensures that if anything should ever arise, you can quickly get access to your money and pay off the unexpected expense. The second 50% should be put into an account (or other form of investment, see below) that is not as liquid (i.e. easy to turn into cash) but will generate a higher return.

You will find, that is you discipline yourself and stick to “The Entreblogeur Personal Finance And Investing Plan”, that you will have a lot in your savings after only a year. This money can now be put to work for you. Why work when your money can instead?
Your bio/contact information as you\'d like to see it with your article = Mike Halls-Moore owns The Entreblogeur, a guide to Personal Finance, Investing and Entrepreneurship. Why not take a visit and learn to get rich?

View their website at: http://www.entreblogeur.com


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