By Jeanne Stapleton, Financial Advisor, The Co-operator
Step 1: Understand where you are.
Estimate your average monthly gross income over the last 1-2 years.
How much are you spending relative to how much you are earning? - What is your variable (emotionally based) spending (groceries, entertainment, kids) - What are your debt obligations? - What is the total of your other regular bills (utilities, phone, cable)? - What are your annual tax obligations?
Do you have a balance in your account at the end of the month, or are you overspending or under-earning?
Step 2: Control your spending.
Give yourself a regular monthly paycheck based on your average earnings.
Deposit it into a personal bank account.
Identify how much money you have in your control after monthly fixed bills and debt payments.
From this amount take out your estimated monthly taxes owing and put in a separate account.
Then take "15-20%" of remaining balance out in cash– this is the maximum you should be spending on food, entertainment, and kids’ activities for the month. Pay these expenses with cash only.
Any balance left after your bills, debt, taxes, and spending allowance is for your short-term and long-term savings, or extra debt repayment.
Automate your regular personal bills to all come from the same personal account.
Keep a separate bank account for all business income and business expenses.
Step 3: Unify—don't consolidate—your debt.
If you have a home mortgage, putting all your personal debt (including business debt on personal cards) into one account will save you a small fortune in interest via an All-in-One account or, second-best, a secured line of credit.
If this is not an option, then snowball your debt until it’s gone. Use an online snowball calculator to help. I recommend using www.whatsthecost.com/snowball.aspx.
Step 4: Budget for the big stuff.
Repairs, renovations, vacations, and unexpected expenses are part of our normal. Plan for them by estimating annual costs and making them a monthly bill.
Cars–Buy only what you can afford to pay off in three years. Only lease if you can write off 50% of the cost (confirmed with an accountant) and then only what you can pay off in three years if you were to buy it. Save the difference for the next car.
Step 5: Pay yourself and your family first.
Make investing and saving for retirement a bill and automate it. You can’t borrow your retirement money; if you don’t save it now, there won’t be any in retirement.
Financial Advisor, The Co-operators
Jeanne’s current mission in life is to bring financial wellness to every Newfoundland family. A personal finance professional for over seven years, she focuses on increasing her clients’ bottom line through better cash-flow management, investments, and efficient insurance programs. A native of Labrador City and a graduate of Carleton University (political science and law) and of Dalhousie University (MBA), Jeanne continues to add value to her clients by working toward her Certified Financial Planner® accreditation. When she is not helping her clients build a better financial future, she can be found playing with her two daughters or fulfilling her role as President of the NLOWE Board of Directors.
Adapted from Stephanie Holmes-Winton, $pent: Your Money Mindset is the Key to Financial Freedom, Friesens, 2011.