Today is the first day of fall. Although fall is one of my favorite months, what with the colorful leaves and crisp-but-not-too-cool air, it’s followed by my un-favorite-est month: winter. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 44 of my 47 years, and I still can’t stand winter. It’s cold, and I don’t like being cold.
Now, winter is inevitable, no matter where you live, even if the winters are different than my winter. You can’t do anything about winter and its arrival. For better or for worse, winter comes every year. Now, I could spend all of fall lamenting over the arrival of winter, having a tantrum and complaining about the cold weather to come, but it wouldn’t change the fact that winter does indeed come every single year.
Our finances work much the same way. Often, we panic over financial emergencies or other unwanted financial situations that come our way. We panic when the washing machine dies or when the $2,500 car repair estimate comes in. But truly, having a meltdown really won’t help the situation, nor will it make us more prepared for financial emergencies in the future.
The only option we have is to control the things we can control, and deal with the rest as it comes. What do you have control of when it comes to managing your finances?
Controlling Your Finances by Controlling Your Spending
By and large, you can control what you spend. This is why a monthly budget and spend-tracking system is vital to financial security. When we aren’t writing down what we spend each month, it’s very easy to forget a large amount of what we’re buying, leaving us unaware of vast amounts of money that may be wasted each month. I learned this first hand when we started tracking our finances in 2013. As a bit of a gauge to what we should set for monthly budget amounts, we went back through our 2012 bank statements and wrote down what we spent in key areas such as groceries, entertainment and gas for our cars. Although we thought we were spending about $600 a month for groceries, the true number was closer to $900 a month, due to the “little” trips we’d make to the grocery store here and there to pick up “a few things”.
Our true grocery budget was over 50% higher than what we thought it was, and we had no idea because we weren’t tracking our spending. Tracking your spending helps you to control your spending and to ensure you’re spending your money on what you truly want to be spending it on.
Controlling Your Savings
Another thing you can control is your savings rate. By setting up a doable and reasonable budget based on your income, and then paying yourself first, you are controlling what you put into savings each month, whether it be a retirement savings plan, an emergency savings fund or any combination of the multitude of savings options available. By controlling your savings and creating a nice nest egg for both current and future financial needs, you’ve put some control back into your finances.
Controlling Your Income
Even if you might not have too much control over what your boss pays you, there are always ways to increase your income if need be. You can get a second, or even a third job. You can pick up some side hustles. You can sell things on Ebay or look for scrap metal to turn in for cash. There are many, many things you can do that will bring more money into your life. One quick search of the Internet will bring you thousands of articles on making money. You just have to be willing to put in the work.
The point I’m trying to make is that though there are many things about your money that you cannot control, the three things you can control; your spending and your savings, and your income, will help offset the seriousness of the things that you cannot control. For every safety measure you put in place in these three areas, you lessen the impact of the things you can’t control, such as unexpected repair or replacement of necessary items, job layoffs or other unexpected expenses.
So choose today to start putting the measures in place that will allow you to have more control over the things you can control regarding your finances, and that in turn will mean less stress over the things you can’t control.
What measures have you put in place to give yourself more control over your money?