Financial Readiness Program Manager
One of the nicest parts about celebrating a new year is that it offers a break in our lives to take a look at how things are going and perhaps make plans for change in the coming year. Many people believe it is the perfect time to get focused on their finances.
Even if you aren’t at the “beginning” of your financial life, there is really no bad time to begin making good spending decisions. Starting this year is better than next! Developing a spending plan is a great first step towards your journey to a healthy financial future.
A spending plan is nothing more than a tool to help you make the most of the money you have coming in each month. Simply stated, a spending plan tells how you intend to use your money. It shows you how much money is needed to meet your financial obligations and to work toward your financial goals.
To make this a useful tool, you need to have ownership of your spending plan. It must reflect what you are willing and interested in doing to meet your financial needs and wants. Follow the steps below to help take control of your money by developing a spending plan designed for you, by you.
Step One: Create some financial goals. Remember, these should be specific with a dollar amount assigned to each one. (Example: I will pay an additional $20 on my Star Card until the balance is paid in full).
Step Two: Analyze your spending. Take a look at what you spend. What does it cost you to live day to day? What are your family needs? Tracking all spending for one month is critical for this stage. You want as accurate numbers as you can get.
Step Three: Figure your income. If you receive regular pay, then this step will be easy. Individuals whose hours vary from week to week will have a greater challenge. In these cases, an average or the lowest amount should be used.
Step Four: Compare income and expenses. Add up your costs and compare them to your income. When you find gaps, you may have to move some money from one area to another to meet the expenses. Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the amount you are spending in each category. Is there an area where you can reduce spending?
Step Five: Now make your final spending plan. Using the current expense and income information, while keeping your goals in mind, develop a plan for using your money. Identify which of your current expenses can be adjusted. Most expenses can be adjusted by reducing spending, conserving usage (as in the case of utilities), maximizing what you already have, finding a less expensive source, or increasing income. What options are you willing to consider?
Step Six: Reevaluate your plan each month. Is it doing what you wanted it to for you?
For more financial planning tools or to speak with a financial counselor, call 772-6556 / 6557. You also may call Financial Readiness directly at 772-2919 / 8526 / 5196. “Think ACS First.”
Army Community Service