As the season changes from summer to fall, #Self-Improvement Month is a perfect time to make positive changes in your life. There are many avenues for self-improvement, including emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, but today we have one focus: your financial wellness.
Monitoring where your money goes is important when trying to manage your personal finances and achieve your financial goals. When you set aside time to give your finances a good look, you can commit yourself to improving them. Taking a detailed look at your finances at least once a year can help with your financial planning and point out specific areas you can work on.
To help you get started, here are three ways you can improve your finances during Self-Improvement Month:
1. Be honest with yourself
Honesty is a major component of self-improvement. If you aren’t honest with yourself about your spending and saving habits, you’ll be unable to move forward and make positive changes. It may be uncomfortable to address some of the ongoing issues in your financial life, but it can be a necessary step in taking a turn for the better.
Ask yourself the following questions and be sincere with your answers. As you formulate your answers, try to think of other issues you might need to address:
- What was the last financial misstep I took? How can I avoid it in the future?
- Did I stick to my personal budget this year? If not, what caused me to overspend?
- Do I know how to build an emergency fund?
- What big expenses do I know are coming in the next year?
- How much money will I make in the next year?
- Am I on the right track to reach my target savings amount and age for retirement?
2. Revisit and revise your financial goals
Once your short- and long-term financial goals are in place, review them periodically to make sure you’re still on track: what’s working and what needs to be revised. Be grateful for your successes and put more effort behind the goals that may be falling behind.
As you make changes, don’t set goals that are too easy or too difficult. The key is to set reasonable, realistic expectations that will make a positive impact on your finances. Write down a list of your current goals and make sure each one is:
Achievable - Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you aim to pay down a debt, start by figuring out what you can afford to pay each month. You can increase the payment amount in the future if your budget allows.
Specific - “Spend less money” is not clear or specific. If you want to make a difference, tell yourself, “I will spend less than $40 a week on coffee and lunch starting next Monday.”
Measurable - Set deadlines and keep a running record of your goals. As more data comes in, you can start comparing month-to-month progress.
3. Improve other areas of your life
When trying to boost your finances, remember that seemingly unrelated areas of your life all contribute to self-improvement and can positively impact your wallet.
Here are some life changes that could potentially improve your finances:
Healthy living - Being mindful of what you eat and having a healthy cholesterol level can be obvious benefits of a healthy lifestyle, but what about saving money? Living and eating healthy can also result in being more productive and spending less on medical costs. For a list of benefits, check out this article on how eating right can pay off.
Organization - If you start to clean up the clutter, the tendency to mishandle bills, taxes and other finances could decrease. It may also be a good idea to write down your due dates on a calendar so you avoid being charged late fees.
Education - Have you been considering a night class or getting certified for a certain skill? Educating yourself could make you more valuable to employers and might result in a raise or a new job offer. Your new skills could pay off in one way or another.
Believe in yourself
Self-Improvement Month is a great time to refocus your current goals and set new financial objectives. Improving your finances is achievable, but success won’t happen overnight. Create a plan, stick to the program and remain confident throughout the process. You can do it!
*This article has been updated from its original posting on September 7, 2016.