How to be an organized financial consumer

January 31st, 2011 Jeff Burkhart

Being an organized financial consumer really boils down to one thing: Take control of your money instead of letting it control you.

Although this may seem like a daunting prospect for some people, a few simple strategies can help you streamline your finances and become more organized about household money matters.

  • Have a clear understanding of where your money is going. Track your expenses on a regular basis and develop a budget that will help you manage your money. It doesn’t matter whether you use an online tool like Mint, software such as a Quicken® or Microsoft Money Plus, an Excel spreadsheet, or simply pen and paper.* Find the method that works best for you and make a commitment to track your expenses on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.
  • Establish a budget that outlines your monthly expenditures and income. Make sure you budget to save, and pay yourself first. This type of approach will allow you to develop a savings program to help you grow your assets and become more financially stable. Make a commitment to stick to your budget and make sure you review it every six months to determine if adjustments need to be made.
  • Pay your bills on a schedule. If you’re paying bills as you receive them, chances are you feel like you’re constantly writing checks. The process can be simplified by scheduling 2-3 times per month for paying bills, depending on how many bills you receive. Consider using your bank’s online bill pay tool to make the process even quicker.
  • Take advantage of technology. If you have the opportunity to use technology to automatically take care of reoccurring financial tasks, then do so. Set up a direct deposit for your paycheck. Schedule reoccurring withdrawals for your fixed expenses, like your mortgage or car payment. Automatically transfer money from your checking into your savings account. This will not only save time, but also reduce the chance of human error.
  • Clean up your files. Make sure your financial documents are organized and filed correctly. Go through the files on a regular basis and throw out bills and receipts no longer needed.
  • Keep a check register that will allow you to keep track of what payments have been processed and what is still outstanding. The balance that you receive from your bank or ATM statement is representative of the amount that is currently available. But, that doesn’t take into account funds that are still processing and have yet to be debited. By keeping track of these transactions you’ll be able to avoid overdraft fees and potentially challenging situations.
  • Conduct yearly financial reviews with a financial professional. This type of financial checkup provides an opportunity to review how you’ve done financially over the past 12 months and make sure you’re still headed in the right direction.

Keep in mind that everyone is organized in different ways. The system that works for you may not work for others. The important thing is that you control your money – and not the other way around.

*MidWestOne Bank has no affiliation with any of these products.

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About the author

Jeff Burkhart is Regional President at MidWestOne.

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