Have you ever felt stressed about money? If so, you're certainly not alone. According to a recent study on stress, six in ten adults said money was a significant source of stress in their lives—and that was before global events like the COVID-19 pandemic!
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to plan ahead, manage your money and ultimately feel more in control of your finances. We like to call these steps the five “ATES" — Evaluate, Eliminate, Anticipate, Separate and Automate.
Let's take a closer look at each of “ATES" and how they can help you:
Evaluate — Track your current spending habits.
You may think you have a good idea of how much money you're spending each month, but the only way to know for sure is to track it! Fill out this worksheet, My Personal Spending List to get a clear picture of your spending. List everything you spend money on, categorize your spending, and note the due dates. Lastly, calculate the monthly amount. You must first evaluate your spending before you can begin to make adjustments.
Eliminate — Identify the expenses you can cut or lower.
After you've filled out your Spending List take note of the extra expenses you're willing to reduce or even eliminate. For example, do you still use all the streaming TV services you're subscribed to? Can you go without takeout food one weekend per month? Do you have buyer's remorse after late-night online shopping? Cutting back on any purchases that don't match your priorities will help you keep your spending under control.
Anticipate — Plan ahead for future expected and unexpected expenses
It's important to build flexibility into your spending plan so you can prepare for the expenses you know are coming—and the ones you don't.
You may have expenses that you don't have to pay every single month, but you still know they are coming. Examples include:
Try to anticipate your needs at least six months in advance and start setting aside money for them now.
You might also have unplanned expenses throughout a year, such as:
Build an emergency fund with three to six months of living expenses to prepare for these unexpected expenses. While you can't predict the future, giving yourself a financial cushion will provide a lot of peace of mind and help reduce financial stress down the road!
WPCU has easy tools to help you plan out future expenses. Money Management, through Mobile and Online Banking, lets you track and manage all your financial accounts in one place. You can easily track your spending, create budgets, set goals and much more! With our Monthly Budget Spreadsheet, you can use the different tabs to take a deeper dive into your spending and expenses with our pre-populated categories.
Separate — Set up multiple accounts for different goals.
Separating your money into multiple accounts is a smart way to control your spending and reach your savings goals. For example, set up additional Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) checking accounts for categories such as bills, groceries and fun spending.
You can also open separate savings accounts based on your goals. You might have one savings account dedicated to your emergency fund, one for holiday savings and one as a vacation fund. You can open as many accounts as needed to fit your budgeting goals!
Automate — Put your finances on autopilot
Finally, make life a little easier by setting up automatic payments for your regular bills. WPCU's Mobile and Online Bill Pay allows you to safely and securely send recurring payments from your accounts on time, every time.
You can do the same thing for your savings by scheduling automatic deposits using WPCU's Mobile and Online Banking or using WPCU's EasySaver® debit card round-up program. When you put your savings on autopilot, you'll be able to worry less and save more!
Plan ahead for greater financial flexibility and freedom
With smart budgeting, planning and money management, you will gain greater flexibility to weather life's storms and challenges as they arise, as well as the freedom to take advantage of opportunities that may come your way.
Ready for more budgeting and money management tips, tools and resources? Check out our online Education Center.