How To Balance Competing Financial Goals When You Don’t Know Where to Start
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If I sat down and listed all of my financial goals and obligations, I could fill up a few pieces of paper. After all, I’m extremely motivated to pay off debt, but I also have several long-term financial goals too.
Then, there are the immediate financial obligations that need attention like my mortgage payment, figuring out how to pay for my twins’ preschool and wondering when my 12-year-old car will finally decide to go kaput. I know I’m not alone.
We all have a lot of expenses, obligations and financial goals. That’s a big part of #adulting. But, how do you know which ones to focus on, and how do you figure out the best way to reach all of your financial goals? Below are some ideas on how to balance it all.
Make A Budget
I know we always talk about budgets, but that’s because they really help when it comes to prioritizing all of your financial goals. When you create a budget, you’re forced to list out how much money you have coming in and how much is going out.
When you make a budget, you can also create specific categories for your expenses and goals. When it comes to categories, the more specific you are, the better. For example, instead of just having a category marked “savings,” you can create categories like “Hawaii” for a vacation that you’re saving up for; or “Basement Remodel” if you’re saving up for a specific home improvement project.
Essentially, your budget can double as document of savings goals as well, so you can easily plan for every expense and every goal. Instead of thinking of your budget as restricting, think of it as getting organized so you can finally buy what you want.
Focus On Expenses You Have To Pay First
Now that you have your budget and your goals written down, it’s time to focus on your fixed expenses. They may vary, but normally fixed expenses include a place to live, transportation, insurance and basic bills like electricity.
Lowering your fixed expenses can help you balance competing financial obligations. Looking at your expenses in an online tool, like Personal Capital, makes it easy to see what your expenses are and what percentage of your total income each expense takes up.
By simplifying your finances, these tools make it easier to identify what you can trim and where you can allocate that savings. You may find that moving to a smaller or less expensive place, trading in your expensive car or getting cheaper insurance are all good ways to find savings and put the extra money toward your financial goals.
It can even be a small change. For example I recently called my Internet company because there was an outage in my area for 11 days due to wind storms. Somehow I got off the phone with a monthly bill of $40 instead of $60. Remember it only takes a few minutes to try to lower your expenses so you can allocate your money to other financial obligations.
Pay Off All Debt
The less debt you have, the less money you send out every month. It’s that simple. Having debt makes it makes it harder to reach your financial goals. That’s why it’s always a good idea to look for ways to pay off debt faster.
Personal finance experts differ in their opinions on whether or not to pay off debt and save at the same time. The truth is that it’s really up to you.
If you focus on just paying off debt, you will get out of it faster and then you can place your whole focus on your larger, long-term financial goals. However, it’s also best to save for retirement as early as possible.
I personally save for retirement and pay down debt at the same time, but I’m waiting to fulfill other goals, like aggressively saving from my children’s college education, until my debt is gone.
Have Money Talks With Your Spouse
You may feel you are all alone when you are trying to balance competing financial obligations, but everyone struggles with this. We all have a lot of goals we want to accomplish with our money, and so it’s important to remember to talk about them openly.
If you’re married, have money talks with your spouse so you can work together towards your goals. If you’re single, have money talks with your family and friends. Make sure to surround yourself with people who have the same money philosophies that you do so you don’t get distracted from your goals.
Ultimately, with enough planning, determination and a little motivation, you can learn how to balance your financial goals with your immediate financial obligations.
What is your biggest financial goal right now? How do you fit in achieving that goal with your day to day expenses and responsibilities? How do you prioritize what financial goals to focus on first?
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