Financial Advice

Tina Haapala |

Money. It’s part of our daily lives, from buying groceries to paying the mortgage—not to mention the different ways we earn it. But ask people if they think they are spending and saving wisely and most of them don’t believe they are. Why? Well, there’s no one right answer. The trick is to learn the basics and apply them to your own life. This is called Financial Planning.

First, budgeting. It’s a necessary evil.  Let’s face it; no one enjoys creating a budget. Most find it to be too rigid or restrictive. However, understanding how, and where, your money is being spent is the foundation to paying off debt and saving enough for retirement. Without knowing how much you are spending, how can you figure out how much you can save? We can help. In this section, we’ll show you how to create a feasible budget, cut back on unnecessary spending, and make the money you earn work for you. We’ll share tricks and tips to prepare you to track your budget with ease, whether you want to use a pencil and paper, or a more robust spreadsheet. In addition, you’ll hear some great ideas about stretching your dollars by using reward programs, coupons, and price matching.

Once you get a better understanding of where your money is going, the next step is paying off debt. But where do you begin? In this section, we’ll help you come up with a reasonable strategy, and show you the next steps. It may mean focusing on the highest balance, or the highest interest rate. Or maybe the lowest balance or lowest interest rate. It depends on your situation. The best for you may be to get rid of the debt tied to an uncomfortable memory, like a vacation with an ex.

Just like a Thanksgiving feast, leftovers are wonderful. Once you’ve established a working budget, and have paid off some debt, you should have some money left over that needs a place to go. That’s where saving comes in. So instead of buying that “must-have” pair of leopard-print knee-high boots that will probably go out of style next season (yes, my female employees shared their thoughts on this), put that money to work for you. What about funding your Roth or Traditional IRA? Or maybe adding some more into your company-sponsored 401K plan? Do you already have a full emergency savings fund? How about a vacation fund? Before running out on a shopping spree, determine if you are paying yourself first.

This article was published under the title "Take part in money planning, for free" in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on October 6, 2013.