If nothing else, the current world financial situation has created opportunities for people to take charge of their own finances. Gone are the days when one could blindly trod through life, trusting financial decisions to brokers, bankers and the government. At a very base level, your finances are your livelihood, and the decisions you make can and will affect your pocketbook. This doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, however; with a little know-how and effort, you can thrive where before you wouldn’t have thought it possible.
Your individual finances are nothing more than a math problem. Math doesn’t change, and the numbers in your finances should stay relatively constant. This is a good thing, because the first place you should start on the road to financial organization is to create a budget. This is far less daunting than it sounds – it’s only math. Once you have a firm grasp of your necessary expenditures – the money you have to pay out every month for bills – you can begin to balance that with what you are bringing in every month. Once your necessary expenditures are taken care of, you will get a very clear picture of where your money is going and what you are getting for your non-essential spending.
Once you have your baseline budget established, you will now have a very clear snapshot of your spending. If you are spending more than you are bringing in, that will now be obvious and you can trim where you need to. If you have a surplus of money left over each month, you can earmark that and set it aside for a savings account, maybe an investment account, or establishing an emergency fund. No matter how rock-solid your situation may seem currently, bad things can always happen when we least expect them, and one does not want to be caught without some emergency money.
One of the greatest benefits to organizing your finances is the feeling of stability it offers. Bills are a necessary evil – things bought on credit, such as cars, houses, and large items – need to be paid down. It is not good for anyone’s stress level to be uncertain on whether or not their bills will be paid or not. Through the establishment of a personal budget, that stressful feeling should abate. The lightened stress should carry over into other aspects of one’s life, leading to a cascading effect that could increase fulfillment in other areas.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, there is a plethora of information available to assist you. Here are some of the better financial help sites that will assist you in establishing your financial freedom.
- UCSF – While this is for college students, the six step system they use is applicable to anyone that is wishing to get organized.
- Focus – Purdue University’s guidebook on financial management, with an emphasis on organization depending on what your goals are.
- NFCC – The National Foundation for Credit Counseling website offer tips and steps to take if your finances have gotten away from you a bit.
- Smart About Money – The first step in organization is finding out what you need to be successful, and here is where you find that information out.
- Consumer Credit Counseling Service – A 12 step program to getting financially organized this year.
- Consumer Tools – Loads of resources here, from budgeting worksheets and calculators to tips and podcasts.
- Mint – A free resource that allows you to pool all of your online financial information in one place, create a budget and track it all online.
- My Spending Plan – Free budgeting software that purports to help you plan better, save more, and live smart.
- Kiplinger – A budget calculator that combines ease of use with the ability to add federal and state taxes for a total budget picture.
- AARP – Good site with tips, news, and categorized assistance depending on the field you need help in.
- MoneySKILL – A free, reality based personal finance course for teenagers and young adults.
- Life Tuner – Online tools and calculators to assist with financial planning and organization.
- Forbes – Forbes magazine’s personal finance page, with news, tips and resources free of charge.
- Smart Money – Part of the Wall Street Journal network, this site has 25 different categories of financial assistance and tons of news stories.
- Financial Health Quiz – A 15 question test to assess your personal financial health. There are also calculators and other tools to assist you when you get you results.
- Markets and Finance – From Bloomberg-BusinessWeek, this regularly updated resource brings up to date coverage of issues affecting today’s investors