I’ve been working for almost twenty years. For most of my adult life, I dreaded ‘paying bills’. For three weeks, bills would pile up on the counter top – waiting to be paid. At the end of the month, paycheck deposited, I’d sit down to sort through the pile. After checks had been written and placed into payment envelopes, I would sit back, blurry-eyed, and think, “Man, what are we going to live on? I just paid all of our bills – and we have ten cents for groceries!”.
Here’s how I went from ‘just paying the bills’ to actually managing our money.
1. I created a basic, easy-to-understand budget. I use the You Need A Budget. system for creating my monthly budget.
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2. I had a heart-to-heart talk with my wife about what we wanted from our future. We both agreed that we needed to learn more about debt reduction and money management. We established a system for discussing finances and we made money management a family priority.
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3. I started opening bills as soon as I received them. This simple exercise added a much needed element of discipline to the process. I struggle with organization and procrastination. I made a commitment to myself that I would deal with each bill, as it arrived. Three minutes a day, spent thinking about finances, saves me hours of worry.
4. I spent some time – away from the television – learning about various retirement, savings, and checking accounts. I then opened a Roth IRA for myself and my wife opened a Roth IRA for herself. We made a commitment to fund our retirement, thus ‘forcing’ ourselves to live under-budget. We also opened various other types of accounts, including Education Savings Accounts for our kids.
5. I created a super-simple method for organizing my bills and financial documents. If I need to retrieve a bill stub, I can do so in less than five minutes.
Not only did I put the above ‘systems’ into place, I also had a change in my mindset. Instead of viewing myself as a paycheck-to-paycheck guy, I began to think of myself as a money manager. I now treat every dollar, every single dollar, with great respect. And, I’m willing to invest the time it takes to learn about personal finance. It’s amazing what can happen when you couple determination and a good plan.
Get up, grab that stack of bills, and deal with them. Stop putting off the very important financial choices that you need to make. Consider the long-term impact of your spending and borrowing habits. Open your eyes and see – really, really, really see – the bright future that can be yours, if you will begin to work for it, today.