Step Four - Create your plan
Using your income to strategically cover your expenses will give you a better chance to reach your goals. This sounds so simple, yet it is quite challenging. Mapping out your money to fit your lifestyle and to achieve your goals is a monumental task. The good news is you have done the hard part. You have
tracked where your money goes, you have isolated where you money comes from, now all you need to do is make the two work together.
How much money do I have left every month?
When you plan out your future spending the goal should be to have some money saved up or left at the end of each month. This will allow you to be better prepared for future surprises. Having some left-over can help you build savings or an emergency fund, which will help you accomplish a future goal and build an emergency fund to better prepare yourself for an expected situation. You never know what could happen while in college so it is best to prepare for the worst.
How can I make my income last longer?
Now that you have mapped out all of the ins and outs of your money you are better prepared to adjust. In Step 3 you isolated where you spend too much money. Now comes the hard part, actually spending less money in those aforementioned areas. It is easy to plan but much harder to execute.
An important part of this is doing whatever you need to make sure you are staying under budget. Here are some ideas to help you follow through on your spending plan:
- Use Cash - This system helps you see all of the money that leaves your possession.It is important to not incur ATM fees when implementing this system. This means that you should go to your own financial institution, or one of its ATMs, to avoid these fees.
- The Envelope System - Budget the money you can spend on each expense and place that money into an "envelope". Use the money in each envelope only for that purpose.This system is not one you should use if you live in an area where someone else can get access to the envelopes of loose cash.
- Save your Receipts - Save your receipts on EVERY purchase.Create a receipt for "vending machine" for purchases that don't produce one.
It is important for you to find the system that works for you. It may be in your best interest to use more than one of these systems.
Am I on track to reach my goals?
Now you have a system in place, so how do you see if you are on track? In Step 1 (LINK to Step 1) we researched the cost of our goals, as well as determined when those goals need to be accomplished. This system creates a timeline that the goal can be split into. Breaking apart your goals in this manner will give you a way to turn your big goal into much more manageable smaller goals. If you have 6 months to save $1,200 you may be overwhelmed, but if you save $200 every month for the next 6 months you may see that your goal can be easily accomplished.
If you fall off the pace of accomplishing your goal there are ways to get back on track. You can save a little more each period, or if you really have to you could move back the date of your goal. This may not be possible in the case of a trip that you already paid for the flight or things of that nature. In that case, you may need to find ways to cut more expenses or add more income.