To stay financially healthy, you should spend less than you earn. But what if you cannot afford to pay all of your bills and living expenses? Maybe balancing personal priorities and family expectations can be a challenge for you. Maybe your work is seasonal or irregular, so you can cover expenses when you’re working, but struggle in the months or weeks when you’re not. By organizing, tracking, and prioritizing your bills and expenses, you can better manage your money and maybe start saving as well.
Plan for Bills
The more you can prepare for the bills you know are coming, the better you can save for them. It’s impossible to know if you can afford all your bills unless you know how much you’re expected to pay each month. Make sure you know what bills are due, how much they usually are, and what time of the month they’re due. Having a plan and system in place for paying bills can make them easier to pay and help reduce stress.
Track Your Spending
Many people who track their spending for a month discover that they are spending money in small ways that add up, and may not match their priorities. Tracking your spending makes it easier to identify needs versus wants and may help you find money to save for emergencies, unexpected expenses, and goals.
You will want to record how much you earn and everything you spend money on for an entire month. This record lets you see all of your income and expenses in one place.
To start tracking expenses:
- Get a receipt every time you spend money and put it into a container or envelope.
- Categorize your receipts and enter the total you spent in each category for each week. Add the weekly amounts per category.
- Notice trends by circling items that are the same every month—these are often your needs and obligations. Identify any areas you can eliminate or cut back.
Schedule Your Bills
You may be able to avoid late fees and other consequences of missed or late payments by setting up a bill calendar that shows when payments are due.
To set up a calendar:
- Gather all the bills you pay in one month. Remember to include any bills that are paid automatically.
- Write the date when you must send the payment or when the money must be taken out of your account, in advance of the due date. If you’re paying by mail, mark the due date at least seven days before it is due.
- Next to each payment date, list the name of the company or person you owe the money to, and the amount that is due.
- Put this calendar where you will see it every day.