For people who lead busy lives, managing the family finances may be just one of many important jobs to do. Fortunately taking care of your personal wealth can take less time than you might think. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to do and how often.
Once a year – review your goals and your progress towards them
All of your financial decisions should help to bring you closer to your financial goals. In order for this to happen, you need to be clear about what they are. Like many aspects of life, financial goals can change through time. For young adults their major goal may be to buy a house, whereas for older adults it may be investing strategically to finance a comfortable retirement. In between there may well be children to raise and provide for. This annual review can also be a good time to get some unbiased financial advice from a professional financial adviser.
Once a quarter – make sure everyone is on the same page financially
In households where more than one person is financially responsible it’s important to make sure that the people in question stay on the same financial page. In an ideal world, people would take all financial decisions together. In the real world however, time pressures can make this impractical. Sometimes families need to divide financial tasks. This may be done equally or with one person taking most of the day-to-day responsibilities. In this situation people can drift apart, financially speaking, which can lead to problems later down the line. To prevent this from happening it’s important that all the people concerned have regular catch-ups.
Once a month – go over all financial statements from that month
Financial statements give you the reality of your financial situation. If you’ve kept on top of your finances then you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what they ought to say. You should, however, check them thoroughly to make sure of this. In particular take the time to investigate any transactions on your debit or credit card that you don’t immediately recognise. They may just be something you’d forgotten, but they may also be a sign that fraudsters are testing your card. This is also a good time to look out for any recurring transactions and decide if there are savings to be made. For example if you see three months’ worth of gym fees on your card but you’ve only managed to find the time to go a couple of times then is it really worth the cost? Finally, take a good look over your shopping receipts for the last month and see if there are any unnecessary expenses you could trim.
Once a week – tidy up your financial paperwork
These days paperwork is as likely to mean digital records as it is actual paper ones, but in either case financial records can only be any use if you can actually find them. Decide whether you are going to use paper records, digital records or both. Whichever you choose take some time out once a week to decide what you need to keep and what you don’t. Anything you keep needs to be stored in a safe place and organised in a methodical way. While you can use your own preferred system remember that if anything happens to you, even temporarily, someone else may need to take over. Anything you don’t keep needs to be checked for personal details and if necessary shredded before being recycled.
Once a day – keep track of your spending
It’s generally easier to see an elephant than a mouse. Similarly it’s often easier to remember big purchases like a weekly grocery shop than it is to remember all the little items. Fortunately smartphones and their cameras have made it much easier to stay on top of daily spending. Implement a straightforward rule that each and every purchase needs to be tracked. If you are given a receipt, photograph it. If you don’t get a receipt, photograph the item itself. At the end of each day, store these photos in a safe place to be reviewed later.