Simplify Your Money: What to Do Weekly, Monthly, Annually
Simplify Your Money: What to Do Weekly, Monthly, Annually
Keep it simple, stupid. Now, before you shut your browser and vow never to come back to this site, please know I am not calling you stupid.
Keep It Simple, Stupid, a.k.a. the KISS Rule, is a mantra to remember when it comes to many aspects of our lives, and especially when it comes to managing your money.
Too often, we tend to overcomplicate things. We disregard the simple and understandable in favor of the complex because we assume simple means unsophisticated and complicated means advanced. We do this all the time with our finances.
Many times when friends and clients share their system of budgeting and managing their money with me, their methods seem unnecessarily complicated. I challenge them and ask if they find their process simple. Often, the answer is no. They may understand it, but the complexity of their method is not sustainable, and eventually they abandon it. For this reason, it makes sense to take steps to simplify your money.
So, think about your process of managing your money. Is your system complicated? Does your routine involve you checking your bank account a million times a day? Do you find yourself handling your bills several times during the month? Is your system one that only you can understand? If you answered yes to any of these, it might mean you need to simplify your money.
Why Simple is Better
It’s nearly impossible to maintain systems and routines that have too many moving parts or are “over our head.” When we build processes and methods that are too detailed and complex, it is almost inevitable that we abandon them.
If you are married and your spouse has no interest in working with you on the finances, consider the possibility that you’ve created a method of managing your money that they find complicated or overwhelming.
So, in regards to managing your finances, I encourage you to keep things simple. Adapt routines and habits that don’t require you to “touch” your money too often. In other words, simplify when and how often you handle your financial matters. Set yourself up for success instead of overwhelm, by being intentional about when you perform your financial tasks.
With that in mind, here are some guidelines on what money tasks can be tackled weekly, monthly, and annually.
Money Moves to Make Weekly
To simplify your money, limit what you do on a weekly basis. There aren’t too many money tasks to perform weekly unless of course, you get paid weekly.
• Balance Your Checkbook
Remember your checkbook? That thing with lines in it? Yes, you actually should use it (or an electronic equivalent whether it’s software or an app). The point is, you need to account for the transactions that go in and come out of your bank account. Many people “balance their checkbook” by going online to their bank and seeing what the current balance is on their account. That is NOT balancing your checkbook.
When you make purchases or have other transactions, you need to record them, and on a weekly basis reconcile what you think your balance is against what the bank says your balance is. Believe it or not, banks sometimes make errors, but you will never catch an erroneous charge if you don’t balance your checkbook.
Performing this task weekly will provide a more accurate account of your transactions than if done monthly. Many people check their balances daily. I used to be one of those people until I realized it was overkill and actually made me anxious. If you currently check your balance daily, I challenge you to try checking it once a week for a few weeks. You might find peace in only looking at your accounts once a week, but if you are convinced you need to check them daily, then fine. Otherwise, a weekly check on your account balances should be sufficient.
• Track Your Expenses
If you are getting a handle of how much you spend on categories like groceries, entertainment, clothing, and other flexible spending, then tracking your expenses will shed light on exactly where your money is going.
Tracking should occur whenever you spend, so technically, this could be a daily habit, but I suggest that you sit down weekly to evaluate your spending. Add up what you’ve spent by category so you have a clear picture of how you’re spending your money and how you can adjust things going forward.
Money Moves to Make Monthly
Be intentional about what tasks you perform monthly and know ahead of time when you’re going to do them.
• Do a Monthly Budget
Doing a budget once a month is an essential aspect of managing your money. Many people take the one-size-fits-all approach of budgeting and incorrectly believe once they do a budget it should work forever.
But, no two months are the same in terms of expenses, and even if you have a fixed, predictable paycheck, there could be differences in your income depending on how often you get paid or an unexpected windfall. Doing a written budget each month before your first paycheck arrives is a must.
• Check Bill Statements
You likely have many of your bills on automatic payments or paperless billing. Both methods are great ways to simplify your money. But, don’t forget to check your statements once you get that email saying they are ready.
If your account incurred an unexpected charge or a rate increase, it’s best to catch it before your payment clears the bank. Enjoy the convenience and simplicity of automatic payments, but be a wise an informed consumer by always knowing how much you are paying for your services.
Money Moves to Make Annually
Some tasks can be done only once a year. It’s a good idea to be consistent about when you perform these tasks so that you develop a routine.
• Review Your Bills
An annual look at all your bills is an excellent way to keep your expenses for utilities and other services low. The end of the year is a good time to perform this task. Learn how to review and negotiate your monthly bills.
• Check Your Credit Reports
Get your credit reports for free from each of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) at AnnualCreditReport.com. This will allow you to catch anything on your report that should not be there. Please note, these reports do not include your FICO Score.
• Adjust Your Tax Withholding
This may not be necessary at all, but if you received a sizeable tax refund or owed a significant amount of money when you filed your taxes, then adjusting your withholding so that you neither overpay or underpay next year is a smart idea. The IRS Withholding Calculator will walk you through the steps of adjusting your withholding.
• Calculate Your Net Worth
An annual check on your net worth is essential. Of course, you can do it more often, especially with tools like Personal Capital, but calculating what you own minus what you owe each year gives you a picture of where you stand financially.
• Spring Clean Your Finances
Many of the annual tasks listed above can be done around the same time as a part of an annual spring clean. Read more about these tasks in detail and other money moves to help you simplify your money in 7 Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Finances.
Money Moves to Make When You Get Paid
Some tasks will coincide with when you get paid, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or twice a month.
• Pay Your Bills
Whether it’s scheduling online payments or writing checks, designate paying your bills for payday. So if you get paid on the 1st and 15th or biweekly, you would pay your bills twice a month. You’ll find handling all your payments at once and at a scheduled time as opposed to one at a time a much more simple approach.
• Take a Trip to The Bank
If you use cash for your spending, then put making a trip to the bank or ATM on your to-do list for when you get paid, instead of several times during the month.
• Transfer Savings
Like paying your bills, make transfers to your savings accounts or schedule them when your paycheck hits your account.
Simplify Your Money Your Way
What one person considers to be simple, may not be for another. For this reason, your approach to managing your money should be simple for you.
Use these timelines as a guide to help you simplify your money and to create a routine that makes sense to you. I do encourage you, though, to attempt to limit how many times you “touch your money” throughout the month. You may discover that you feel calmer when you don’t check your bank account daily, pay bills eleven different times during the month, or withdraw money from the ATM every other day.
If you want to have a sense of peace in your finances, put routines in place that will work for you, and keep it simple… 😉