There was a time when work took up so much of my time and energy that I had absolutely no clue whether my finances were in order. It wasn't that I didn't care...I just had no idea how to ensure that I was going to do a thorough job of it. That meant that I needed to (a) design a comprehensive system for managing my money and (b) implement that system. I was already so overwhelmed with other responsibilities, that if a simple, straightforward method of doing this wasn't immediate and obvious, I just wasn't going to get around to doing it. Fortunately, I've since had time to set up a checklist of items that do a pretty good job of covering my basis:
1. Savings – make sure you check this figure regularly, so you have a strong sense of where you are, and where you should be headed. This will enable you to spot when and where you seem to lose money faster than you should. Without monitoring, you really don't realize how easily money can be lost.
2. Pay Stubs – if you are on a salary, you may not see the value of checking your pay stubs, but errors do happen, and it only takes a minute to check them, so consider it time well invested. If you do casual work or any sort of shiftwork at all, then this step becomes imperative. Because your hours may fluctuate from pay period to pay period, and because you may be entitled to different bonuses and incentives for working particular shifts, it is key that you verify your hours and pay rate have been recorded accurately.
3. Recurrent bills – check your credit card statements to make sure that they are accurate. While credit card companies are quite good about catching fraud, they often miss it, so make sure someone isn't enjoying five hundred dollar dinners—or even twenty dollar gadgets—at your expense. Additionally, check that your phone, cable and internet bills are being recorded correctly, according to the terms you agreed to, and ensure that you are not being billed for services you did not ask for or use. Look over your utility bills as well to monitor trends in your own use. For example, you may be spending a time and half your typical electric bill in the summer months if you are overusing your air conditioner. Reviewing your bills can help you monitor that and adjust your spending accordingly.
Stay tuned for the next two installments of this piece to find out about other areas you need to track, and to learn of a free tool to help you do this easily!