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Know What You Spend

The next vital step is knowing where your money is going each month, like:

  • Rent/mortgage.
  • Utilities.
  • Cell phone bill.
  • Groceries.
  • Saving.
  • Personal spending.
  • And much more.
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You may feel like you need to track every penny over a long term to understand your spending tendencies, but that might not be true, and if such a task stymies you from taking any action, the back of a napkin is better than nothing. Short-term tracking of spending works fine; again, it just depends on your personality and what's going to help you.

If you're lost about starting, options include
MintManilla to plain old Excel. Find what works best for you and run with it. Many of these programs are free or very reasonable in price.

Know What's Left Over

This is where my family member got lost. He had no idea what he had left over at the end of the month. Coupled with some mindless spending, he was wasting his hard-earned money. The money you have at the end of the month is your money -- for paying off debt
saving for retirement to whatever else you want or need.

The key is having a plan. This will help you avoid mindless spending and force you to come up with goals for your money. After all, who doesn't feel good after reaching a goal? You just need to determine your financial goals and how your money can best reach them.

My family member was concerned that he was spending too much on items that provide him no value. After determining what he has left at the end of each month, he now has comfort knowing what he can spend and what he needs to put in place to reach his goals. That really is the best of both worlds.