how to improve finances

Are you looking for ways to improve your finances? It can be difficult to know exactly what to do in order to improve your financial situation, so I have compiled a list of sixteen things you can do to move in the right direction. Some of these may be common sense to you, but others may not be.

  1. Pay off Debt – This may sound easier than it is to accomplish, but getting rid of all your debt is a great way to lower your monthly expenses and have a lot more flexibility. If you pay off debt that had a monthly payment of $300, you now have that much more flexibility. What would you like to do with money that you are paying towards debt?
  2. Use a Budget – A budget is a great way to not only keep track of your expenses, but to limit your spending. It helps keep you accountable. Sometimes that is all you need to keep your spending in line.
  3. Track Your Net Worth – My wife and I just recently started tracking our net worth and it has provided the extra motivation to save and invest aggressively. It’s nice to see that number go up and very disappointing when it goes down.
  4. Set Financial Goals – Setting financial goals is a strong commitment of mine. I believe it’s one of the many ways to keep you focused on long-term results. If you haven’t set financial goals yet, start today!
  5. Take a “Stay-cation” – Budgeting for vacation may not be enough. By staying somewhere close (or even at home) you can reduce the two major expenses of vacations and use the money to enjoy things that you normally wouldn’t do.
  6. Commit to a No-Spend-Month – Are you surprised at how easy it is for the small things to add up? Try committing to a full month of not buying anything. Sure, you can buy groceries, but that’s it. I wonder how much money you could save…
  7. Sell Old, Unused Items – Do you have items sitting around that are unused. Why not sell them and make some money. The longer you wait, the less money you will have and the more cluttered your home will be.
  8. Never buy NEW – There are very few items that I will buy new. Big purchases like cars are something I will never buy new. New items have a price mark-up because they are new – no other reason. Is that worth it to you?
  9. Invest Money with a Roth IRA – A Roth IRA is a great savings investment for people. You can contribute to your 401(k) AND save extra money in a Roth. There is an annual contribution limit and you can’t go back in time, so you might as well start today.
  10. Increase your 401(k) or 403(b) Contributions – If you have a little extra spending money each month, think about supplementing your employer’s retirement fund. If you aren’t maxing out your contributions, why not try to set more money aside for your retirement. It will come out before you get your check, so you probably won’t notice the difference now – but you will appreciate it later.
  11. Don’t Create a Wish List – Do you have an amazon wish list? I have found that having a wish list makes me more likely to splurge. This is never good for your finances and you should avoid it at all costs.
  12. Eat at Home – My wife and I save hundreds of dollars each month by eating 90% of our meals at home. We even have a system in place to reduce our grocery bill. If you are eating out all the time, try changing your lifestyle and see how much extra money you can save.
  13. Bike to Work – This option isn’t available to everyone (without moving), but it’s a great way to save money on gas while staying active. I commit to this in the summer months and save several hundred dollars.
  14. Create a Side Income – Sometimes, it takes earning extra money to give yourself more financial freedom. You can only be so frugal. I now earn a couple hundred dollars from blogging after months of hard work. Find out what you can do to scrape by a few extra dollars.
  15. Diversify Your Investments – If you have all of your investments in one place or even worse, one stock, it is time to diversify. You never know when one area of the market will collapse and you don’t want to lose everything in one instance.
  16. Spend Less Money than You Earn – Last, but certainly not least, spending less money than you earn is the only sustainable way of living. This gives you freedom and the ability to put your money to use by saving and investing.

What would you add to this list?