Beyond Budgeting: Practical Steps for Managing Your Money

Are you the boss of your budget? Even if you don’t feel like it right now, you can sharpen your skills and get a handle on your finances. It’s time to take back control of your money — and feel great about doing it. You likely have basic knowledge of budgeting, but you want to

Are you the boss of your budget? Even if you don’t feel like it right now, you can sharpen your skills and get a handle on your finances. It’s time to take back control of your money — and feel great about doing it. You likely have basic knowledge of budgeting, but you want to take your money-management skills to the next level. That’s all about getting financially organized.

Getting financially organized is a three-tiered life skill. It means:

  • Setting realistic life and financial goals
  • Responsibly handling your debts with effective budgeting
  • Establishing a sustainable financial routine to build wealth

When you have all three skills in place and running, you’re mastering your money. It takes work to build this basic foundation. It takes changing the way your mind operates to excel at managing your finances. But knowing how to change your mindset, along with applying sound money-management tools and strategies, can help keep you financially in charge.

Becoming Aware of Your Money Traumas

There are times we avoid trying to master our money. Though we insist it’s one of our priorities, it’s easy to put off this work. It might happen because you feel stuck. One reason for this? The money habits you’ve learned and financial traumas you’ve experienced throughout your life have impacted your current feelings and actions.

Margaret M. Lynch, author of “Tapping into Wealth,” says becoming aware and then transforming your financial programming and beliefs empowers you to master your money . To uncover your programming, close your eyes and think back to your childhood. Imagine watching a movie of your family discussing or dealing with money, bills and finances. Hear what they’re saying. Now, answer these questions:

  1. What is your family saying about money, bills and finances?
  2. What are you feeling while watching yourself in the situation?
  3. Do you feel the same (or different) beliefs as your family about money?
  4. How do you know you feel the same (or a different) way about money as your family?

Financial trauma is a bit different. Lynch notes that having high debt or low savings signals you’ve had financial trauma in your life. It could be holding you back. Once you determine the trauma, you’re more aware of why you avoid handling your finances .

Bringing in Practical Money Tools

Awareness of what’s blocking you is the key to taking the step beyond budgeting and eventually mastering your money, says Lynch. Once you’re aware of your hindering beliefs, work to change them to beneficial beliefs. There are plenty of ways to flip your beliefs and behaviors around money, but it takes diligent practice:

  • Learn, learn, learn: Read credible books and websites about transforming your money beliefs. Attend personal finance seminars online or in person. Check your local library for money talks. The American Library Association (ALA) teams up with FINRA’s Investor Education Foundation to sponsor no-cost programs about financial stability and investing.
  • Take baby steps: Take specific small steps, from creating an emergency fund to paying off smaller debts first, to gain financial control. Reaching some goals early on gives you the motivation and momentum to keep moving forward. Tools like Mint make this process easier by allowing you to manage all your finances in one place and providing custom tips on how you can save the most money based on your lifestyle and goals.
  • Identify your wants versus needs: Distinguish the difference between your personal wants and needs. Doing that helps you cut down on emotional spending. And it’s okay to have wants — we all do. But giving in to them can hold you back from building your savings and reaching other goals. Utilizing Mint can help you stay on track by showing you exactly what you’re spending your money on by category – allowing you to determine what future purchases you can choose to cut to meet your budget.
  • Know your credit score: Find out your FICO® score. FICO® is a score lenders use to determine whether to give you a loan and at what interest rate. Knowing your FICO score, and how to improve it, is one important way to keep measuring your financial health. Just like with Mint, the Turbo app allows you to check your credit score for free, as well as your verified income and debt-to-income ratio to give you a full snapshot of your financial health.
  • Automate your money: Your old beliefs may make you afraid to look at your bills or bank statements. Automating as much of your banking as possible eases your mind and potentially saves you money. It can also help increase your credit score and get your finances working like a well-oiled machine. For the bills you can’t automate, Mint allows you to effortlessly track all of them — from credit card payments to utility bills —and provides reminders to make sure you avoid any potential late fees.

Once you start turning around old beliefs and getting educated about your best financial strategies, you’ll feel empowerment instead of dread. You’ll become confident in managing your money instead of letting your money manage you.