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When we ask patients about their sources of stress, "finances" is a top response. Unfortunately money management is not taught in the American education system, which means many people feel completely lost when it comes to tracking their income and expenses. We are not financial advisors, accountants, or any other type of professional in this field, but we still want to share a few basic principles to inspire you to take control of your budget. Use this post as a starting point to take the steps you need to feel more confident about your money, the first of which might be reading our favorite finance books:
Track Your Money
How much income do you receive each month? Where does that money go? When you're lost in a mall, you go to a directory and find the "You Are Here" marker. When you're lost in your finances, you need to figure out exactly where you are before you can move forward in your goals. Download at least three months of bank and credit card statements and start classifying the items within them.
- Deposits: What money goes into your accounts
- Expenses: Categorize transactions to determine how much you spend on groceries, eating out, car upkeep, etc. Which of these were necessities? Which were "nice-to-haves"?
Once you have the totals, you have your starting point!
Your financial goals will change throughout your life, but setting at least one gives you a reason to stay motivated in your money management. You may want to pay off a credit card, build a down payment for a house, or save for your children's college fund. Keep that vision in your mind when you're tempted to break your budget. Consumerism is rampant in our society, but it's easier to block it out when you know that your spending choices influence your big-picture dreams.
Create a Budget
How quickly you reach your goal is determined by how much extra money you can find in your monthly cash flow, and the easiest place to gain money is in your "nice-to-have" expenses. Which of them can be cut back? Look at the totals from your bank statements and calculate how much you can save by removing them. Necessary expenses like insurance premiums and phone bills will always be there, but you may be able to lower them as well. Compare rates for other companies to see if you might get a better deal with someone else, or look into alternative options where possible.
Budgeting is simply setting a spending plan and sticking to it. If you've shopped the best deals on your necessities and decided which treats can be decreased, then you can put your expected income and expenses on paper as your official "budget" to follow. Give yourself grace if you don't always follow it perfectly, and make sure to regularly give yourself rewards for meeting your financial goals. (Rewards can be low-cost treats or non-monetary activities like setting aside time for an at-home spa day.)
Money does not equal happiness but feeling stressed about money will keep you from being happy. Even if takes you a long time to reach your financial goal, knowing that you're working toward it can give you a sense of peace and purpose. Of course, if you feel like you need more help in this arena, find a professional that can guide and support you. Acupuncture can relieve stress, but it won't make financial decisions for you!
Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.