If you’re like me, you have started changing your financial habits many times. And if that’s true, you have stopped many times, too.
When we paid off $165,000 in debt and saved $20,000 over 15 months, it was the seventh or eighth time we had tried to make a change.
What was different? I had a system that created habits I could maintain.
I’ll teach you my Momentum Money Management system. There are five parts:
BudgetEmergency fundPrimary checking accountCash envelopesMomentum accountBudgetYour budget is a spending plan you prepare each month because every month is a little different from the previous one. The one I use consists of four levels, organized from most to least important.
Begin with the expenditures that keep you warm, safe and dry: rent or mortgage payment, groceries, utilities and gas for your car so you can get to work.The second level of expenses are those monthly debts that carry consequences if they go unpaid: credit cards, student loans, personal loans, car payments and contracts.Accumulating money for less-than-monthly expenses is what makes your budget realistic. Plan for tires, car repairs, insurance and any other items you pay for less than monthly – like holiday shopping!Last in your budget are the nice-to-have expenses, such as going out to eat, entertainment, miscellaneous and spending money.Emergency fundWhen getting started, I recommend setting aside $1,000 in a savings account or money market account for the inevitable. Once you’re debt-free, you’ll want to grow this fund to equal three to six months of your living expenses.
Primary checking accountYour main checking account is where your paychecks get deposited and out of which you pay your bills. Pretty standard, right? But it’s also where you will withdraw cash for your envelopes.
Cash envelopesNothing fancy here. Just plain envelopes labeled with the intended purpose of the money inside. By using cash instead of debit or credit for discretionary spending – groceries, restaurants, entertainment, miscellaneous and spending money – you will avoid overspending and depleting the funds intended for less-than-monthly expenses.
Momentum accountRepurpose a checking account or open a second account linked to your primary checking account. At the end of each month, you will transfer the money in your budget allocated for less-than-monthly expenses.
When it comes time to pay for these items, write a check, use your debit card or online bill pay.
By using this system, you can build new habits and reshape your entire financial future – eliminating debt, stress and worry.
“There’s nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right.” – Charles Duhigg, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change.”
Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.personalfinancecoaching.com.