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Budgeting in 2024: A guide to financial freedom

Pascale Helyar-MorayPascale Helyar-MorayPascale Helyar-Moray OAMMay 14, 2024
Budgeting in 2024: A guide to financial freedom blogBudgeting in 2024: A guide to financial freedom blog

Taking control of your finances is a great way to achieve long-term financial security and peace of mind. However, research shows that many Australians need help to achieve their financial goals. Let's explore the easy and effective ways to get your finances in shape and ensure a better financial future.

Setting SMART goals

The first step to achieving your financial goals is setting SMART goals. This means creating Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Vague goals such as "spend less" or "save more" do not give enough direction to set you up for success. Instead, try setting goals like "reduce my credit card debt by 20% in the next six months" or "save $500 per month for a down payment on a house by the end of the year."

Review your bank and credit card statements

Regularly reviewing your financial statements is not just a task; it's a powerful tool that puts you in control of your financial destiny. It's a great way to:

  • Collect insights into your spending habits and identify areas to reduce expenses.
  • Analyse your statements and create a budget that fits your current lifestyle. This helps you save money for future goals and provides a safety net, giving you a sense of security.
  • Set financial objectives, such as:
  • paying off debts,
  • building an emergency or contingency fund or
  • saving for a specific purchase.

It is important to stay on top of your finances and regularly review your statements. This way, you can ensure you control your money and make progress towards your financial goals. Imagine the satisfaction of achieving them!

Create a budget

Managing your finances is crucial to achieving your financial goals. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a budget that aligns with your income and expenses. A well-planned budget ensures you have enough money to cover essential costs such as insurance, rent or mortgage payments, and regular bills or repayments. It also helps you allocate funds for discretionary spending such as dining out, entertainment, and other leisure activities. Remember, budgeting may seem tedious, but it is a powerful tool to help you take control of your finances and achieve your financial aspirations.

Pay off your debts

If you find yourself grappling with credit card debt, it's crucial to devise a strategy to pay it off. Start by breaking down your debt into more manageable portions and determine which ones to tackle first. The snowball method, where you begin by paying off smaller debts and gradually move on to larger ones, can be a powerful motivator. This approach is particularly effective for credit card or personal loan debt. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to reach out for professional financial counselling. The National Debt Helpline, accessible via 1800 007 007 or their online chat function, is a reliable resource for assistance and guidance.

What if I have multiple credit cards with different balances? How do I decide which one to pay off first?

If you're juggling multiple credit cards with varying balances, it's wise to prioritise the one with the highest interest rate. This approach can lead to significant long-term savings. However, if you have a small balance on one of your cards, consider paying it off first. This can provide a sense of accomplishment and help you stay motivated on your debt repayment journey.

Rev up your savings game and start winning

Developing a savings mindset will help you get ahead and avoid debt. Savings can cover you in an emergency and help you reach your bigger money goals, like buying a house or going on a holiday. Set up an automatic recurring payment to regularly transfer money into a high-interest savings account. This way, you won't have to consider saving - it will happen automatically. Another simple strategy is to cut back on unnecessary expenses. Take a closer look at your spending and identify areas where you can reduce costs. For instance, you can opt for a cheaper phone plan or cut down on eating out. The money you save can then be redirected towards your savings. Another effective way to boost your savings is to increase your income. Consider taking on a side hustle or finding ways to earn extra money from your current job. You can also explore investment opportunities that can generate passive income. Remember, building a savings mindset takes time and effort. It's important to stay committed and track your progress regularly. Celebrate your small wins, and don't be too hard on yourself if you slip up. Developing a savings habit is a journey, not a destination, and every step counts towards your financial stability and security.

Build your financial knowledge

Commit to learning more about money this year. Great sites like She's On The MoneyThe Joyful Frugalista and SuperGuide offer great tips for saving, investing and budgeting. It can be as simple as logging into your super account each month and checking your investments or subscribing to a newsletter or podcast. However, not all financial advice is created equal. If searching online for financial information, seek credible sources and be on the lookout for scams. Moneysmart is a free and trustworthy source of financial information, with tools such as a budget planner and savings goals calculator, as well as tips and tricks on everything from developing an investing plan to optimising your superannuation.