HOW TO FREE UP CASH FLOW

You may have heard these tips many times before, but you probably still aren’t applying them all, Paul Leonard says.

1. Take stock of your finances.

If you are not in the habit of keeping track of your expenses then go through the past six months of bank statements and analyze your spending. This will help you to understand where your money is going so that you can see where the problems are and where you can cut back. People often find that just doing this stock-taking exercise helps them solve many cash-flow problems.

2. Consider the envelope system.

Allocate envelopes for various expenses and put your budgeted amounts in the appropriate envelopes so that you can pace your spending and stop overspending.

3. Take control of your credit card.

Your credit card can be your worst foe or your best friend. A credit card makes record keeping easy because you have an automatic record of what and where you spent money. If it is lost or stolen you can easily cancel the card with a phone call, thus limiting the potential loss. However, the risk of a credit card is that you can spend money that you have not yet earned, and the interest rate charged on a debit balance is very high. A key to success with a credit card is to settle the full balance every month so that you don’t incur interest charges. If you want the convenience and safety of a card, but you don’t have the discipline to manage a credit card, then consider a debit card, which is like a pre-paid credit card. You can only spend what you put into it.

4. Automatic saving.

Automating is ideal for non-analytical people who are unlikely to stick to a habit of regular budgeting and record keeping but who nonetheless want to introduce the discipline of spending less than they earn and saving toward goals. Set up a system so that when you get paid, money is automatically drawn out of your current account and set aside in a savings account, unit trust funds and retirement funds. The benefit is that once the system is set up you don’t have to think about it again, you can simply check your bank balance and know that you can spend whatever is on your current account without sacrificing your goals in the process. Simply review this and update it annually (or whenever circumstances change).

5. Use a spreadsheet or financial software.

“These tools capture your budgets and track your spending, enabling you to analyze your income and expenses and identify trends. This is the most effective system for getting the most out of your financial resources, but it is only the highly disciplined and analytical type of person who is likely to keep this up over the long term,” Leonard says.

6. Shop for better interest rates.

“Ask! The worst the bank can say is no. They generally won’t invite you to reduce your interest rates,” Leonard says.

7. Consolidate debt.

This can be a very useful as long as you don’t turn your short-term debt into long-term debt. If you decide, for example, to use your home loan to finance a car, you must ensure that you pay off the car as soon as possible and not over the term of your bond. Also don’t consolidate and then use what you save on repayments to borrow more.

8. Restructure your portfolio.

Leonard says: “You may be able to free up some of the monthly premiums to increase your debt repayments, and perhaps even some capital that can be injected into your debt. The policies and investments you took out a few years ago were appropriate at the time. However, your circumstances may have changed, meaning that those solutions are no longer appropriate. Insurance companies continually refine and improve their service offerings and other cheaper alternatives may be available. Consider the penalties when cancelling policies and compare these to the potential savings before making a decision.”

9. Become a smart shopper.

You can do this by: planning your spending, researching big-ticket purchases, hunting for specials, resisting advertisements, shopping for quality versus brand

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