How to manage your personal finances like a business

Lots of people find dealing with personal finances to be a tough task. For some, money wasn't a topic of family discussions growing up. There was no place in the curriculum for it at any level of schooling. So, how then, if people aren't exposed to it in their youth, will they be prepared to deal with it as adults?

You can read Dummies Books. You can read magazines like Money and Kiplinger. You can pay for courses from financial "gurus". You can read blogs like Money Boss. But maybe the best way to master your money is to start treating your personal finances like a business.

This idea might seem strange at first, but it makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Businesses require structure. Building a business takes planning. It requires patience. The people who run successful businesses have to be accountable to shareholders, partners and investors. And sometimes they have to call on outsiders to help them with specific problems.

Is any of that really much different than managing your own finances?

Here are five business practices you can use to reach your own specific personal financial goals.

Have a Plan

All businesses start with a plan. They're not always hyper-detailed — some plans start on a napkin! — but all businesses begin with some sort of roadmap.

These plans cover, in one form or another:

  • What products/services the business will provide.
  • How much to charge.
  • Who the target market will be.
  • How much money will be needed to cover start-up costs.
  • What needs to be done to reach the launch point.

You can use the same idea in your own life. Here at Money Boss, J.D. teaches that you should start by creating a personal mission statement. As an accountant, I think a key part of a personal plan is building a budget.

I know, I know. Lots of people hate budgets. Some folks are afraid of them. Others don't understand them. But budgets don't have to be awful.

Quite frankly, I believe a budget is a business plan for how you will run your household. It allows you to see what's coming in and where you're spending it. You can see how close you are to your financial goals. (Or how you're coming up short.) Actively budgeting keeps you accountable. It forces you to be completely transparent and brutally honest with yourself. But building a reliable budget takes time and patience.

J.D.'s note: As I mentioned in last week's article about The Money Boss Budget, I'm a fan of broad budget frameworks. They give you all the benefits of budeting without the drawbacks that come from being overly detailed. If you like tracking lots of categories, do so. But at a bare minimum, be aware of how much you're spending on Needs, Wants, and Saving.

Sadly, many people fail at budgeting. Trust me, I've been there.

In my youth, I lived paycheck to paycheck. I had no discipline. I had no financial goals. I was happy to live each day having fun and throwing money around like I was a trust-fund kid (which couldn't have been further from the truth!).

The funny thing is, my parents had taught me the value of money. But I lost my way for a few years. Eventually, I wised up. I swallowed my pride and asked for help. I moved back in with my parents until I could straighten out my money issues.

I purchased Microsoft Money and started inputting the past few months of my frivolous lifestyle. The results were eye opening! I saw just how much money I was throwing away on partying irresponsibly, on treating my friends, on buying things that I didn't use or need simply because they were "cool".

I think that's what really scares people about budgeting: It reveals the ugly truth about how they use their money.

Believe me when I say that my truth was very ugly. But you know what? When I put a new budget in place, it helped me change my ways. I was able to see my money problems and make changes. My sensible side got rebooted and I was able to align my spending with my goals.

I tracked everything I earned and spent. I actively managed the spending categories I had previously allowed to get out of hand. I cut out expenses that weren't necessary for reaching my newly-set goal of moving out of my parents' house. The nonsense spending was eliminated and my money now went to paying down my debts.

It didn't stop there...

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