If your finances are out of whack, it doesn’t always work just to spend less or earn more. Each one of the cornerstones of finance usually need to be analyzed in order to find out what’s going wrong.

According to Get Rich Slowly, the 3 basic building blocks are:

  • Earning — your ability to bring in money.
  • Spending — your ability to live frugally and spend wisely.
  • Saving — your ability to produce a surplus and to make that surplus grow.

But I add a fourth – giving. Why? Because most of us don’t live our lives without some type of giving, and I don’t believe you should!

If you are ready to really examine your finances, let’s take a look at the cornerstones and see where you can stand some improvement.

Earning

This is a skill some people are better at than others. You know who I’m talking about. We all have that one friend who seems to be able to spin toilet paper into gold while others of us struggle to bring in enough to pay the water bill every month.

The good news is that this really is a skill and it’s something you can get better at with a little hard work and research. Here are several things you should consider doing in order to learn the skill and earn more cash:

  1. Hang out with that friend.

The friend that makes all the money effortlessly – don’t be afraid to hang around and ask questions. Learn his mindset. Learn his work ethic. Sometimes there’s just one little piece to the puzzle that will help you shift your finances.

2. Get educated.

A college graduate will earn on average about 56% more than someone who didn’t go past high school. But college is certainly not the only way to increase your earnings. I know plenty of people who make great livings by educating themselves on various ways to make money. Just don’t ever quit learning!

3. Find a side hustle you like.

There are thousands of ways to make money on the side, but the key is to find one that fits your particular skillset that you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing something that makes you money, you won’t ever feel like giving up.

4. Make sure you’re earning what you’re worth.

If you’ve been in the same job for several years and know it’s time to negotiate a raise, don’t be afraid task. At the same time, make sure you are constantly advancing in your career as much as possible by taking classes or gaining extra certifications.

Find out what the potential earning is for your position and maximize it to the best of your ability.

5. Work hard.

Pretty obvious, I know, but most of the time, earning more might just be a matter of working harder than you have been. For example, if you’re knitting scarves for extra cash, could you make more money if you put in a few extra hours to knit just one more?

Sure, everything needs to be in balance and we can’t neglect the people we love, but if you’re in a bind, it wouldn’t hurt to look at how you’re spending your time.

Saving

Everyone needs some savings. Say your car breaks down and you need $1,000 to fix it. Where will you get the money? Or what are your plans for your child’s college education? Do you have enough to at least get them through the first year?

There are many reasons to save, but it’s not always easy when there are pressing expenses looming over our heads. So, what’s the answer?

There’s not a simple fix for making yourself save money, but there are some ways to factor it in. For example, could you have a percentage of your paycheck automatically deducted and put in a savings account each month? Some workplaces even offer a matching program for 401Ks. This is a great way to save for retirement while actually making a little extra in the process.

There are also several apps that connect to your bank account and automatically round up your purchases, depositing that change in an account. One that stands out is Qoins. You can also set this one up to send a payment each month consisting of that spare change to your credit card company or any other bill you want to pay down.

Spending

This is a tough one, and probably where most of us need to analyze ourselves the most. When spending is a problem, most of us just make a mental note to spend less, but without a plan, we might not even realize when it’s going wrong.

According to Dave Ramsey, people overspend for a variety of reasons, but a few of the most common are:

  1. Trying to keep up with the Joneses.
  2. Having a bad (or nonexistent) budget.
  3. Shopping to feel better.

The good news is that it’s easier to combat spending problems when you know why you’re over-spending.

The best plan of attack to get spending under control is to first find out exactly where you are spending your money and making a solid plan to adjust it.

To that end, Dave Ramsey also teaches a very popular spending system called the envelope method. Basically, it works by deciding what envelopes you need, such as entertainment, groceries and car maintenance. Then you decide how much should go into each and do your best not to go over budget.

The reason the envelope method works so well is because if you overspend in one area, you have to physically take money from another envelope to cover the deficit. Using cash this way is a good way to keep a visual and mental sense of spending habits.

Giving

Giving is not just about charity, while that’s a big part of it. Part of your giving is probably also in gifts you give to friends and family during holidays and birthdays. Am I telling you to stop? Absolutely not! I totally believe in giving. It’s one of the joys of life.

What you should do, however, is budget your giving the way you do your other expenses. In fact, one of the envelopes in the envelope method is meant to be specifically allocated for giving. The most common amount for giving is ten percent, which is known biblically as the tithe. But you can also create a separate budget for gifts.

The holidays are an especially tricky time when it comes to giving, and a lot of us go into debt to do so. I would urge you to find ways to give more of your time to your family than expensive gifts when you’re struggling.

·       Average Charity Giving by Income

On that note, if you’re curious about how your charitable giving compares to others around the world, check out this chart on Lifehacker.

Conclusion

The buck stops here (pun definitely intended). If your finances are out of control or just need a little tweaking, step back and take a look at all the factors that go into them – spending, saving and giving. Figure out where you can make adjustments and find reliable resources to learn better habits. All it takes is a little discipline and you’ll be surprised how much easier your life can be.

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