Know your finances for a result you can count on

Taking ownership of your finances is one of the most important things you will ever do, writes Nima Abu Wardeh.

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What do I do? Just tell me. Tell me what to do. Better still, can you do it for me?
All I wanted was for trusted, more capable people than me to go over everything I have, get, spend, how I live, what I want for my life. I wanted things to fit together: information; processes; paperwork; targets.
I wanted them to sort things out. It didn't work.
Why? Because no one cares about my life as much as I do - if anything goes wrong, someone else can just shrug their shoulders and perhaps apologise, while I pay fines or unravel systems that missed the mark in helping me - how I need or want things done.
The fact that these were experts or specialists didn't mean that I could depend on them. No. It's my job to set parameters, understand what I could do and why. Their role is to implement what I decide, ideally after consulting with them. This is an utter pain because researching and getting up to speed will take days.
I suppose the big question is, what are the consequences of getting something wrong?
It's one thing when, say family photos need organising, but quite another when our personal finances are at stake.
Taking ownership of your finances is one of the most important things you will ever do.
So today we are going back to basics to make this happen, with two thoughts at the core:
. Dedicate - don't delegate. Dedicate time and focus.
. Get it done. No more shuffling pieces of paper or entries on a 'to do' list.
This is how to do it. Set an allotted time for all things personal finance. Is it every Monday evening between 8 and 9? Make a decision and block that time out.
Where will you do this? At a clear, uncluttered desk at home? The kitchen table?
Be happy about doing it. Have a photo of something you want to do or a place you want to visit. What you are doing will take you closer to making it happen.
What tools do you need? A calculator? (I get much more satisfaction from using one with big buttons I can enthusiastically bash away at.)
Where are your receipts? Gather your financial records - debt, investment, anything else.
Have marker pens, post-it notes, folders, your laptop at the ready.
A nice cup of tea?
Whatever you need, make sure you collect your tools before your allocated PF time, does everything work? You don't want to be eating up your hour fiddling or finding things.
Promise yourself that you will action every single thing that takes five minutes or less then and there. Set specific steps to getting everything else done.
One thing that has helped me immensely is figuring out what tools can help. I'd like to share two with you:
One is You Need a Budget or I find it to be a fantastic tool that isn't just about the number soup of life, but a whole philosophy that embraces a lot of what I believe. It's easy and practical, and gives you immediate snapshots of where you are at. Your car broke down and you spent money that you hadn't budgeted for? You want to save for a mortgage deposit? YNAB shows you where you can take it from, or how you can allocate it in future.
It also drives home the message that we are where we are now. No point dwelling on what could have been, or what you spent on yesterday or last week. it's a very sobering experience to go through the categories and allocate your life's outgoings, ambitions and plans. YNAB is about reality. Check it out.
Another tool I have come to love is Evernote. It is my paperless filing system and resource.
All paperwork in the way of invoices and receipts - other than things that I must keep because, for example, the warranty dictates, are now a snapshot filed under the appropriate Notebook. I suggest you include a tag for each year and month. Create a notebook for all your financial information so you can access it at the click of a button.
Setting up systems that make filing, finding, finishing with things easier is key to getting things done.
In theory, trusting someone to take charge of things makes life less stressful.
I suppose that's OK if it relieves you from any responsibility or consequence. But when it comes to your finances, it's you who will suffer first, and suffer most. Make sure you have done your homework and only delegate your decisions, not the decision-making.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website You can reach her at
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