(BPT) - During challenging times, there’s nothing more stressful than trying to manage your money (especially if your cash flow has been disrupted). Between expenses like rent, groceries, student loans and other debt, it can be difficult to align your monthly spending with your paychecks. But fortunately, there are new tools available to help you manage your money smarter. Alongside common sense strategies, these tools can take some of the worry out of your finances.
Use a budgeting app
While the concept of budgeting can feel intimidating, it simply means knowing exactly what your monthly income is, and then tracking your necessary expenses each month (like rent, utilities, food, transportation, insurance, student loan payments). Once you have a handle on your expenses, take a good hard look at your “discretionary spending” — which is where people look to trim when money is tight.
Adding up your fixed expenses and subtracting that amount from your income gives you a quick picture of what you have left over to spend each month. But sometimes it can be more complicated than that, such as if you have part-time income or gig work, or fixed expenses that are not monthly.
If spreadsheets are your thing, you can create your own system for tracking income and spending over several weeks to see where your money is going and figure out where you can cut down on unnecessary expenses. But if you’re looking for a ready-made app to help you with budgeting, try tools like Mint, You Need a Budget or Pocket Guard.
Knowing exactly what you earn and where you're spending your money is just the first step toward managing your money more thoughtfully.
Buy now, pay later
Another step to smarter money management is avoiding the trap of overusing credit. For example, instead of relying on high-interest credit cards to make a purchase you don’t have the cash for right now, or if you are getting paid in two weeks, you can use Quadpay. The app will spread the cost over six weeks with zero interest. With Quadpay, you can use “buy now, pay later” to shop anywhere for anything, whether online or at physical retail locations of the thousands of merchants on the Quadpay app. You can use the app to help you spread out payments for both essentials and unexpected expenses, so you won't have to use a credit card — or take money out of your rainy day fund.
Quadpay’s best budget-friendly feature is that you can also use it to pay for medical bills, prescriptions, utilities and other necessary expenses — even parking tickets. The first payment will be made at the time of purchase or payment, and the other three payments are spread out over the next six weeks. Withdrawals for each payment are set up to be automatically charged to whatever bank account you provide, so you won’t have to worry about missing a payment. This helps you protect your credit rating, even when money is tight.
You can download the app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Make a rainy day fund
Face it, life happens. You can be on top of your finances one day, and the next there’s an unexpected car repair, medical bill or other expense you didn't anticipate. One way to help guard against these unexpected expenses is to set aside an emergency fund. Just like your piggy bank when you were a child, setting aside a little bit each week can add up to enough savings to handle the bumps in the road.
A painless way to set up a rainy day fund is to have a small portion of your paycheck deposited into a savings account each pay period. Start with a small amount that you think you can do without, and before long you may realize that you can get by — and that you’ve even forgotten about the money you’re stowing away. Aim to have three to six months of expenses set aside at any time in case of an emergency.
Following these steps can help you stay on the road to better money management, relieving some stress and worry at the same time.