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Managing finances is important, but it’s not how a lot people are using their time.
One in 5 American adults spend more time planning their vacations than managing their finances, according to an online survey of about 1,000 people from MyBankTracker.com.
There could be several reasons why people dedicate more time to planning trips than figuring out finances, said Jason Reposa, CEO and co-founder of MyBankTracker.com.
“It could be because they are comfortable and have automated finances,” Reposa said. “A cruise-control situation.”
The survey found that the demographic most likely to spend more time on vacation planning than finances — five times more, in fact — was the 25 to 34 age group. Reposa said that could be because they want to get their traveling in before having children.
He said how people prioritize their vacation and financial planning could be based on family needs, marital status and careers.
But one thing is clear, he said: Planning a vacation will be easier if you manage your finances well.
“Unless you’re in the top 1% of income earners in the U.S., it almost always comes down to budgeting,” Reposa said. “Vacation planning becomes a lot less stressful if you understand fully your financial situation.”
Spending a little more time on finances can go a long way.
“The foundational concepts of personal finance deserve your time and energy because they lead to making good financial decisions throughout your life,” said certified financial planner Douglas Boneparth, founder and president of Bone Fide Wealth in New York. “Ask yourself what is most important to you when you think about your goals.”
While a vacation will come and go, spending more time planning vacations than your finances could come at a cost to your retirement, he said.
Here are some tips to managing your money.
Whip your finances into shape
• Budget. Start with looking over your expenses for the last 12 months, categorize your spending and create a budget based on the past, Boneparth said.
“Then your budget is actually based on what you really do, instead of what you think you do,” he said.
• Automate. Even having $100 transfer into your savings account every month can go a long way — and it’s easy.
Reposa recommends automating costs that will be the same every month, such as rent, but not costs that will change, like your credit card.
“It’s much more valuable for your mental state to really know that number … because that is something you have control over,” Reposa said. “You want to see in full transparency what you’re spending on these things.
“At some point you’re going to realize the reason you can’t take a vacation is because you’re spending $400 a month on clothes, or whatever.”
• Set up alerts. Setting up smartphone or email alerts via your bank, so that every time your card gets swiped for more than a certain amount you get a notification, can help slow your spending.
“You get that vision to your brain that says ‘Okay, I spent more than what my limit was,'” Reposa said.
This can also help with security, and finding fees that you might not have been aware you were paying, he added.
• Use technology. A lot of managing your cash flow can be handled through online tools, Boneparth said. He recommends Tiller, which automatically updates Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel with users’ daily spending, transactions and balances.
“Financial technology is best when it mixes the right amount of manual labor with automation,” Boneparth said. “It doesn’t rob you of understanding your behavior.”