Managing your finances can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task. You’ve got bills to worry about, maybe a family to support, and plenty of other financial responsibilities on your plate. If you’re trying to keep your financial life in order, one of the most important things you can do is learn how to anticipate your financial needs. This can help you to start preparing for these expenses ahead of time and hopefully ease the impact they have down the line.
If you’re not used to thinking ahead when it comes to your finances, this may be a tricky thing to wrap your head around. For example, when you run out of groceries, maybe you just run over to the grocery store, browse through the aisles and pick out a few items to make meals for the next few days. Or maybe you’re used to getting bills in the mail that you hadn’t expected.
The problem is that when you only deal with financial issues as they come, you might be costing yourself more money than you need to be. Maybe your little trips to the grocery store end up being more expensive than if you had planned your trip ahead of time around an upcoming sale. Or maybe you could have set aside money for those surprise bills ahead of time if you had paid more attention to your budget calendar. The point is, if you don’t have a clear idea of what your financial needs are in advance, your regular expenses may start to inflate. This may lead you to start racking up credit card debt and spend money you don’t have.
If you want to avoid this, it helps to understand how to anticipate your financial needs. When you’re organized and know that an expense is on the horizon, you can put yourself in a position to make things easier on yourself when it finally comes. Here are three things you can do to prepare yourself for upcoming financial needs.
1. Plan your groceries ahead of time
We’ve already spoken a bit about how your grocery shopping habits can affect your budget. You run out of food at home, head to the store, wander through the aisles and slowly pick out a few things that you need, and maybe pick up a few extra items while you’re at it. There are a couple of issues with taking this approach.
First, you may be spending more time than you need to on this process. When you go grocery shopping without a list and a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you can burn time wandering around looking for inspiration for your next few meals. This time could be much better spent doing something more productive.
Secondly, when you take this approach to grocery shopping, you’re not putting yourself in the best position to capitalize on whatever sales are going on. Maybe you get lucky and stumble upon a few things on sale that you grab, but you may be missing a great deal from earlier in the week that could have shaved off a significant amount from your grocery bill. Or maybe you end up buying things on sale just because they’re discounted, and then don’t know what to do with them later on.
The last problem is that in this scenario, you aren’t considering what items you already have at home. You might have the makings of a few meals already lingering somewhere in your pantry, fridge, or freezer, but you haven’t considered these items before going out to buy more.
If you want to start saving on groceries and do a better job of anticipating your financial needs, you’re going to want to start this process before you leave your house by putting together a meal plan for that week.
Take a look at your local grocery store’s flyers online to see what’s on sale, and start creating a meal plan that’s geared around the items you already have and what’s on sale. The better you can manage to work around these things, the lower your grocery bill may be. Do your best to make as long of a meal plan as you can, no shorter than a week’s worth of meals. Your next step is to start listing out the items you don’t already have, and try to include sale items on this list. When you finally take that trip to the grocery store, make sure you don’t stray from this list. It also helps to eat before you go so you don’t start throwing random items into your cart just to satisfying your immediate cravings.
Your groceries are something that you know you’ll be buying in the future, so why not do what you can to help lower these costs? By anticipating these trips in advance and basing your meals around sale items, you may be able to start cutting back on these financial needs.
2. Keep track of irregular bill payments
It's never fun to open the mail and be staring at a bill you had no idea was coming. When this does happen, there are things you can do to avoid that surprise in the future, and one of the best ones is to make sure that when one does come in, you set an alert for the next payment.
For example, maybe you have to make a payment for your child’s college tuition each semester, so you get a bill every six months. If this bill comes in to side-swipe you twice a year, the next time that happens, set a reminder in your phone to remind you every month that this bill is coming up, and that you should set some money aside now so that it doesn’t ruin your budget for that month when it doesn't finally come in.
There are other bills like this that pop up infrequently that can be dealt with in a similar way. Some of these are:
- Property taxes
- Income taxes
- Certain types of insurance
- Vehicle registration
These are all things that may end up being unpleasant shocks if you don’t plan accordingly. Setting up alarms to remind you of them won’t completely solve your problems. After all, these bills still need to be paid. But it’s an easy thing you can do to help put yourself in a better position to tackle these infrequent bills when they do come.
3. Take stock of your life moving forward
This tip may be a little tougher to follow if your future life plans are murky, but something that could help you better anticipate your financial needs is to take a look at what things will be going on in your life moving forward. Will you be experiencing any major life changes over the next few weeks, months, or years? Try to think about this regularly and use whatever realizations you come up with to help you make positive choices with your money in the present. These choices should be geared towards making these bigger upcoming events run more smoothly than if you were to just figure them out in the moment.
For example, you might have plans to move in the next six months, and maybe you want to find a new job so you have an easier time handling rent payments for your new place. Start thinking about what things you can do right away to make these changes easier. Maybe you can start working on your resume. You could start a side hustle to develop some new skills that may help you land a new job, while also making a few extra bucks along the way. You could start to go to more networking events in your industry to see if you can make more connections to help in your job hunt. Whatever large changes you’ve anticipated, coming up with ways to ease these transitions well in advance could help you handle your future financial needs.
Start thinking ahead to anticipate your financial needs
Getting a firm grasp on your future financial needs can go a long way in your journey towards financial independence. The more you start to look into the future and try to anticipate what you’ll need from a financial standpoint beyond the next several weeks of your life, the easier it may be to make smart decisions with your money that’ll ease your future financial burdens. This can go a long way in helping you reach your long-term financial goals.
This doesn’t mean this will be an easy process, but making these changes now may help lead you to a brighter future.
Do you have any tips to help anticipate your financial needs? Share below!
Posted in: Financial Tips