According to Money Smart, 43% of Australians who save don’t have a clear financial plan. However, it’s never too late to sit down and review your finances to make positive changes. Cutting down on spending entirely isn’t the answer. You may think that spending on bigger ticket items such as holidays or that big screen TV is what has been causing you financial grief. Usually it is actually the everyday little things that end up costing you more long-term.

Here are 7 tips to help you make effective financial decisions.


#1 Track your spending

Getting carried away with buying lunches, coffees and small items happens to the best of us. That’s why it’s important to track your spending on a weekly basis. Don’t let the money you do have slip through the cracks. Instead, decide on your weekly expenses before the week begins. That way you will have allocated yourself a reasonable amount of money to spend. Once you’ve worked out how much money you have allocated to what then track this in your diary or in an online budget planner to ensure that you don’t overspend.


# 2 Managing debts

If you have debts, then compile a list of everything you owe (even if it is ‘healthy debt’ such as a home loan). This will enable you to have a better idea of how much you owe in total and what each debt is. It is very important to prioritise what to pay off first. Always pay more off debts which are incurring the most interest and at least pay the minimum repayment to avoid any late payment fees. Even paying off a little extra such as $20 extra per week will make a big difference if you do it regularly.


# 3 Savings plan

Having a realistic savings plan in place is the best way to achieve your goals. Regardless of your financial situation, once you start a regular plan you may be surprised by how much you can achieve once you put your mind to it. Make sure you have a clear plan, regularly review your savings progress, have a saving time frame, and check your bank statements frequently.


# 4 Financial advice

Never be afraid to ask for expert help when needed. Getting professional financial advice can help you clarify your goals and create a plan to fulfil them. There are various types of financial advice available when looking for a financial adviser. However, ensure you are seeking help from a trusted adviser. If you are feeling overwhelmed then you can call the National Help Debtline on 1800 007 007 where you can get free advice to help get you on track.


# 5 Credit cards

Keep track of your spending and make sure you can pay off what you owe. Take advantage of a good credit card deal such as a six months interest fee period. However, it is important to ensure you’re saving during this time and are ready to make a bulk payment when the interest free period is over.Remember to read the fine print and don’t agree to additional credit options such as an extra $5000 if you are offered it. Let your bank know you do not want to recieve these sort of offers so you aren’t tempted. Remember to always check your statements carefully and alert your bank of any discrepancies.


# 7 Monitor regularly

Reviewing your financial progress can be daunting. However, set aside 30 minutes every month to monitor both your and your family’s finances. By taking charge of your finances, you will actually ease your money stress and feel more in control.


# 8 Shop smarter

So, how can you stop being tempted to go shopping? You don’t need to deprive yourself. But you do need to be smart about what you buy and when. Create a spending diary where you (and each member of the family) has to write down everything they spend. Try turning this into a fun activity for the whole family to get involved. This should only take a few minutes a day. After a week, add up everything you have spent. This will give you a good idea of your day-to-day spending. It will also give you a clear budget and allow you to make better financial decisions in the future.