Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a magic formula or simple trick that allowed you never to have to worry about money or manage your finances again? While that may not be realistic, there are some simple things you can do right now to improve your money situation. Try these five steps for successfully managing your personal finances. Another bonus? If you stick to these five tips, your financial problems may start to diminish, and you can start reaping the rewards of lower debt, saving for the future, and a solid credit score.

Detail Your Financial Goals

Take some time to write specific, long-term financial goals. You may want to take a month-long trip to Europe, buy an investment property, or retire early. All of these goals will affect how you plan your finances. For example, your goal to retire early is dependent on how well you save your money now. Other goals, including homeownership, starting a family, moving, or changing careers, will all be affected by how you manage your finances. Once you have written down your financial goals, prioritize them. This organizational process ensures that you are paying the most attention to the ones that are of the highest importance to you. You can also list them in the order you want to achieve them, but a long-term goal like saving for retirement requires you to work towards it while also working on your other goals.

Here are some tips on how to get clear on your financial goals:

  • Set long-term goals like getting out of debt, buying a home, or retiring early. These goals are separate from your short-term goals such as saving for a nice date-night.
  • Set short-term goals, like following a budget, decreasing your spending, paying down, or not using your credit cards.
  • Prioritize your goals to help you create a financial plan.

Carry out Your Plan

A financial plan is essential in helping you reach your financial goals. The plan should have multiple steps or milestones. A sample plan might include creating a monthly budget and spending plan, then getting out of debt. Once you’ve accomplished these three things and have followed through on your new plan for a few months, you may find that you have extra cash, and the money you free up from your debt payments can be used to reach your next round of goals. Again, it’s key to decide what priorities are most important to you. Keep steadily working toward your long-term retirement goals, but also start to focus on the most important near-term goals you have set for yourself. Do you want to take an extravagant trip? Start investing? Buy a home or build your own business? These are all things to consider when deciding on your next step. Your goals, along with an emergency fund, will help you stop making financial decisions based on fear and help you get control of your situation.

When creating a financial plan, remember these things:

  • Your budget is key to success. It is the tool that will give you the most control of your financial future. Your budget is the key to achieving the rest of your plan.
  • You should keep contributing to long-term goals, like saving for retirement, no matter what your financial plan stage is.
  • Building an emergency fund is another key factor in financial success and stress reduction.

Make and Stick to a Budget

Your budget is one of the biggest tools that will help you succeed financially. It allows you to create a spending plan so you can allocate your money in a way that will help you to reach your goals. You can make your budget as high-level or detailed as you want, as long as it helps you reach your ultimate goal of spending less than you earn, paying off any debts, padding your emergency fund, and saving for the future. A budget will also help you decide how to spend your money over the coming months and years. Without the plan, you might spend cash on things that seem important now, but don’t offer much in terms of enhancing your future. Many people get caught in this quagmire and get down on themselves for not reaching the financial milestones they want for their family and their own life.

Don’t forget to celebrate small victories along the way. For example, congratulate yourself once you pay off your debt, or reward yourself when you stick to your budget for three months solid, or when you successfully pad your emergency fund. If you are married, you and your spouse need to work together on the budget. Working together makes it feels fair to both of you, and you both have the same level of commitment towards achieving it. This unity can go a long way towards helping you prevent money-related arguments. Below are some tips for married couples who want to create a budget together:

  • Consider switching to an envelope budgeting system that uses cash for spending areas that require more discipline.
  • Use budgeting software with a mobile app so you can enter spending in real-time.
  • Plan expenses in advance to avoid any overspending.