Over the past few years, I’ve started to take my financial health and future seriously. Along the way, I’ve come across a LOT of tips and methods about personal finance and money management. And honestly, at times, it was overwhelming. However, I kept an open mind and took note of what worked for me (and is still working for me to this day!). Here are just some of my favorite, simple starter tips for money management.
Make a date with your money.
Before a few years ago, I would check my bank account here and there. I wouldn’t really pay too much attention to what I was spending my money on or where it was going. I wasn’t a super-spender, and I did pretty well when it came to saving. Still, I was also a college student, which meant I spent a lot of money on things like food, transportation, events, etc. However, as my personal finance interest grew, I knew I needed a tangible and consistent way to manage my money.
When I was introduced to the topic of Money Parties by The Fiscal Femme, I started making “dates” with my money – I called these dates “Money Mondays.” Every Monday, I would sit down and look at my financial situation. Now yes, that can be daunting at first. So I tried to make it simple and as painless as possible. I told myself I would note how much I made, how much I spent, and what I spent my money on during the previous week. I used a spreadsheet to keep my numbers somewhere organized. You can find pre-made money tracker templates online if you’re going this route.
Then I decided to analyze my spending at the end of each session. I was able to see what categories I was spending the most amount of money on and how I could cut back realistically. The purpose of these money dates for me is to keep track of what’s been going on financially for me, see where I can save money, and make progress each week. I try to keep these sessions between one and one and a half hours max with breaks because addressing your financial situation can be tough sometimes. After about an hour and 15 minutes in, I’m ready to move on to something else.
If you want to have a healthier relationship with your finances, you have to set up some consistent money dates. It’s a keystone habit that will help you get better with your money. Like with any healthy relationship, you gotta have check-ins from time to time and see where you can grow. Plus, dates can be so fun! Pro tip: make a money playlist to hype you up before your weekly check-in. Some fan favorites include “Money” by Cardi B and “Billionaire” by Bruno Mars and Travie McCoy. Get a snack, dress up, or do whatever it is that will get you in the mood to manage your mulala.
Automate everything — payments and savings.
One of the easiest ways to take care of your financial obligations and goals is to automate. I have set up automatic payments for my credit cards and automatic deposits to my savings account. With making payments for things like credit cards, you can automate paying the full balance, the minimum payment, or a specific amount each month. Automatically paying at least the minimum payment amount each month is such a game-changer. It’s a great way to chip away at any debt you have, increase your credit score, and keep yourself accountable without having to do much work. Check out your credit provider’s website or call to see what your options are.
When it comes to saving, this is often the last thing we do when we get paid. You might’ve heard of the term “pay yourself first,” which relates to putting away some money in your savings before you go to pay bills or spend at your discretion. There are different opinions about how much you should be saving. Still, every personal finance educator I’ve come across agrees that you should be saving – period!
Even if you save just $10 per month, by the end of the year, you would have $120, which could help you if you’re in a bind. So make sure you’re making automatic, regular deposits to your savings account each month. Check-in with your bank to see what your options are. I use the high-yield savings accounts from Ally Bank, and setting up recurring deposits is super easy. Find what works for you!
**SUPER IMPORTANT SAVINGS REMINDER: You have goals that are short term and long term. You want to save for retirement, or for a new home, or for a trip to Scotland maybe. But the first thing you should save for, first and foremost, is for emergencies. I’m gonna put this in bold letters… HAVE AN EMERGENCY SAVINGS ACCOUNT AND FUND IT REGULARLY. And separate this account from your regular checking and savings accounts, so you don’t accidentally – or intentionally – spend it on anything other than emergencies. This will save you a lot of headaches if an emergency actually does come up.
When you’re about to make a big purchase or one you’re unsure about, consider a few things…
So you’re feeling the itch to impulse buy? Or maybe you just REALLY WANT to press “add to cart” on that thing you saw online because it looks so useful/beautiful/cool. Or perhaps you just need a new fridge. I hear you. Before you swipe and checkout, though, ask yourself the following:
- Do I actually need or want this thing? What’s my honest motivation for buying it?
- Is there an alternative to this that might serve me in a similar (or better) way? For example, instead of getting Beats headphones, would I be just fine – if not happier with – headphones from a different brand?
- Is this the best price I can get this for? Consider doing a little research or looking at sites that offer coupons for a variety of stores online, like Honey.
Consume financial education often.
When I surrounded myself with certain people, books, and podcasts, I started to understand what concepts like “investing” and “retirement plans” actually were. I didn’t understand before how things like credit and debt really worked. I was also just starting out in college, so I didn’t know much of anything, to begin with. But that’s beside the point! You can’t know what you don’t know. So if you don’t know much about budgeting, saving, investing, or paying off debt, listen up.
First, I highly suggest you subscribe here because I don’t hold back when sharing resources with you all (if you couldn’t tell already). Second, start doing some research based on your financial goals and interests. For example, if you don’t know how to budget or where to begin, you could check out The Budgetnista. You’ve probably seen her all over Instagram. Pick up some amazing books like Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter. Consider subscribing to podcasts like The College Investor or tuning into The Financial Diet on their YouTube page and blog.
The point is, the best way to move forward with your financial journey is to learn and take actions that will serve you and your goals. I wish we all had a personal finance class in high school. That would have made adulting a little easier, for sure. But no matter what age you are, it is truly never too late to add some financial education into your routine. And it doesn’t have to be boring either, but more on that later.
Keep a lookout for the next couple of Money Monday posts, where I share with you some more resources I’ve used to learn about money and money management.
Most of these tips just require some commitment, a little bit of research, and a little bit of introspection about what you need right now. Try out at least one of these tips this week and see how it feels. Taking any step towards having a healthier relationship with your money is something to celebrate. I’m proud of you, I’m rooting for you, and I’m excited for you! I’ll check in with you next week.