4 Simple, Starter Tips for Money Management

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 FemmeI 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.

#6: Blessed, Overwhelmed, and Braided

Happy Sunday! Let me update you on what’s been going on recently.

For starters I had a wonderful birthday weekend celebration FILLED with partying, food, friends, and cake. My friends threw me a surprise party, and for the first time I went to the Cheesecake Factory! Their ‘Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake’ is amazing, and I’m missing it.

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With another year under my belt, I’m really excited to start another one. As I read my cards and spend time with loved ones, I find myself more mindful of the fact that these moments matter. I feel a wave of gratitude wash over me as I receive hugs, beautiful words, and massive amounts of affection. I’m a believer that every day we are alive is a blessing; a blessing that prompts us to create and decide. I’d like to add to that.

Every day is a blessing for us to create, decide, and love.

Aside from all the wonderful birthday wishes, I’ve felt pretty overwhelmed by the amount of work I’ve taken on. You know when you bite off more than you can chew? I took a realllllly big bite.

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I’m grateful for all the opportunities that have been attracted into my life, but it’s been difficult trying to manage it all. As a student, I’ve found some helpful organizational habits that have put my schoolwork in place. If you’re a student, or know someone who is, check out this article I wrote for HerCampus with tips and apps that will make the semester less stressful.

Lastly, I put my hair into braids! I’m going natural, and wanted to try a protective hairstyle before I trim my hair (I’m transitioning instead of big-chopping). I’m looking to learn as much about natural hair as possible. I’ve searched up Youtubers, asked friends, and researched on various websites. If you have any resources or helpful information, please comment below!

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No, this picture’s not of me. It’s of a beautiful goddess named Amandla Sternberg! Also shout out to the beauty that’s in the header photo! Not sure of what her name is, but we should be friends. I like her glow!

Weekly Favorites

From Monday to Sunday I enjoyed lots of good food, music, and conversation. Here’s some of what I enjoyed most:

  1. Nine Track Mind (Deluxe Album) by Charlie Puth – My favorite songs are Suffer, Some Love, River, and of course Attention.
  2. Holy by Jamila Woods – this song makes me feel so calm and empowered.
  3. He Like That by Fifth Harmony. I can’t stop watching the music video for this song! These women are incredible, and their songs are really catchy!
  4. “Our mission right now is to get better, to get disciplined. It might take some time to master all the elements, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Aang didn’t master fire, water, earth, and air in one day” – paraphrased motivation from my accountability partner and best friend! (shout out to those who know all about Avatar: The Last Airbender… no that’s not the movie with blue people)
  5. The Cheesecake Factory! The avocado egg rolls made me melt. Also the cheesecake I mentioned earlier *drools on keyboard*

This week was eventful and beautiful. Cheers to another one filled with food for the soul, mind and body! I intend on being fully present, and productive this upcoming week. What about you?

All the best,

Valencia Saint-Louis

#5: Five Practices for Being Mindful of How You Feel

Hellooo! It has been quite some time; school has pulled me back into her arms recently.

At the end of my last post, I promised that my next post would be all about the practices and resources I’ve used to help me be mindful of how I’m feeling. By being mindful, I mean these practices have helped me open up an awareness and consciousness of my feelings. And guess what?

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It’s time for a self-checkup! Here’s a list of practices I use that cause me to ask myself, “Valencia, how are you feeling?”, and help me answer that question fully:

1. Pacifica

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This app has made me think about how I feel more than I ever have before. It’s very helpful if you are/have ever dealt with clinical or general depression and anxiety. The app allows for me to plug in how I’m feeling based on a scale (great–awful), and hashtags like #scatterbrained or #grateful, or any hashtag I want.

I’m able to track my mood throughout the day, and throughout the week. I’ve been able to identify what events caused me to feel really good one week and sought to duplicate those events the next week. It’s caused me to be really introspective about how I’m feeling. And no one sees it but me.

What’s more? The app gives me the option to engage in guided meditations, which I’ll get to later in this article and a hope board – where I can put anything that inspires me. Once I open the app, I am greeted with a quote and a calming background of my choosing. I think everyone should track how they’re feeling. Learn more about Pacifica here.

Have you used Pacifica or anything like it? How do you track how you feel?

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2. Voice Memos

I use voice memos purely for two reasons – to record myself singing and to record myself talking. Talking??

Yes, talking! To myself…

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Hear me out! When you vent to a friend or family member, you usually feel better right? When someone really listens to you and how you’re feeling you feel lighter, correct? Well, what if you don’t have someone around or don’t feel like talking to other people?

You should be your best friend – and as your best friend, it’s important to talk to and listen to yourself. When I make voice recordings, I usually talk about how I’m feeling in full. I talk about how I’m feeling internally, any thoughts that pop up, and how I’m feeling externally. Example:

“This couch is really soft. I like the feel of it a lot. I was a bit bothered today by (insert scenario here) though. I’m feeling a bit hungry at the moment too. That made me think…”

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What have I found by doing this? I’m glad you asked. Talking is very cathartic. And by having this recording – which you can listen to after or delete immediately – you have a feel for how you feel. Sometimes I end up solving my own problems by talking them out.

3. Journaling

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I am the BIGGEST advocate for journaling. As a pensive person, writing things down is my saving grace. When I journal, I free-write, allowing myself to write down whatever comes to mind. Usually, I write at the end of the day, detailing the following: how I’m feeling in the moment, how I felt all day, what I did today, what I learned today, what I’m grateful for, what I want to happen tomorrow, etc. The list truly goes on and on…

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Aside from emptying my brain onto pages, I’ve gained a lot of insight about how I feel about certain things in my life and what events cause me to feel certain ways. I’m able to look back and read my own development – you grow a lot from journaling, in a matter of days sometimes. It’s a safe space for me to be as aggressive, crass, sad, excited, grateful, or (insert emotion) that I want. Plus seeing how you feel can be a game changer. By writing in your journal you can express how you feel with all your heart’s intent, and by reading your journal you can look observationally at these feelings to see what they tell you.

Buzzfeed knows what I’m talking about, and there are dozens of Youtube videos to guide you if you decide to pick up that pen. Pssst, you really should!

Question: Would you like to see a whole post dedicated to journaling? I’m thinking of so many resources and tips that go along with journaling, but we have to get to the next on our list here which is…

4. Meditating

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Okay, okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t meditate as often as I’d like to. In fact, when I meditate it’s actually an accomplishment – but I’m striving to be better! What I’ve noticed with meditation is that it encourages the act of being mindful and of being in the moment. Some of the most helpful guided meditations I’ve listened to encourage identifying how you feel before and after the meditation. After I have a successful meditation I realize the following things:

  • Mentally I feel lighter, and I have fewer thoughts swimming through my mind. The thoughts that I do have are more pleasant and clear-headed.
  • Emotionally I feel good, stable, and gentle.
  • My body feels softer, and all tension that I had before the meditation has floated away
  • I feel much more present. No brain fog for me!
  • I take notice of my surroundings a lot more.

If you’d like to have a clearer mind and better understanding of how you feel, start with some guided meditations. There are free ones on Youtube and some free ones on the Pacifica app I mentioned earlier.

5. Taking a shower

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There’s something about running water that gets you thinking about life. Whenever I take a shower, I use that time to let myself reflect on how I’m feeling.

Am I worried at all? Stressed? Symbolically, I use the water from my shower to wash out all thoughts of worry or stress from the hours before. It really helps me to identify how I’m feeling, and to dissolve anything that doesn’t serve me at the moment.

Next time you take a shower, use that time to tune in to your star player… you! Take note of how you’re feeling, and let yourself feel that in full. Feel the water, feel the soap, and feel the feels.  

Let me know what mindfulness practices you’ve found helpful, and what tips or resources you’re considering using!

 

All the best,

Valencia Saint-Louis

#2: Why You Should Have An Accountability Partner

You know what’s great? Having goals. 

You know what’s not? When you don’t reach them.

I was talking to my best friend recently, and  decided to ask them to be my accountability partner. I have a lot of upcoming projects and habits I want to maintain, and I figured some support would do wonders. But then I thought, What exactly is an accountability partner, and what can I gain by having one?

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I like to think of accountability partners as boxing coaches. The ones that wipe your sweat and give you pep talks. Does that really happen by the way? Or is it just in the movies?

Accountability partners are NOT people that will magically make you more productive or give you willpower. They won’t box the match for you, but they’ll give you some motivation to keep fighting.

Usually when it comes to goals, I tend to move in silence. I don’t let anyone know what I’m plotting until I’ve already accomplished it. But I started to realize that some goals (since no one was holding me accountable to them) became easier to drop. I didn’t stick with them after a while.

For me, I want an accountability partner to help motivate me to continue with my goals, and form positive habits. I’d also like someone to run all my game plans with.

Why Should I Get an Accountability Partner?

I’m so glad you asked! There’s a lot of ways an accountability partner can help you get to where you want to be. Accountability partners: motivate you, support you in what you want to accomplish, give advice and/or resources to help you move forward, and listen to how you want to improve your life. It’s nice to have someone that cares about your betterment, and keeps you on track.

Additionally, regular check-ins with your partner make you more conscious of what you want to accomplish. It also adds some pressure. Progress reports can be a bit embarrassing if you haven’t been doing what you said you would – but that makes you all the more conscious! It propels you to be consistent, to keep your promises to yourself, and to get work done.

Below I’ve included a video featuring my friend Simon Sinek, author and public speaker, to back me up on this. Okay, he’s not exactly my friend, but he’d totally agree with me!

Simon Sinek – Accountability Partners

Where to Start


My best friend and I are currently setting up a date to talk about what we want to get out of our accountability partnership. I already have a bunch of ideas, and I can’t wait to get started. When going into an accountability partnership, it’s important to:

  1. Decide what it is you want to accomplish. What goal do you want to reach? What habit do you want to create/break?
  2. Pick someone that inspires you. Someone that is reliable and can motivate you to be your best (For me, my best friend is very driven and consistent. They inspire me to be self-motivated, and they care about my success as I do theirs).
  3. Establish what you want to get out of the partnership.  How can this person help you with what you seek to accomplish? What do you need most from this person in order to feel motivated and confident about what you’re doing? Talk to your partner about what they can offer you, and make a plan of what works best.
  4. Be vocal about what you can offer your partner. This isn’t just a one-way street. Make sure your partner knows that you are just as much about their success as they are yours. Let them know about the support, skills, and resources you can provide them with to achieve their goal(s).
  5. Set up a time each week to talk about your progress. Make sure you check in with your partner every week (or at least within a convenient, consistent time frame) to discuss how each of you are doing with your respective goals. It could be through text, a phone call, FaceTime, snail mail, walkie talkie, whatever. Check up on one another. In relation to your goals talk about your: successes, challenges, observations, feelings, and reflections.

I’m looking forward to having a partner-with-purpose. A partner-in-productivity. It’ll be nice having someone I can talk to about taking over the worl- I mean, writing blog posts of course. Cheers to many more!

All the best,

Valencia Saint-Louis