A degree gets you pretty far in this world, but without decent money cents, you’ll quickly find yourself digging out of a debt hole.
Staying mindful with your money doesn’t mean living a boring, bare minimum life. Quite the opposite rings true: control and understanding of your finances leads to balance, less stress, and more opportunities.
A quick Google search will curate thousands of articles preaching “less lattes” and “penny pinching.” Those tactics might work for you, but let’s talk about a few that don’t include caffeine deprivation.
- Know your flow. You probably believe you have a decent idea of how much money you have flowing in and out on a monthly basis. But do you really? Keeping a monthly ledger is a great way to evaluate if you’re living within your means or a little too lavishly. I use the “notes” app on my phone to track every penny coming in and every penny going out. That way I can never ask, “Where did all my money go?”
- Budget, and be real. Now that you know your inflow, grab a piece of paper and write that number at the top. Below it, write down your monthly necessities (savings, rent, car payment, loan, etc.), and subtract. Below that total divvy out your “extras” like vacations, clothes, and eating out. Your goal should be a number above zero – meaning you’ve got extra to put away at the end of the month. Budgeting only works if you stick to it, and sticking to it only works if you’re honest. So be real. Check in with your numbers weekly, and adjust as needed.
- Ask for help. Meeting with a financial advisor to discuss your goals and establish a path to get there is a great way to tackle long-term plans. Go into your first meeting with a list of questions, your current inflow/outflow, your budget, and any assets that you own. Think of your advisor as your money doctor. You wouldn’t trust your health to just any one, so vet a few options before committing.
- Establish an emergency fund. Take your monthly necessities and multiple by 3-6. This is the amount of money you should have stored up in an emergency fund. Note: emergency means EMERGENCY. Not, “I need a last minute outfit for a wedding.” Set this money aside in a basic savings account and don’t touch it.
- Get a fun card. Now that you’ve created a budget, the toughest part is sticking to it. Recently I opened up a separate checking account that I automatically transfer money into every month. I’ve deemed this card my “fun card.” Each month I put my allotted “wants” budget into it (eating out, coffee, drinks, etc.) and only use the card for those purchases. That way I’m not over-spending, and once I hit zero I know it’s time to stay in.
- As long as the outcome is income. Want to add to that fun card? Drake knows what’s up. Monetize your skills. Use your talents to make extra money. Multiple revenue streams are almost never a bad idea. Sure, you could pick up a part-time job bringing in minimum wage on the weekends, OR, you could do what you love and make cash money for it. Ideas: freelance design or writing, workout plans, organizing, web design, art.
- Savvy shopping. It’s easy to get carried away, winding up at the register with 16 things you didn’t know you needed – yes Target, I’m looking at you. A couple of ways to avoid this dilemma are going in with a list and sticking to it, and only shopping the sales rack. Nothing leaves me feeling more accomplished than snagging something for a crazy deal, and if you stick to the sales and don’t find anything you HAVE TO HAVE, head on home with more money in your pocket.
- Pick your luxury. You can’t have it all: nice car, big home, beautiful clothes, and endless travels. Well, most of us can’t anyway. Choose which luxury matters most to you and devote your spending to that category. For me it’s travel. So when I find myself with a few extra stacks of cash, instead of buying a couple new outfits, I take an adventure.
- Think long term. If your work offers a 401k plan or other investment opportunities, take advantage of them! I know retirement feels like a world away, but the earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll have later on, to live the life 60-year-old you deserves.
- Read! Managing money is a life skill you’ll constantly re-master. Read money blogs, finance books, and listen to money podcasts. There’s so much knowledge out there waiting to be absorbed – for free!!!!
- Put a mason jar in your car and drop all your extra change into it. Every month deposit it directly into your savings.
- Sweat the small stuff – it becomes big stuff. Unplug devices from your outlets when they’re not in use, use less water, turn off your ceiling fans, etc. Save where you can, when you can.
- Utilize direct deposit to pay your bills, contribute to your 401k, and fill your savings. If the money never passes through your hands, you’ll never miss it.
- Know you get a little spend crazy? DON’T USE CREDIT CARDS. Just don’t do it. It’s a trap.
What are your favorite ways to save and make the most of your money? Let me know in the comments.