There are lots of blogs and books out there that attempt to “Teach You How To Be Rich,” but let’s be honest: most of us aren’t in a position to make bookoo amounts of money or start a new business to cash flow an extravagant lifestyle. That’s just not reality.
What is possible though, is taking a few steps to make what you have go a little further. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by personal finance and it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to managing your money. There seem to be endless blogs and books about what we should be doing but what strategies are the most important? And what strategies can we really incorporate into our already busy lives?
Here are a few simple, easy to employ tips to take control of your finances in 2018. Disclaimer: these are not ‘stop the press’ industry secrets. I’m not reinventing the wheel, just trying to emphasize practical steps that have been proven to work.
This is the most daunting, but also the most important step towards some financial harmony in your life. A recent study showed that 57 percent of Americans can’t withstand a $500 emergency. So, if this is you, you’re not alone. Here’s a place to start:
Open up a savings account somewhere other than where your checking account is.
Setup a recurring, automatic transfer from your checking account to your new savings account for $20 a week (or $40 the Monday after every Friday paycheck).
Don’t even touch this account unless it is a LEGIT EMERGENCY.
Often, the force impacting our money the most is our behavior, not our actual income. So the more you can let your apps do the work, the better. If you do these things and don’t touch your account, you will have over $1,000 saved by January 1, 2019 (mathematically guaranteed). This emergency fund can help give you the buffer you need to better withstand life’s curveballs. Car repairs? Medical bill? Inexplicable bar tab? No problem. Use your new emergency fund to pay for it, then build it back up as soon as you can. This way you avoid doing what most do: putt the unexpected on a credit card. Speaking of…
Stop Paying Credit Card Interest
Many of us have been there. You get to the end of a few months and realize, “Wait, my credit card balance is HOW much?!” The key is to get to a point where you are paying off your bill every month, or (if you have self-control issues) just using cash only.
Credit card interest is stupid high, so paying interest charges every month really impacts how much of a dent you can make in your balance. If you’re carrying an even larger balance on your CC, it might even be time to look into transferring that balance to a card with a 0% offer. There are a lot of these offers out there and they might help you stop paying monthly interest for long enough to get that balance paid off and your feet back under you. And not having to pay something for no reason feels reeeeally good.
Quit Buying Stuff
This one is more psychological than anything. Look, I get it: We all need a few nice things for our sanity. My wife loves me, I think, but she would go full Kathy Bates on me if I ever cancelled Netflix to save money. I’m not here to tell you how to budget yourself because we’re all so different. But there is one thing so pervasive in our culture that it’s easy to get swept up in it: the mass marketing of STUFF.
We’re constantly being sold something, whether it’s in stores, online or watching tv. It’s so easy to want things that we don’t need, more specifically, things we think others already have. Money guru Dave Ramsey has a great line I’ve always liked: “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses are broke.” No, I don’t need a $400 watch that tells me when my phone is ringing. My phone does that itself, thanks.
So next time you feel yourself about to drop some dough on something, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is yes, great, get it. If not, take half of what you would have spent on it and add it to your savings. Little mental tricks like that add up fast, and can boost your financial confidence too.
So add these three things to your new years resolution list. Even these small steps can add up!
My main point is, we can take control over where our money goes, but very few people exercise it. So take your wallet to the gym in 2018. That way, when summer 2019 rolls around, everyone will be wondering how it got so swole. *zing* (Siri: “Dad Joke allotment reached”)
Jay Williams is a Financial Strategist for McKinley Carter Wealth Services in Charleston, and a West Virginia ‘lifer’. Jay is a big fan of IPA’s, Kinship sweatshirts, and (unfortunately) the Miami Dolphins. Jay and his wife Breana are West Virginia Wesleyan grads that love east coast road trips with their son Martin, and hanging out at home with their dog, Owen, and cats Hazel and Tyson.
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