If you want to maintain a budget and save money, then you need a plan. The first step is understanding the basics—what is a budget? How does it work? What are the benefits of having one?
To effectively manage your monthly budget, you must take certain steps from day one. This article will provide some helpful tips and tricks on how to get started and keep going strong until payday rolls around!
What is a budget?
A budget is a plan. It helps you set limits for your spending, so that you can track your income and expenses. Maintaining a budget keeps you aware of when you are spending too much or if there are areas where your money could be saved.
It can also help you understand your spending habits as well as identify problems, such as giving in to too many sales or buying expensive lattes every day. With a clear understanding of how you spend money every month, you may be able to reduce expenses and even start saving for luxuries or emergencies. You can’t have a goal of saving for your next summer vacation if you don’t know how much money you’re spending now.
How to create your budget
The first step is to set goals for yourself for income and spending. When it comes to income, you need to consider all the ways you get paid. What is your salary—after taxes and any other contributions you make, like to a 401(k)? Is your employer cutting back your hours? Do you have another source of income such as a side job or freelance work?
Be completely honest with yourself about how much money you have coming in. Once this figure is known, you can assess your spending and determine how much of your income goes towards them every month.
Next, make a list of all fixed monthly bills, such as rent or loan repayments. Then make a list of variable expenses, such as groceries or gas. Lastly, make a list of all your monthly discretionary spending, or ‘fun money’.
If you struggle with this last step, look at your bank statements. It’s the easiest way to find a complete record of your spending. This will help you pinpoint the areas that you could cut down on or even eliminate.
Leverage your budget
Now that you have your budget, you can take action. You can save money by leveraging your budget to meet your monthly goals.
The first way is to leverage your income. If you have a job, talk to your employer about working extra hours, or ask for a raise. This will give you more money right out of the gate.
Beyond the extra income from a job, there are many other ways to add to your budget.
You can start small and pick up some side work—babysitting, dog walking, delivering pizzas, etc. If you can turn your free time into money, go for it! This all depends on your financial situation and what you feel comfortable with, so take the time to plan accordingly.
You can also think about reducing your expenses. Cutting back on luxury items can save money every month without having to work an extra job. Just think of all the things you could do with the money that’s currently going towards cable TV or eating out every day for lunch!
Don’t forget to have some fun every once in a while. Just find creative ways to have it on a budget. Plan more outings with friends like playing tennis or frisbee in the park, rather than going to the club every evening. Your community is bound to have some free local events going on, especially in warmer weather.
A budget is a way for you to track your expenses and income each month. You can leverage your budget in a number of ways, by increasing income or decreasing expenses—or both! With this knowledge, you’ll be able to save more and plan for the future.
In some cases, the warnings might have been heeded but in other cases, we may have learned the cost of credit the hard way.
Using credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may be a costly thing – and sometimes even a risky thing. The interest from credit card balances can be like a ball and chain that might never seem to go away. And your financial strategy for the future may seem like a distant horizon that’s always out of reach.
It is possible to live without credit cards if you choose to do so, but it can take discipline if you’ve developed the credit habit.
It’s budgeting time. Here’s some tough love. If you don’t have one already, you should hunker down and create a budget. In the beginning it doesn’t have to be complicated. First just try to determine how much you’re spending on food, utilities, transportation, and other essentials. Next, consider what you’re spending on the non-essentials – be honest with yourself!
In making a budget, you should become acutely aware of your spending habits and you’ll give yourself a chance to think about what your priorities really are. Is it really more important to spend $5-6 per day on coffee at the corner shop, or would you rather put that money towards some new clothes?
Try to set up a budget that has as strict allowances as you can handle for non-essential purchases until you can get your existing balances under control. Always keep in mind that an item you bought with credit “because it was on sale” might not end up being such a great deal if you have to pay interest on it for months (or even years).
Hide the plastic. Part of the reason we use credit cards is because they are right there in our wallets or automatically stored on our favorite shopping websites, making them easy to use. (That’s the point, right?) Fortunately, this is also easy to help fix. Put your credit cards away in a safe place at home and save them for a real emergency. Don’t save them on websites you use.
Don’t worry about actually canceling them or cutting them up. Unless there’s an annual fee for owning the card, canceling the card might not help you financially or help boost your credit score.¹
Pay down your credit card debt. When you’re working on your budget, decide how much extra money you can afford to pay toward your credit card balances. If you just pay the minimum payment, even small balances may not get paid off for years. Try to prioritize extra payments to help the balances go down and eventually get paid off.
Save for things you want to purchase. Make some room in your budget for some of the purchases you used to make with a credit card. If an item you’re eyeing costs $100, ask yourself if you can save $50 per month and purchase it in two months rather than immediately. Also, consider using the 30-day rule. If you see something you want – or even something you think you’ll need – wait 30 days. If the 30 days go by and you still need or want it, make sure it makes sense within your budget.
Save one card for occasional use. Having a solid credit history is important, so once your credit balances are under control, you may want to use one card in a disciplined way within your budget. In this case, you would just use the card for routine expenses that you are able to pay off in full at the end of the month.
Living without credit cards completely, or at least for the most part, is possible. Sticking to a budget, paying down debt, and having a solid savings strategy for the future will help make your discipline worth it!
¹ “How to repair your credit and improve your FICO® Scores,” myFico, https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/improve-your-credit-score
Much like physical health, financial health can be affected by binging, carelessness, or simply not knowing what can cause harm. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – as with physical health, it’s possible to reverse the downward trend if you can break your harmful habits.
Not budgeting A household without a budget is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly and – sooner or later – it might sink or run aground in shallow waters. Small expenses and indulgences can add up to big money over the course of a month or a year.
In nearly every household, it might be possible to find some extra money just by cutting back on non-essential spending. A budget is your way of telling yourself that you may be able to have nice things if you’re disciplined about your finances.
Frequent use of credit cards. Credit cards always seem to get picked on when discussing personal finances, and often, they deserve the flack they get. Not having a budget can be a common reason for using credit, contributing to an average credit card debt of $6,913 for balance-carrying households.¹ At an average interest rate of over 16%, credit card debt is usually the highest interest expense in a household, several times higher than auto loans, home loans, and student loans.²
The good news is that with a little discipline, you can start to pay down your credit card debt and help reduce your interest expense.
Mum’s the word. No matter how much income you have, money can be a stressful topic in families. This can lead to one of two potentially harmful habits.
First, talking about the family finances is often simply avoided. Conversations about kids and work and what movie you want to watch happen, but conversations about money can get swept under the rug.
Are you a “saver” and your partner a “spender”? Is it the opposite? Maybe you’re both spenders or both savers. Talking (and listening) about yourself and your significant other’s tendencies can be insightful and help avoid conflicts about your finances.
If you’re like most households, having an occasional chat about the budget may help keep your family on track with your goals – or help you identify new goals – or maybe set some goals if you don’t have any.
Second, financial matters can be confusing – which may cause stress – especially once you get past the basics. This may tempt you to ignore the subject or to think “I’ll get around to it one day”.
But getting a budget and a financial strategy in place sooner rather than later may actually help you reduce stress. Think of it as “That’s one thing off my mind now!”
Taking the time to understand your money situation and getting a budget in place is the first step to put your financial house in order. As you learn more and apply changes – even small ones – you might see your efforts start to make a difference!
¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/
² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The morning hours can be times of relaxation, focus, and self-improvement. Here are a few practical habits that can take your mornings from pointless to productive!
Go to bed early. Stayed up too late watching just one more episode of your favorite show? Don’t expect to wake up feeling motivated. A productive morning starts the night before. Try to stay away from screens before going to bed (at least one hour) and make sure you turn in at a reasonable time. You may also want to dial back when you wake up. Having a quiet hour or two before everyone else wakes up is a great way of freeing up time to invest in things you care about. Just remember that your new sleep schedule will take some time to adjust to!
Exercise first thing. One of the best habits to fill your new-found morning hours is exercise. It’s a great way to get your blood flowing and boost your energy. Plus, the feeling that you’ve accomplished something can help carry you through the day and boost your confidence.
Prioritize your tasks. But let’s say you’ve started getting up an hour and a half earlier and you work out for 30 minutes. How are you going to spend the next hour before you start getting ready for work? One great habit is to start planning out your day and prioritizing your tasks. Write down what specifically you want to accomplish and when. You might be amazed by how empowering it is to make a plan and to see your goals on a piece of paper. Start off with your biggest task. The morning is when you’re at your peak brain power, so commit your best efforts to the hardest work. The feeling of accomplishment from knocking out the task will carry you through the smaller things!
Mornings don’t have to be rough. Incorporating these tips and habits into your daily routine can help make the first hours of the day a time you look forward to. Start inching your alarm closer towards sunrise and use that extra time to absolutely crush your day!
Excited? Afraid? Disappointed? Nothing?
Those feelings can reveal deeper truths about your relationship with money. And that relationship can influence your financial future.
That’s because, despite what people say, money is often wrapped up in feelings about…
That’s why people’s behavior with money is often not well-reasoned. Instead of making measured decisions based on the numbers, people find themselves on autopilot. In other words, they react instead of respond.
Let’s look at some examples…
Let’s say your relationship with money is primarily fear based. Maybe you saw your parents struggle with their finances, and you constantly worry about reliving their experience.
The autopilot response? Frugality and risk-aversion, even if you earn a comfortable wage.
There’s nothing wrong with either of those qualities in moderation. But taken too far, they may seriously damage your personal relationships and prevent you from taking advantage of financial opportunities.
Plus, the constant stress and fear of losing everything might impact your mental and physical health if not properly managed.
There’s also the opposite extreme. What if you use wealth to establish your social status?
You’ll be far more likely to buy things you don’t need to show off to your peers. You may even begin compulsively shopping to cope with stress.
In other words, you may be using money in unhealthy and damaging ways. And the stress and guilt that come from such behavior can seriously harm relationships and your ability to accomplish your goals.
So what’s the solution? What should your feelings toward wealth be?
The starting point must be that money is primarily a tool. It doesn’t define you. It isn’t evil. It’s simply a tool that empowers you to pursue things that you love.
Simply put, money isn’t an end unto itself. It’s a means to an end.
The question is, then what do you love? What do you want to do and see and pursue? And what role will money play in achieving those goals?
Once you reorder your relationship with wealth along those lines, a whole world of possibility may open up like…
But it all starts with understanding your current feelings towards money, and then deciding on what you want your future to look like.
If you need someone to process those feelings with, contact me! I’m here to offer you guidance and support on your journey towards financial stability.
Let’s find out!
A survey of the wealthy revealed that 76% engaged in aerobic exercises for 30 minutes per day, 4 days per week.¹ The same survey revealed that only 23% of the non-wealthy do the same.
So the question isn’t whether the wealthy work out. It’s whether exercise played a role in their journey to financial security.
The connection isn’t as clear as we may like. That’s because correlation doesn’t equal causation. Plenty of wealthy people also read a lot (see my other article on the connection between wealth and reading). But no one would claim that reading alone created their prosperity. The same could be argued for exercise—perhaps the wealthy only found the time to work out after they achieved financial independence!
There’s a host of research that demonstrates the power of exercise to…
In fact, exercise is as effective as antidepressants in some cases!³ That means exercise may help remove barriers that inhibit your ability to build your goals and achieve your dreams. It can also fuel the creativity you need to help solve problems and increase your potential market value. One study discovered that physical activity in men resulted in a 14-17% increase in income over a 15 year period.⁴
The takeaway? Imitate the wealthy and get some exercise! It’s a non-financial habit that may pave the way to better mental health and help position you to achieve greater things, wealth-related or not.
¹ “Why Is Aerobic Exercise Important to Building Wealth?” Thomas Corley, Rich Habits, Aug 25, 2020, https://richhabits.net/why-is-aerobic-exercise-so-important-to-building-wealth/ ² “The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise,” Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A., HelpGuide.org Oct 2020, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm# ³ “Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression,” Harvard Health Publishing, Feb 2, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression ⁴ “8 Daily Rituals Most Millionaires Have In Common,” Lou Carlozo, Money Under 30, Nov 16, 2020 https://www.moneyunder30.com/millionaires-daily-rituals
You’ve come to the right place.
Over the next few weeks, this blog will explore the habits of the wealthy. You’ll discover why the wealthy incorporate certain activities and rituals into their daily routine and how you can implement them, starting TODAY.
You might be surprised by what you learn. That’s because almost none of these habits have anything directly to do with how you spend your money.
But they have everything to do with building character and improving lifestyle. That’s because the wealthy are often ordinary people who reached a critical realization early on—financial success is just one element of a rich life. The more growth you experience as an individual, the more empowered you can become to build wealth.
There are plenty of exceptions—you’ll find countless people who are both prosperous and non virtuous. This series isn’t about them, and it’s certainly not for those who want to pursue that path.
But if you’re curious to discover the habits of the wealthy, keep your eyes on this blog. You may learn something you can put into practice right now that might transform your future!
But that doesn’t stop “budget” from being an intimidating word to many people. Some folks may think it means scrimping on everything and never going out for a night on the town. It doesn’t! Budgeting simply means that you know where your money is going and you have a way to track it.
The aim with budgeting is to be aware of your spending, plan for your expenses1, and make sure you have enough saved to pursue your goals.
Without a budget, it can be easy for expenses to climb beyond your ability to pay for them. You break out the plastic and before you know it you’ve spent fifty bucks on drinks and appetizers with the gang after work. These habits might leave you with a lot of accumulated debt. Plus, without a budget, you may not be saving for a rainy day, vacation, or your retirement. A budget allows you to enact a strategy to help pursue your goals. But what if you’ve never had a budget? Where should you start? Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to get your budgeting habit off the ground!
Track your expenses every day. Start by tracking your expenses. Write down everything you buy, including memberships, online streaming services, and subscriptions. It’s not complicated to do with popular mobile and web applications. You can also buy a small notebook to keep track of each purchase. Even if it’s a small pack of gum from the gas station or a quick coffee at the corner shop, jot it down. Keep track of the big stuff too, like your rent and bill payments.
Add up expenses every week and develop categories. Once you’ve collected enough data, it’s time to figure out where exactly your paycheck is going. Start with adding up your expenses every week. How much are you spending? What are you spending money on? As you add your spending up, start developing categories. The goal is to organize all your expenses so you can see what you’re spending money on. For example, if you eat out a few times per week, group those expenses under a category called “Eating Out”. Get as general or as specific as you wish. Maybe throwing all your food purchases into one bucket is all you need, or you may want to break it down by location - grocery store, big box store, restaurants, etc.
Create a monthly list of expenses. Once you’ve recorded your expenses for a full month, it’s time to create a monthly list. Now you might also have more clarity on how you want to set up your categories. Next, total each category for the month.
Adjust your spending as necessary. Compare your total expenses with your income. There are two possible outcomes. You may be spending within your income or spending outside your income. If you’re spending within your income, create a category for savings if you don’t have one. It’s a good idea to create a separate savings category for large future purchases too, like a home or a vacation. If you find you’re spending too much, you may need to cut back spending in some categories. The beauty of a budget is that once you see how much you’re spending, and on what, you’ll be able to strategize where you need to cut back.
Keep going. Once you develop the habit of budgeting, it should become part of your routine. You can look forward to working on your savings and developing a retirement strategy, but don’t forget to budget in a little fun too!
¹Jeremy Vohwinkle, “Make a Personal Budget in 6 Steps: A Step-by-Step Guide to Make a Budget,” The Balance (March 6, 2020).
The good news is, you don’t need a perfect relationship or perfect finances to have productive conversations with your partner about money, so here are some tips for handling those tricky conversations like a pro!
Be respectful. Respect should be the basis for any conversation with your significant other, but especially when dealing with potentially touchy issues like money. Be mindful to keep your tone neutral and try not to heap blame on your partner for any issues. Remember that you’re here to solve problems together.
Take responsibility. It’s perfectly normal if one person in a couple handles the finances more than the other. Just be sure to take responsibility for the decisions that you make and remember that it affects both people. You might want to establish a monthly money meeting to make sure you’re both on the same page and in the loop. Hint: Make it fun! Maybe order in, or enjoy a steak dinner while you chat.
Take a team approach. Instead of saying to your partner, “you need to do this or that,” try to frame things in a way that lets your partner know you see yourself on the same team as they are. Saying “we need to take a look at our combined spending habits” will probably be better received than “you need to stop spending so much money.”
Be positive. It can be tempting to feel defeated and hopeless that things will never get better if you’re trying to move a mountain. But this kind of thinking can be contagious and negativity may further poison your finances and your relationship. Try to focus on what you can both do to make things better and what small steps to take to get where you want to be, rather than focusing on past mistakes and problems.
Don’t ignore the negative. It’s important to stay positive, but it’s also important to face and conquer the specific problems. It gives you and your partner focused issues to work on and will help you make a game plan. Speaking of which…
Set common goals, and work toward them together. Whether it’s saving for a big vacation, your child’s college fund, getting out of debt, or making a big purchase like a car, money management and budgeting may be easier if you are both working toward a common purpose with a shared reward. Figure out your shared goals and then make a plan to accomplish them!
Accept that your partner may have a different background and approach to money. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and different perspectives. Just because yours differs from your partner’s doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. Chances are you make allowances and balance each other out in other areas of your relationship, and you can do the same with money if you try to see things from your partner’s point of view.
Discussing and managing your finances together can be a great opportunity for growth in a relationship. Go into it with a positive attitude, respect for your partner, and a sense of your common values and priorities. Having an open, honest, and trust-based approach to money in a relationship may be challenging, but it is definitely worth it.
The older Gen Zers have just come out of college, but this group’s imprint on society is already clear. You might be surprised by their attitude towards money and wealth! Let’s explore how these digital natives interact with money and why their financial habits might be influencing your business strategy.
Social media is an integral part of their world. They spend more time on their phones, tablets, and laptops than any other generation. The iPhone was old news by the time younger Gen Zers were born. This generation needs a whole new set of rules for how they shop and find financial advice.
For instance, Gen Zers are 72% more likely to buy from brands they follow on social media.¹ And there’s been an explosion of financial advice–not all of it good–on TikTok—#personalfinance has 3.5 billion views on the platform.² So if you’re interested in not just understanding Gen Zers, but also getting their attention, it pays to keep up with social media trends.
Gen Zers have yet to accrue massive debt. Gen Zers have thus far avoided the traps of credit card and student loan debt that have burdened every generation before. The numbers aren’t stellar–on average, Gen Zers have over $10,000 in non-mortgage debt–but that’s just a fraction of the debt carried by the typical Millennial or Gen Xer.
Of course, Gen Zers haven’t had as much time to accrue debt. It could well be that in 10 years they have just as many student loans and high credit card balances as older generations. But there is hope! Why?
Gen Zers are avid budgeters. 68% of Gen Zers use some form of budgeting system.³ Only 41% of the general population can say the same.⁴ That’s a massive improvement! If Gen Zers can use their budgets to avoid massive debt, they could find themselves well positioned financially.
In other words, Gen Z is hungry to learn how money really works. They’re already taking steps to avoid the missteps of past generations. The real question is who will teach them what it takes to become wealthy?
¹ “Generation Z Spending Habits for 2021,” Lexington Law, Feb 8, 2021, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/generation-z-spending-habits.html
² “Viral or vicious? Financial advice blows up on TikTok,” Nicole Casperson, InvestmentNews Feb 15, 2021, https://www.investmentnews.com/financial-advice-blows-up-on-tiktok-but-at-what-cost-202260#:~:text=That%27s%20what%20financial%20advice%20is,form%20of%2060%2Dsecond%20videos.
³ “Generation Z Spending Habits for 2021,” Lexington Law, Feb 8, 2021, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/generation-z-spending-habits.html
⁴ “What Is a Budget and Why Should I Use One?,” Tim Stobierski, acorns, Sep 6, 2019, https://www.acorns.com/money-basics/saving-and-budgeting/budget-meaning/#:~:text=While%20many%20factors%20likely%20contribute,budget%2C%20according%20to%20U.S.%20Bank.
Do you ever feel like no matter how much money you make, it never seems like enough? You’re not alone. A recent survey found that more than half of middle-income families didn’t have three months of expenses saved.¹ Debt and spending can be out of control for many reasons—the economy, our upbringing, or even because we’re hardwired to want more. This article explores three bad habits that may be hurting your financial situation. You might be surprised by what they are!
Treating credit cards like free money. When you’re tempted to buy something and don’t have the cash, it’s easy to just use credit. But instant gratification can have serious consequences. Little by little, you may find yourself racking up more and more debt. Paying your monthly credit card bill can start requiring all of your cash flow… and maybe more. Yikes.
The solution? Limit your credit card usage as much as possible. Make a habit of only using your credit card for certain low-dollar items, like gas. If you can’t buy your impulse purchase in cash, go home!
Trying to buy happiness. It’s tempting to think that you’re going to be happy if you buy one thing or another. But what happens when the newness wears off? Suddenly, you have a closet full of clothes and shoes that really aren’t making you any happier! The same is true of houses, cars, gadgets, anything you can think of. Buying things to keep up appearances or just because you think they’ll make you fulfilled is a recipe for overspending on things that, ultimately, don’t matter.
The key is to find happiness beyond your material possessions. That’s no small task, and there’s no set road map for it. But it’s absolutely critical to find a source of meaning that isn’t tied to stuff and things. You could be happier—and more financially stable—for it.
Ignoring your financial situation. Let’s face it—finances can be scary! Overwhelming debt, paying for college, and feeling out of your depth are uncomfortable emotions. And ignoring and denying uncomfortable feelings is often a first line of defense.
But it’s a dangerous game. Ignoring what the numbers tell you can lead you deeper and deeper into financial instability. You could be setting up a much harder path for yourself in the future than if you tackled your financial situation now.
Tackling your financial fears isn’t always easy. It might require serious soul searching. Just know these three things…
Acknowledging the problem is the first step. Once you can admit that your finances need help, you’re ready to start making positive changes.
Seeking help is always wise. Whether it’s a friend, spouse, qualified counselor, or financial professional, enlisting help can give you the courage you need to face your fears.
You can do this! It might not feel like it, but you have what it takes to confront this challenge… and win! Don’t lose hope, and start moving forward.
Managing your money wisely requires more than knowing different techniques and strategies. It takes maturity. The more you invest in making improvements to your life overall, the better emotionally equipped you’ll be to navigate the world of personal finances.
¹ “A year after COVID, personal finances are not so grim for millions of Americans,” Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, Apr 9, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/money/2021/04/09/irs-stimulus-check-2021-third-covid-payment-unemployment-benefits/7015277002/
But what if you have bad credit? This blog post will explore strategies that might help increase your credit score so that you can borrow more money or get approved for loans more easily.
Keep your credit card balances low. Part of your credit score depends on something called credit utilization. Using up your credit limit can negatively impact your score and drag it down. That’s why it’s best to restrict your credit card usage to certain types of purchases. If you start closing in on that credit limit, consider putting yourself on a spending freeze or using cash for a while.
Don’t close old accounts that you have a good history of paying on time. Why? Because closing accounts can technically lower your credit limit. Even though you’re not borrowing more money, you’re suddenly utilizing a greater percentage of your credit. That can result in your credit score taking a hit, even though your credit habits haven’t changed. So keep those old accounts with good payment histories open!
Check your credit report for errors and inaccuracies. Did you know that anyone can get a copy of your credit report? It’s true! You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s official website to discover how you can get your report. Once you have it, you can check it for errors that may have negatively impacted your score.
If you’re curious about how your credit score impacts your ability to make big purchases, let me know! We can review your situation and work on a game plan to improve your score and move towards your goals.
Whether you’re a highschool student working a cash register or a fresh-out-of-college graduate who just landed a cubicle, a first job often comes with a steep learning curve. But don’t let that weigh you down! This is your once in a lifetime opportunity to start your financial journey strong and develop skills that will last you throughout your career.
Here are two simple steps you can take to make the most of your first job.
Start saving. A first paycheck is a magical thing. It makes you feel like the hard work has finally paid off and you’re a real adult. You might just become unstoppable now that you’ve got a regular income!
But that empowerment will be fleeting if you spend everything you earn.
It’s absolutely critical that you begin saving money the moment your first paycheck arrives. This practice will go far in establishing healthy money habits that can last a lifetime. Plus, the sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow via compound interest. What seems like a pittance today can grow into the foundation of your future wealth if you steward it properly!
Evaluate your performance. There’s much that you can learn about yourself by studying your job performance. You’ll get an idea of strengths that you can leverage and weaknesses that you need to work on.
But most importantly, you might discover moments when you’re “in the zone”. You’ll know what that means when you feel it. Time slows down (or speeds up), you’re totally focused on the task at hand, and you’re having fun.
That feeling is like a compass. It helps point you in the direction of what you’re supposed to do with your life. Do you get in the zone when you’re working on a certain task? With a group of people? Helping others succeed? Pay close attention to when you’re feeling energized at work and delivering quality results… and when you’re not!
Above all, keep an open mind. Your first job might introduce a passion you’ll pursue for the rest of your life… or it might not. And that’s okay! Whatever it is and wherever it leads, be sure to save as much as you can and to pay attention to what you like. You’ll be better positioned both financially and personally to pursue your dreams when the time comes to make your next move!
Before they might know what a 401(k) or mortgage even are, their financial future is already starting to take shape. It’s never too early to teach your kids the wisdom of budgeting, limiting their spending, and paying themselves first. So the sooner you can instill those lessons, the deeper they’ll sink in!
Fortunately, teaching your kids about saving is quite simple. Here are two common-sense strategies that can help you instill financial wisdom in your children from the moment they can tell a dollar from a dime!
Give your child an allowance. The easiest way for your child to learn how money works is actually for them to have money. If it’s within your budget, set up a system for your child to earn an allowance. The more closely it relates to their work, the better. Set up a list of family chores that are mandatory, and then come up with some jobs and projects around the house that pay different amounts.
What does this have to do with saving? The simple fact is that spending money you receive as a gift can feel totally different than spending money that you earn. Teaching your children the connection between work and money instills a sense of the value of their time and that spending isn’t something to be taken lightly!
Teach your child how to budget. Budgeting is one of the most essential life skills your child will ever learn. And there’s no better time for them to start learning the difference between saving and spending than now! The same study that revealed children solidify their spending habits at age 7 also suggested they can grasp basic financial concepts by age 3!
So when your kid earns that first 5 dollar bill for working in the yard, help them figure out what to do with it! Encourage them to set aside a portion of what they earn in a place where it will grow via compound interest. Explain that the longer their money compounds, the more potential it has to grow! If they’re natural spenders, help them determine how long it will take them to save up enough to buy the new toy or game they want and that it’s worth the wait.
Start saving for yourself. Remember this–the most important lessons you teach your children are unconscious. Your kids are smart. They watch everything you do. Relentlessly enforce spending limits on your kids but splurge on a vacation or new car? They’ll notice. That’s why one of the most critical means of teaching your kids how to save is to establish a savings strategy yourself. When you make and review your monthly budget, invite the kids to join! When they ask why you haven’t gone on vacation abroad for a while, calmly inform them that it’s not in the family budget right now. Model wise financial decision making, and your children will be far more receptive to learning how money works for themselves!
The time to start teaching your kids how to save is today. Whether they’re 2, 8, or 18, offer them opportunities to work so they can earn some money and give them the knowledge and resources they need to use it wisely. And the sooner your kids discover concepts like the power of compound interest and the time value of money, the more potential they have to transform what they earn into a foundation for future wealth.
“The 5 Most Important Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids,” Laura Shin, Forbes, Oct 15, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/10/15/the-5-most-important-money-lessons-to-teach-your-kids/?sh=2c01a4956826
For example, how much would you spend on a meal at a restaurant before it moves into lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous territory? $100? $50? $20? To some, enjoying a daily made-to-order burrito might be par for the course, but to others, spending $10 every day on a tortilla, a scoop of chicken, and a dollop of guacamole might seem extravagant. Chances are, there may be some areas where you’re more in line with the average person and some areas where you’re atypical – but don’t let that worry you!
In case you were wondering, the top 3 things that Americans spend their money on in a year are housing ($20,091), transportation ($9,761), and food ($7,923).¹
Those top 3 expenses might very well be about the same as your top 3, but everything else after that is a mixed bag. Your lifestyle and the unique things that make you, well you, greatly influence where you spend your money and how you should budget.
For example, let’s say the average expenditure on a pet is $600 annually, but that may lump in hamsters, guinea pigs, all the way to Siberian Huskies. As you can imagine, each could come with a very different yearly cost associated with keeping that type of pet healthy. So although the average might be $600, your actual cost could be well above $3,000 for the husky! That definitely wouldn’t be seen as ‘normal’ by any means. And that’s okay!
What are we getting at here? It’s perfectly fine to be ‘abnormal’ in some areas of your spending. You don’t need to make your budget look exactly like other people’s budgets. What matters to them might not be the same as what matters to you.
So go ahead and buy that organic, gluten-free, grass-fed kibble for Fido – he deserves it (if he didn’t pee on the carpet while you were away, that is)! If Fido’s happiness makes you happy, then more power to you. Just make sure that at the end of the day, Fido’s food bill won’t bust your budget.
¹ “American Spending Habits in 2020,” Lexington Law, Jan 6, 2020, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/american-spending-habits.html
But maybe you – or a friend – learned about those consequences the hard way. Most late bill payers fall into 1 of 3 camps: they forget to pay on time, they don’t have enough income, or they have enough income but spend it on other things.
In case you – or your friend – are stuck in 1 of these camps, consider the following tips to help pay the bills on time.
I forget to pay my bills on time. If this is you, you’re actually in a more advantageous position. There are many easy fixes that can help get you back on track.
Use a calendar. This is a tried and true, but often underutilized, method to track your bill due dates. When you get a notice for a bill – either by email, text, or snail mail – jot the due date on your calendar. You can also set a reminder if you use an electronic calendar.
Fiddle with your due dates. Many companies offer flexible due dates. Experiment with what due dates work for you. Some people like to pay their bills all together at the beginning of the month. You may find that you like to pay some bills in the beginning and some in the middle of the month. It’s up to you!
Take advantage of grace period/late fee waivers. If you do forget about a bill and have to make a late payment, give the company a call and ask them to waive the late fee. Late fees can add up, ranging from $10-50 depending on the account. It’s worth a try!
I don’t have the money to pay all my bills. If your income doesn’t cover your outgo no matter how diligently you pinch those pennies, it won’t matter what type of bill payment method you use, you’re going to have trouble. If you’re in this situation, there are 2 solutions: increase your earnings or decrease your expenses.
Find a side gig. Take a temporary part-time job to make some extra income. Delivering pizza in the evenings or on weekends might be worth doing for a few months to make some extra dough.
Shop around. Shop around for savings. Prices vary on almost everything. Take a little extra time to make sure you’re getting the rock-bottom best prices on your insurance, cable, phone plans, groceries, utilities, etc.
I overspend and don’t have enough left to pay my bills. Managing income and expenses takes some practice and persistence, but it is doable! If you find yourself consistently overspending without enough left over to cover your bills, try the following:
Create a budget. Get familiar with your income and expenses. This is the only way to know how much disposable income you’re going to end up with every month. You can track your budget daily on an app like PocketGuard, Wallet, or Home Budget.
Stash the money for bills in a separate account. Put your bill money in a separate checking or savings account. This will keep it quarantined from your spending money and help make sure it’s there when the bills come due.
Good Financial Habits. If you feel bill-paying-challenged, or you have a friend who is, try some of the above tips. Taking care of your obligations when you need to can relieve stress, build good credit, and reinforce healthy spending habits for life!
The larger the problem to solve, the more rewards you will reap. We instinctively know this is true, even if we can’t articulate it. Just look at our spending habits.
Our favorite coffee shop solves our lack-of-energy-in-the-morning problem.
Music streaming soothes our rush hour stress with our favorite tunes.
A food delivery app removes the hassle of driving to a restaurant.
Your brands of choice provide you value by solving your problems. The more they fix, the more you love them!
So, imitate your favorites. Explore the problem you’ve identified until you’re an expert. Next, develop a solution that crushes the problem.
Training your sights on providing value won’t magically make you successful. But it can serve as a guiding light when you feel directionless and unsure of your next steps.
Can’t find your target market? Brainstorm which companies or agents would gain the most from implementing your solution. Be as specific as possible in explaining the benefits.
Struggling to discover a niche in a saturated market? Look for issues that competitors and industries have ignored or missed. It might be something they’ve accepted as cost of business.
Trying to scale up? Diligently research the obstacles your new clients face and tailor your solutions to their specific needs.
Let me know if you’re hungry to start a business. We can talk about the problems facing some of the largest industries in the world and how you can provide much needed solutions.
Operating at your full potential consistently sounds too good to be true. We all want to accomplish more at our jobs and around the house. But a million little distractions always seem to throw us off course. Sure, we all have flashes of inspiration, but many of us settle for a fraction of our true capabilities.
But there’s a better way.
Researchers have discovered that high productivity doesn’t have to be limited to short bursts. There’s actually a very specific state of mind that results in stunning levels of output that’s triggered by certain psychological factors. It’s called flow, and understanding how it works may change your life.
What is flow? Technically speaking, “Flow is a cognitive state where one is completely immersed in an activity… It involves intense focus, creative engagement, and the loss of awareness of the self.”¹ Think of it like this: what’s your favorite quarterback thinking about when he’s making a game winning play? Almost nothing else besides what he’s doing in the moment. That state of total concentration on the task at hand is what defines flow. Other sensations follow. Decisions seem to make themselves. You lose awareness of what’s going on around you. Time either seems to fly by or you see things in slow motion. And, most importantly, you feel awesome. You’re “in the zone.”
Achieving flow. You’ve almost certainly achieved this flow state at least once in your life. But it probably doesn’t seem replicable. You were just on during that highschool football championship game or playing that local show with your buddies or giving that presentation. Fortunately, research hasn’t just described flow; it’s discovered a few factors that contribute to achieving peak performance.
The first flow key is to establish goals. Your brain loves objectives. It loves feeling like it’s accomplishing things. Having a clear outcome in mind will help you tune out the distractions that don’t matter and hone in on what does. Identify your desired goal, outline in detail how you’ll accomplish it, and then proceed to the second flow key.
The second flow key is the balance between challenge and boredom. Very often, facing a difficult task doesn’t naturally induce deep focus. It actually can make us feel anxious, scared, and avoidant. However, a mundane and simple activity, like washing dishes, doesn’t require the brainpower to trigger intense concentration. Flow lives in the happy medium between those extremes of crushing anxiety and mind-melting boredom. You have to have the confidence that you can actually crush the challenge at hand, but also not find it too easy or boring. Dial in your ideal difficulty level before you start a project. Expect more from your mundane responsibilities and get help for the daunting ones. Raise the stakes for your performance but make sure you don’t drown in the process!
The third flow key is immediate feedback. Let’s say you’ve hired a coach to help you master a skill. Would you prefer them to write up an annual review on your progress or give you tips, critiques, and advice as often as possible? Think about all the bad habits and practices you would develop without their regular oversight. You might discover you’ve been doing things wrong for a whole year if you’re only getting an annual checkup! Instant feedback allows you to constantly refine your process and execution while also setting up micro goals for you to accomplish. It’s a simple way to add a dash of challenge to your daily routine that locks you in and helps you achieve peak performance. Seek out frequent feedback. Ask your boss or co-workers or coach to give you critiques as often as possible. That constant stream of input will either make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished or give you new obstacles to overcome!
Achieving this state of peak performance isn’t always easy. There’s a cycle to entering flow that includes a difficult first phase. It’s hard work for our brain to enter into total focus and concentration. This first barrier is where most of us quit because intense concentration doesn’t feel great at first. But overcoming that initial resistance can open up a whole new world of productivity and performance. Use the three flow keys, push past the opening waves of discomfort and get into your zone!
¹ “Flow,” Psychology Today, accessed Sept. 24, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/flow
But as you head out for a night on the town with friends or maybe cuddle up next to your kids to watch their favorite movie, did you ever consider how you spent your after-work time during the week?
Whether you’re routine-driven, a free spirit, or somewhere in between, setting aside a few minutes every day to spend on your finances has the potential to make a huge difference in the long run. By adding these 3 financial habits to your daily routine, you have the potential to give yourself a little more power over your finances.
1. Check your inbox (or mailbox). Whether you pay your bills via credit card, automatic withdrawal, or a hand-written check that you mail in to the company, a daily look-see will help you stay on top of any alerts you get. Spend a few minutes every day glancing over incoming bills, payment receipts, and new online transactions. Being aware of the exodus (or pending exodus) of your money can help fend off late fees, overdrawing your accounts, or maxing out your credit card.
2. Review your spending. Every evening, take quick stock of any spending you did that day – whether in brick-and-mortar stores or online. This exercise can be eye-opening. For instance, are you in the habit of grabbing a piping hot cup of coffee from the drive-thru on your morning commute? Depending on your coffee preference, that can cost up to $5 a day! Maybe 5 bucks isn’t a huge deal, but consider this:
Just staying aware of those little daily expenditures may make a huge difference in your financial health; when you know how much you’re paying over time for something you could prepare at home (for far less money), you may decide to scale back on the barista-brewed coffee so you can help boost your financial future – and keep yourself on the path to financial independence.
3. Learn a little more. Knowing how money works is a vital part of achieving and maintaining financial independence. Taking a few moments every day to educate yourself a little more about money can make a huge difference in the long run. It can keep you aware of best practices for money management and all the ways your money can work for you. Try a blog post, YouTube video, or a best-seller on finances to keep yourself informed and up to date.
As you start putting these simple financial habits in place, contact me any time! Together we can assess how these small changes could help strengthen your financial strategy and get you closer to financial independence.
Our lives are full of actions that we’re almost unaware of. Many of them just help us get little things done more efficiently. But some habits can have a huge impact on our lives in either a positive or negative way. Here’s a quick breakdown of how habits work and ways to “trick yourself” into better behavior patterns.
Why habits? <br> We’ve looked at why the brain likes habits in a previous article, but it’s worth reviewing again!
Your brain craves efficiency. It looks for the path of least resistance when it comes to using energy. Making decisions takes a lot of brain power. Too many choices in a day can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, so your brain looks for ways to cut corners. It starts automating little decisions that you make repeatedly. Brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, and checking your social media are choices you’ve made so often that your brain stops consciously weighing in and seems to just spontaneously make you do them.
So that’s why your brain likes forming habits. But the mechanics of how a habit forms is essential if you’re trying to upgrade your unconscious behaviors!
Cues, Routines, and Rewards <br> A habit can be broken down into three basic components. It starts with a cue. That’s any kind of trigger that makes you want to do something. Actually performing the action suggested by the cue is called a routine. Following the routine usually results in some kind of reward, either physical or psychological.
So let’s say you’ve developed a habit of eating a cookie with your morning coffee. You wake up, put on the pot, and brew a delicious cup of joe. You instantly start craving the cookie when you smell that medium roast goodness. That’s the cue. You reach into the jar, grab the biggest chocolate chip cookie you can get your hands on, and take a bite. That’s the routine. And the tingling joy and comfort you feel when that life-giving treat hits your tongue? That’s the reward that brings you back morning after morning. But the consequence might be that you’ve put on a few unwanted pounds in the last couple of months.
How to use the habit pattern <br> It’s easy to see how certain habits can lead to some undesirable outcomes. We tend to form habits around anything that rewards our brains, whether it’s junk food, caffeine, or dangerous substances. But our brains also like things such as observing progress and accomplishing goals.
How can we use this to encourage good habits? Here are a few ideas: Start really small: Break your desired habit down into pieces and try to regularly perform each one. You might be surprised by how good it feels to accomplish something, which can prompt you to make more and more progress. Reward yourself: Some activities are very rewarding in the moment. But not everything that’s good for you leaves you feeling accomplished right away. Try something like only playing video games after 30 minutes of reading! Be patient: Habits don’t form overnight. You’ll probably mess up before it sticks. Don’t sweat the little failures and keep trying until that habit becomes second nature!
You can also use this knowledge to break bad habits. Try to identify the cues associated with the habit and avoid or eliminate them. Also, consider ways that you might actually be rewarding yourself for bad behavior. It’s worth asking friends and sometimes professionals for insights into your habits!