How To (At Least Start To) Get Your Finances Under Control

get finances under control

This is exactly the kind of stuff we talk about in my course Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is. Registration opens November 6th. Click here to get on the waitlist!


Gosh, but money is a touchy subject, isn’t it?When we’re not good with it, we feel embarrassed, ashamed, and overwhelmed with but-I’m-smart-why-do-I-keep-screwing-this-up? And when we manage it wisely, we just might be the source of jealousy or even how-does-she-do-it gossip.

To make matters worse, most of us feel weird talking about it. Yes, I want to know how you can afford that shiny, new SUV. No, I’m never, ever going to ask about it.

But devotedly ignoring things rarely gets anyone anywhere. With that in mind, here are five things you can (and should!) do if you’re serious about getting your financial life in order. 

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Here are five easy, baby steps that will point you in the right direction

1. Make a real budget

Yes, I know. You’ve heard this a million times before. For good reason! We manage what we monitor and you’d be amazed how quickly those $4 lattes and $17 Target sweaters add up.

Your budget needn’t be anything fancy – it can just be a spreadsheet listing your monthly income and recurring bills. If you want something more involved, check out Dave Ramsey’s free forms or Mint.com. Once you’ve decided how much you can spend, make it easier on yourself by leaving your credit cards at home, freezing them, or covering them with a photo of something you’re saving for.

My trick? Give yourself a ‘fun allowance’ and withdraw that amount from the ATM each week. Once the cash is gone? It’s soup and library books for you, my friend.

2. Actually understand your job benefits

Back when I was working for other people my understanding of my benefits was exclusively limited to vacation time. 401k matching? What’s that? HSA? Home shopping account? Life insurance? Who caaaaares?

Be ye not so stupid as me, friends. Really, actually read through that huge binder your HR person gives you. Google what you don’t understand. Schedule a meeting with HR to go over anything that’s not clear. It’s estimated that benefits can add as much as 30% value to any job – you might as well understand them and take advantage of them!

3. Put your school loans on autopay

Do you have school loans? (Dur. Yes.) If you put them on autopay you a) don’t have to worry about writing a check once a month b) can save .25%. I realize that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re repaying tens of thousands of dollars, it adds up! And remember, you can deduct student loan interest from your taxes!

4. If you know you can use a credit card wisely, get one with great rewards

If you know you struggle with impulse purchases and you’ve had credit card debt in the past, take a pass on this one. But if you can manage a credit card, getting one with good rewards can make a huuuuuge difference.

I have a Capital One card because it has amazing travel rewards and I put ev.ery.thing on it – I even pay my utilities with it! I pay it off every month and I’ve already received hundreds of dollars worth of rewards this year.

5. Think about ways you can cut spending

I’m a big believer in putting your money where your happy is. If you don’t care about that painfully hip new restaurant, don’t go there. If name brand clothes don’t bring you joy, don’t buy them. If you need a three week beach trip each year, budget accordingly. It’s a lot easier to cut your spending when you know you’re saving for something important and joy-making.

You can find a million good ideas for living a good life on a budget here.

How’s your relationship with money? How do you save + manage it?

P.S. 10 ways to feel rich and How to save up for big ticket items.

10 Comments

Nell

Yeah great tips. I love me some responsible money management. It means I can do irresponsible things like eat ice cream for lunch.

I'd also add that you need to automate your savings. Make it as easy as possible for yourself to put money away. Then you can concentrate on important things like drinking wine and watching the Bachelor.

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Torie Jochims

These are awesome tips. I got a credit card and realized I need to revamp how I look at it – it can get out of control quickly. Now I'm working on paying it off and will ask the bank to lower my credit limit when I get it down far enough. My income situation is about to adjust pretty drastically as well so I will be revamping my budget, so these were good reminders for when I'm doing that 🙂

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Tamber

I've been really trying to work on my budget lately… I got the Capital One card for travel points last month…then a few days ago I decided that, in an effort to make sure I get the most from the card and don't go over budget, I opened a second checking so now I use the card to pay every bill that I can as well as groceries and gas then transfer every penny spent on the card from old checking (where my paychecks go) into new checking. So I have the exact amount I need in the new checking (with no extra) to pay off the card each month. Hopefully that will be helpful when trying not to spend money I don't have.

I'm also going to try to implement the All Fun Money Is Cash Only rule this month. These tips are great!

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iris

Dude. Don't just put your school loans on autopay. Put it all on autopay. And if it's rent to your slumlord landlord, have it get there half a month early so they can never slam you with late fees. Because they really, really want to.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Yes! I know some people are living too close to the proverbial wire to put everything on autopay (they have to shuffle and juggle when they pay things based on when THEY get paid) but once you've got some financial wiggle room, dooooo it!

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Mickey

Finally, someone who says it's ok to use a credit card, as long as you can control your impulses.

We have a mileage credit card that we use for everything and we pay off the balance a week before it's due (absolutely no wiggle room). It earns us one mile per dollar spent and we've been able to take flights halfway across the world without spending much on airfare.

Always, always know and act in your best interest.

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sogugu

Awesome read and very realistic tips! I decided, when I first got a job a month before graduation, that I would save about 30% of my gross pay – which was quite the strain because although I still lived with my mother, we shared most of the bills after my 3 month probation.
However, even when I moved out about a year later, I was able to save just as much, especially because my side hustle was paying me a few times in the month (I never spent this money because I was working on a huge target at the time). Even with rent to pay and food to buy and utility bills and school loans, I am saving and a few steps away from a target I have been dreaming about since 2012 when I got my first job.
What's even better is that I will be visiting Europe at the end of the month for the first time ever and without touching my savings and I may have another part-time job that will allow me to save some more and travel more frequently.

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