Let’s talk about money. It’s hard to talk about. Do you cringe thinking about your financial situation? What kind of pep talk do you have to give yourself to convince yourself to look at your bank account? Money can feel as slippery as an eel. We work hard to earn it. Too hard to be riddled with worry about money. While some people feel confident in their financial situations, I would say a lot of us aren’t. Over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck which makes saving money feel impossible. Financial stress is listed as one of the top stressors in people’s lives. It’s no wonder when debt is as easy as signing your name. However, there is always hope! Our financial situations can be turned around, and fast. With a new year comes new opportunities, so let’s get honest about money and look at five tips to help us with finances!
- Budget. Budgeting for the first time can seem scary because it forces you to face your spending habits, which is hard to do. It also can seem confining and complex. But it is honestly the complete opposite! Budgeting is simple and freeing. At first, it is time consuming, but don’t let that deter you because it is worth it. There are so many free online outlines for budgeting. When organizing your budget, make sure to include a category for fun! When you give yourself the permission to have fun within your budget, spending doesn’t have to come with guilt, and that’s a great feeling! Budgeting is really the first step to evaluating your financial situation and planning for success!
- Know your plan for the future. Learn everything you can about the Thrift Savings Plan. What retirement plan are you currently in? What percentage of your income is going into the TSP? Living paycheck to paycheck is hard enough but imagine a retirement that is uncertain after all the sacrifices made during your lifetime of work. Having a plan for retirement gives you perspective and hope no matter the situation you find yourself in. There are so many options through your TSP, so find one that works for you and your financial goals.
- Use Cash. There is something psychologically different when using cash to pay for something versus a quick swipe from a plastic card. Once you know what your budget is, find categories that will be simple to use cash for and do that. It’s a lot easier to keep track of how much you have left in a category when you can physically see how much money you have left. It’s also great for accountability in areas that you might be more prone to overspend in. If you are using cash for multiple categories, it might be easier to put the cash in separate envelopes to keep it all organized. And make sure to check with your bank, they might cover any ATM fees you accumulate from making withdrawals.
- Don’t open any more credit cards. Remember, credit card companies make more money the more debt we have. Learn about interest and interest rates because that impacts how easy it is to pay off your balance. For the credit cards you do have, don’t be afraid to reduce your credit limit to decrease your chance of accumulating too much debt. It is a preemptive way to manage debt. When planning your budget, throw as much extra towards your credit cards as possible, and make sure to pay over the minimum payment when possible. It will save you money from interest in the long run. Some people use their credit cards for everything to reap the benefits of points and money back. This strategy only works if you pay off the card’s balance at the end of every month. While this is a great way to get the benefits of credit cards, I don’t recommend this strategy unless you are totally debt-free and very confident in your budget.
- Examine your spending habits. Once you realize where all your money is going, it’s easier to find ways to save a buck. Brutal honesty can breathe life into your finances! If your restaurant budget is out of control, come up with a plan to cook more at home. Meal planning and food prep can save so much money! If online shopping is a particular threat to your income, don’t totally cut yourself off. Simply buy yourself a gift card with the set amount you budgeted and only use your gift card throughout the month. Gift cards are more fun to use anyway!
In conclusion, getting hold of your finances can ease the burden that money creates in our lives. Not only can it help month to month, but it can also give us hope for the future. No matter how bad you think your financial situation, starting now to improve your financial foundation will go a long way to a future life without financial stress! I hope you enjoyed these tips, and I’d love to hear your favorite suggestions for paying down debt and building up savings!