personal finance

  • Financial Goals to Help Make 2022 Your Best Year Yet

    The Best Financial Goals to Set in 2020

     

    If you read my blog often, you know that my finances have been a top priority for me for several years now. 

    Before I started this journey, I knew almost nothing about money management. Needless to say, there was a huge learning curve. 

    A huge part of this journey has been setting financial goals to create some direction for me. This has been such a game-changer in helping me to take control of my financial life and actually feel ahead instead of just always falling behind!

    Luckily Brandon has been great about jumping on board and setting financial goals with me too. 

    In this post, I’m sharing why you should set financial goals and how to set them, and I’m giving you a list of some great financial goals you can set for 2022!

     

    The Best Financial Goals to Set in 2022

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Why you should set financial goals

    There’s a big difference between wanting to do something and actually doing something. And the difference is almost always setting actionable goals. 

    For many years, I would have told you that paying off debt was a top priority for me. And yet, Brandon and I were making the minimum payment every month on our six figures of debt. 

    So yeah, we said it was a priority for us. But our actions proved that was not really the case. 

    Setting goals is what allows you to stop just dreaming about getting your finances in order and actually start doing it.

    Setting long and short-term financial goals is an absolute game-changer in taking control of your financial life and actually living a life you’re excited about. 

     

    How to set financial goals

    Ok, so we know we need to be setting financial goals. How the heck do we actually do that?

    First, focus on setting SMART financial goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

    First, make sure your goal is specific and measurable. Don’t just say, “I want to save money.” Instead say, “I want to save $5,000 by the end of the year.” Also, make sure the goal has an end date. If you allow yourself to work toward your goal indefinitely, it will take an indefinite amount of time. 

    The most important part of reaching any goal is creating an actionable to-do list to make it happen. Write down every single task you’re going to have to complete to make your goal a reality. 

    For all the deets, check out my free printable goal-setting master plan that gives you all the steps you need to make your goals happen

     

    Financial goals to set for 2022

    Financial goals are so personal to what you want for your life. That being said, I know a lot of people don’t know where to start with setting financial goals. So I’m going to share some specific personal finance goal examples for you. 

     

    Create a budget (and stick to it)

    I know you’re probably rolling your eyes seeing this one at the top of the list, but you knew it would be on here! Creating a budget and actually sticking to it is the one thing that makes everything else on this list possible!

    It is so freaking important to have a plan for your money and to know where it is going every month. That is the difference between being in control of your finances and just being a passive bystander. Trust me, I’ve been the passive bystander and it sucks — plus you’re broke all the damn time. 

    When I first started getting diligent about budgeting, I just used a spreadsheet. It worked great for the first several years and really got me to stick with the practice. 

    Now I use a budget app called You Need a Budget. I can’t praise this tool enough! It’s a very hands-on budgeting tool, and I think it creates a lot more accountability than your traditional budgeting apps. 

    Check out my guide on how to put together and stick to a monthly budget.

     

    Build your emergency fund

    Did you know that nearly one-third of Americans don’t have an emergency fund, and nearly half don’t have enough money to cover a $1,000 emergency?

    As much as I’d like to think I’d never be in that situation, I was exactly that person for years. 

    After my divorce, I could barely afford to pay my bills — actually, I couldn’t afford to pay my bills. So I definitely wasn’t putting money away for a rainy day. 

    And then when things like car repairs would pop up, they’d go on the credit card. And sadly, this is the case for many people. 

    Make 2022 the year that you prioritize an emergency fund! Financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends putting $1,000 in your emergency fund before you prioritize paying off debt. Then, once you’re debt-free, work on putting aside three to six months of living expenses. 

     

    Automate your savings

    You wanna know the single biggest thing that helped me to actually stick with putting money into savings?

    AUTOMATION. 

    For years I would tell myself that I’d take whatever money I had left at the end of the month and put it into savings. And of course, I never had anything left at the end of the money. 

    So what I started doing instead was having an automatic transfer move money from my checking account to my savings account on the day I got paid. 

    It happened on the first of the money, and it was before I ever had a chance to notice the money was in my checking account in the first place. 

    If you’re having trouble putting money into savings, try setting up an automatic transfer so you’re paying your savings account before you use that money for anything else. 

     

    Start a side hustle

    Listen, there are a lot of financial goals in this blog post. And things like paying off debt and saving for the future cost money. 

    I talk a lot on this blog about designing a life you love, and for a lot of people, their dream life isn’t cheap. And that’s okay!

    Rather than feel guilty for wanting expensive things like a house or a wedding or vacations, make a plan to pay for them. Having a side hustle has been the best way I’ve found to do that. 

    After all, you can only make the income you have go so far. Rather than pinching pennies, why not just increase your income?

    My favorite ways to make money on the side have been freelance writing and my blog. I’ve always loved writing, so I don’t mind spending most of my free time doing it. 

    If writing isn’t your thing, no problem! There are literally endless side hustle ideas out there, and I feel like I read about new ones every day!

    Here are a bunch of other ideas for how to make extra money to put toward your financial goals

     

    Make a plan to pay off your debt

    I recently published a blog post about how we made a plan to pay off our six figures of debt

    Plenty of people have huge debt and just make the minimum payments every month. And for a long time, we were those people. 

    Making a plan completely changed the game. Just last year we were on track to have our debt paid off…well, never. Now, as long as we follow our debt pay off plan, we’ll be debt-free in less than seven years. 

    You know what finally pushed me to make an actual plan? I was looking at my credit card bill and it had a chart that showed when my card would be paid off if I made the minimum payment every month. It was like thirty years, and the balance wasn’t even that high! 

    Needless to say, I panicked and immediately started running the numbers to figure out the soonest we could possibly have our debt paid off. 

    If you have a lot of debt and you aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend the tool Undebt.it, which allows you to add each of your debts and come up with a debt snowball to get it paid off sooner. 

     

    Maximize your credit card rewards

    I know there are plenty of finance experts who swear up and down that credit cards are evil and no one should ever use them. And as someone who has credit card debt, I understand where this argument is coming from. 

    But I also completely disagree with it. 

    Now let me preface this by saying that if you know you can’t control your spending with a credit card and you continue to grow your balance, ignore this step and stop using credit cards. 

    But if that’s not a problem for you, then find a way to maximize your credit card rewards. 

    Some cards offer some really awesome rewards. This year for the first time, Brandon and I sat down and came up with a strategy for how we’ll use our credit cards to maximize our rewards.

    We have a few credit card accounts that have different reward structures, and some have bigger wins for certain types of purchases. 

    For anyone who wants to get started with credit card rewards and isn’t sure where to start, I recommend getting one good cash back card and one good travel rewards card. 

    The most important part of this strategy is that you pay your balance off every single month so you’re never paying for interest!

    And as a note, while I do have credit card debt, I never use the credit cards that have debt that I’m still paying off. I only use those that have no balance. This makes accounting a lot easier. 

     

    Save for retirement

    For the first five or so years that I was out of college, I didn’t think much about saving for retirement. It seemed lifetimes away. 

    I was also privileged enough to find a job working for the state, where they automatically withdraw a certain percentage of income for my retirement account and provide a pretty generous match. 

    It wasn’t until I started reading personal finance books that I really started to think about how much money I would actually need for retirement. Would my basic retirement savings be enough?

    Plus, as I prepare to leave my government job to go full-time in my business, I know that saving for retirement will be solely my responsibility — I won’t have an employer pushing it on me. 

    So over the past year, I spent a lot of time educating myself on individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and compound interest. Now I’ll be going into self-employment with a specific plan for saving for retirement. 

    If you haven’t yet started saving for retirement, now’s the time! The first book I read that was a wakeup call for me on this subject was Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach — I seriously recommend it for all women. 

    Even if you’re already saving for retirement, take a few minutes to reevaluate your strategy. How much are you putting away each month, and how much do you expect that to amount to in retirement?

    Are you just putting some into your company’s 401(k), or are you saving in an IRA as well? Are you saving aggressively, or just putting in the bare minimum. 

     

    Read personal finance books

    Reading personal finance books was one of the biggest factors that pushed me on my own personal finance journey. Some of the books I’ve read have honestly been life-changing. 

    I have an entire blog post with some of the best personal finance books out there, but here are my three favorites:

    1. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. This is hands-down my favorite personal finance book. First of all, I love the way Ramit writes and I appreciate his blunt approach to financial advice. In this book, Ramit walks you through a six-week program to figure out what a rich life means for you, how to set up a budget, where to prioritize your money, and how to invest and save for the future. My copy is full of highlighter, margin notes and dog ears and I’ve gone back to it so many times! 

    2. Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. I’ve already mentioned this book, but it’s worth mentioning again. I first heard of David Bach when I was listening to a podcast where he was a guest. He was talking about how most personal finance information is geared toward men, and yet women are the ones who live longer and often spend their last years living in poverty because of the poor financial decisions of the men in their life. It was startling and totally eye-opening. He also talked about the power of compound interest and how, if you start early, it only takes a little every day to set yourself up for retirement. I can’t recommend this book enough! 

    3. You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. I’ve never paid much attention to mindset advice. It always seemed a little too woo-woo for me. I’d always take quantifiable, actionable advice over anything. And then a few things changed. First, I started learning from a life coach who blew my mind. And I read Jen Sincero’s Badass books. What a freaking game-changer. Following the advice in this book has completely changed the way I think about and talk about money. Subsequently, I’ve made exponentially more in my business since reading this book than I’ve ever made before. 

     

    Boost your credit score

    I read a statistic recently that more than half of Americans never check credit their credit score. Like….literally never. 

    Considering your credit score can make the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in interest, that’s a pretty frightening statistic.

    When you take out a loan or any kind of credit, your interest rate is based, in large part, on your credit score. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you’ll get. 

    So when you’re talking a big purchase like a house or a college education, yeah, it can be a difference of tens of thousands of dollars. 

    This is another reason why I don’t agree with people’s advice to avoid credit cards at all costs. Using credit cards properly can really help you to boost your credit score! 

    My credit score took a huge hit when I went into debt after my divorce, and I’ve been focusing big time on getting it back up. Check out my blog post on how to repair your credit score during major life changes.

     

    Create long-term financial goals

    Setting personal finance goals for this year is amazing. But we also need to be thinking a little further in advance. 

    Because here’s the thing — someday you’re going to want to buy a house or have a wedding or do something else that costs a whole lot of money. And if you only set your financial goals for one year at a time, that’s going to be tough. 

    Brandon and I sat down together and talked about what we want the next 3-5 years of our lives to look like. We specifically nailed down the big expenses we anticipate coming up so we can start saving for them now. 

    For example, after we do some traveling for a couple of years, we know we’ll want to come home and buy a house. So instead of waiting until we’re done traveling to start saving for a house downpayment, I’m going to set up a budget goal for it now so we can put a little money in every month. 

    Your goal doesn’t have to be buying a house or planning a wedding. It might be starting a business, going on a killer vacation, or having kids. Whatever you envision your life being five years from now, start saving for it now!

     

    Final Thoughts

    Listen, we can’t do it all. And as much as I would love for all of us to tackle every single thing on this list, we’ve gotta focus on baby steps. 

    At the same time, I promise that if you make a budget and take at least the first step toward the rest of the financial goals on this list, you’re going to be setting yourself up for amazing things in the future. 

    CONTINUE READING

  • How We’re Planning to Pay Off Six Figures of Debt

    How We're Planning to Pay Off Six Figures of Debt

     

    Update: Since writing this piece, Brandon and I have paid off all of our non-student loan debt. While saving for our RV, we were also able to pay off our car loan and credit card debt.

     

    One of the first conversations Brandon and I had when we got engaged was the money talk. 

    We had already talked about finances before, but getting married meant it was 100% necessary that we get in sync and make sure we were on the same page when it came to financial goals. 

    And the biggest financial goal we talked about? Becoming debt-free.

    Brandon and I have a combined six-figures of debt (around $150,000, actually). That debt is mostly in the form of student loans. I also have a car loan and some credit debt that I racked up during a particularly difficult time in my life. 

    If we were to pay the minimum payment on all of our debts every month, we would literally have this debt until we die. And we just weren’t okay with that. 

    2019 was the year we got married – It was also the year that we got serious about tackling debt and made a step-by-step, actionable plan to pay it off.

    In this post, I’m sharing how exactly Brandon and I plan to pay off our six figures of debt – and how you can do it too!

     

    How We’re Planning to Pay Off Six Figures of Debt

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    We figured out exactly how much debt we had

    The very first step we had to take in order to make a plan to pay off our debt was to first figure out how much debt we actually had. 

    Prior to getting married, we had talked about roughly how much we had, but starting this project was the first time we really put it all down in one place. 

    When it came to gathering all of our debt accounts, we used a tool called Undebt.it. This tool allows you to enter all of your debts, including your total balance, interest rate, and minimum monthly payment. It tells you how much debt you have and when you can expect to pay it off if you make the minimum monthly payment on all of your debts. 

    If you have a lot of debt, this date will make you want to cry. I promise you’re not tied to that date though!

    Undebt.it is a great tool for this job because helping you to organize and pay off your debt is literally what it’s made for. I also love it because it syncs with the budgeting app we use, You Need a Budget.

    If you’d rather not use Undebt.it, you can literally just do this step in a spreadsheet. Just have a column for each debt, the total balance, the minimum monthly payment, and the interest rate. 

     

    We took responsibility for our decisions

    Figuring out how much debt we had and taking responsibility for the amount of debt we had were two very different steps. 

    You see, I spent a lot of time being pretty angry about my debt. I was angry that we have a system that resulted in us having six-figures of student loan debt for two bachelor’s degrees. I was angry that my divorce put me in a situation where I had to live off credit cards to get back on my feet. 

    But at the end of the day, those are decisions that I made. 

    I chose to take out student loans rather than go to a two-year college or take a few more years to work before going to college.

    I chose to rack up credit card debt rather than move back home to save money or severely cut costs. 

    So yeah, taking responsibility for our debt decisions was a big step we had to take in actually taking the next step to pay that shit off. 

     

    Refinanced highest interest student loans

    Most of our debt is student loan debt, with a car loan and a bit of credit card debt on top of that. Most of our student loan debts were at a pretty low-interest rate. Unfortunately, there were a couple of private student loans that were at an astronomical interest rate (like, over 14%). 

    Yeah, it was bad. We knew we had to get that fixed ASAP. 

    If you’re shopping for a loan to refinance your student loans, I recommend Credible. You can see rates from more than a dozen different lenders to find the best loan for your situation.

     

    Getting on a budget

    Yep, we’re going to talk about the dreaded “B” word – budget. 

    I’ve had a bit of a rocky history with budgeting. I didn’t really create a budget until I was in my early twenties, but I didn’t really stick with it. 

    Then I got divorced at 27, and suddenly sticking to a budget became 100% necessary. 

    But then Brandon and I met and suddenly had a two-income home. And if I’m being honest, sticking to a budget kind of fell by the wayside. 

    We knew that if we were going to get serious about paying off debt, we weren’t going to do it without a budget. 

    My favorite budgeting tool is the app You Need a Budget (aka YNAB) – that’s an affiliate link, but it will get you a 34-day free trial. Seriously, if there were one financial tool I would recommend to literally everyone, this is it.

    Rather than other budgeting apps that just tell you how much you spent at the end of the money so you can feel bad about yourself, YNAB is a hands-on tool that forces you to be an active participant in your budgeting. 

    Using YNAB has completely changed the way to budget – is it weird if I say I actually enjoy it??

    The other huge perk when it comes to paying off debt is that YNAB syncs with the debt payoff app I mentioned earlier, Undebt.it. 

    One of the most important parts of putting together our budget was that not only have we been able to limit the amount of money we spend on nonessentials, but it’s given us an idea of how much money we can put toward debt every month. 

    If budgeting is still a struggle for you, check out my guide on creating a monthly budget that you’ll actually stick to

     

    We made a plan

    If you had asked me at any point over the past few years, I would have told you that yes, paying off debt was a huge priority for me. And yet, I had no actual plan to pay off my debt and I was making the minimum monthly payments on all of my debts.

    Finally, we realized that if wen wanted to get our debt paid off in our lifetime, we would need to sit down and make a plan. 

    The first step to making a plan was creating our budget and deciding how much money we wanted to put toward debt every month. At this point, we’re allocating $2,000 per month toward debt (that number will go up with side hustle profit and as our incomes increase). 

    Once we knew how much to put toward debt every month, we had to figure out what to do with it. 

    There are two primary strategies to use for paying off debt: the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. 

    The debt snowball is where you pay the minimum monthly payment on all of your debts except for the smallest one. You put all of the extra money you have to put toward debt toward that smallest debt.

    Then, once your smallest debt is paid off, you take all the money you were putting toward that one and start putting it toward your new smallest debt. 

    The benefits of the debt snowball are largely psychological because you’re paying off debts soon it. But it doesn’t actually provide you the most savings, which is why I prefer the debt avalanche. 

    The debt avalanche is where, instead of prioritizing your smallest debt, you prioritize the debt with the highest interest rate. 

    Over the long run, the debt avalanche provides the most savings because you’re eliminating the debts that are earning the most interest. 

    We used Undebt.it to sort our debts in order of highest interest to lowest. The tool shows you when each of your debts will be paid off and how much interest you’ll pay over the life of all of your loans. I love that Undebt.it syncs with YNAB so I don’t have to manually update our accounts each month!

     

    We’ve increased our income

    I get that $2,000 is a lot to put toward debt each month. We’re incredibly lucky that we’re able to afford that much. That’s definitely one of the benefits of a two-income house with no kids. 

    But that $2,000 per month debt payment maxes out our budget, and we have a lot of other financial goals we want to reach before our debt is paid off. 

    In order to reach those other financial goals, we had to bring in income in other ways. 

    Luckily, we both already had a side income. Brandon bartends a couple of nights per week after his full-time job, and I’ve been running my blog for years now. 

    Once we decided to start really going after our debt, I worked really hard to increase my income so that we could still reach our other financial goals – specifically our goal to buy an RV and travel full-time starting later in 2020!

    I completely rebranded my blog, increased my affiliate marketing efforts, and went all-in on freelance writing. 

    Because of putting in so much extra effort last year, I was able to 10x my monthly side hustle income in 2019. A big part of that has been growing my freelance writing business big-time. 

    I’ll be working on increasing my business income even more this year since traveling full-time will require leaving my full-time and running my business full-time. 

     

    We looked for other opportunities to save money

    Even though we’ve worked our debt payoff into our budget and are bringing in side income to pay for our other financial goals, we’re still always on the lookout for other ways to save money. 

    Some of these tactics have been no extra work at all. In fact, some of them have actually saved us work. For example, did you know that some student loan companies will give you a small discount on your interest rate if you set up autopay? 

    We also take advantage of cash rewards on our credit cards. We don’t currently use the cards that we have debt on, but we have two other cards that we use for all of our purchases to get the rewards – one is a cashback card and one is a travel rewards card. We pay them off in full every month. 

    Finally, we use cashback apps to save a few dollars here and there. One of my favorite cashback sites is Rakuten (formerly Ebates), which gives you cashback for shopping at certain retailers. 

    The other cashback app I love is Ibotta, which gives you cash back on select grocery items. I use it for our grocery shopping every week and always find a few dollars in savings. 

     

    We’ll adjust our plan as our income increases

    According to our current debt payoff plan, we will have our $150,000 of debt paid off in about seven years. But in my mind, this is kind of a worst-case scenario plan.

    As our income increases over the next few years (which I fully expect that it will), we will plan to put more money toward paying off our debt. We can also use small windfalls such as tax returns, gifts, and any other bonus money we bring in. 

    It’s impossible to say exactly what our life will look like for the next seven years – I fully expect we’ll go through a lot of changes! We’re going to remain flexible and hope that we can increase our debt payoff above and beyond our current plan. 

     

    We’re striving for balance

    As I mentioned earlier, Brandon and I have other financial goals we want to hit over the next few years. And as much as I’m looking forward to being debt-free, I’m not willing to put the rest of our lives on hold until that happens. 

    For that reason, we’re striving for balance rather than putting every last spare penny we have toward debt. 

    We still go out to eat and buy tickets to concerts (our two favorite hobbies). We’re still putting aside money for other financial goals, and we’re still saving for retirement. 

    I think it’s incredible when I read stories about people who pay off six figures of debt in just a couple of years – those people are rockstars!

    But at the same time, neither Brandon nor I want to sacrifice that much. We might change our minds at some point, but right now our goal is balance. 

     

    Final Thoughts

    Making a plan to pay off our six figures of debt has been an emotional ride. When we would look at the big picture, it would always seem like a completely daunting situation that we’ll never get out of. 

    Breaking it down into small steps and actually putting dates to everything took this incredibly scary number and made it seem so much more manageable. 

    We’re still early in the process and I fully expect it to be an emotional roller coaster, but at this point, we both feel so confident in our plan and excited for the day we are debt-free!

    I’ll continue to share more updates as we go, as well as some of the lessons we’ve learned so that others who are paying off a large amount of debt can learn from our journey.

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Reduce Impulse Buying Once and For All

     

    Confession: I used to be really bad about impulse shopping. 

    In college, I would go to the mall, only to leave a few hundred dollars poorer and with bags of clothing that I would probably only wear a few times. 

    After college, I became an emotional shopper and would resort to spending money instead of dealing with the problems in my life and in my marriage. 

    Thankfully I’ve mostly eliminated my shopping habit, but only after racking up credit card debt. 

    Let’s be honest – we’ve all been guilty of impulse spending at one time in our lives (although probably a lot more just than one).

    In fact, a 2018 study by Slickdeals found that the average American spends an average of $450 per month on impulse spending, which adds up to $5,400 per year. 

    What?? 

    That means that even people who don’t think they do much impulse buying probably do their fair share of it after all. 

    I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot of things I would rather do with $5,400 per year! 

    In this post, I’m sharing 11 things I did to help kick my impulse buying habit, and that I know will work for you too! 

     

    How to Stop Impulse Buying Once and For All

     

    Why Do We Make Impulse Purchases?

     

    You’re in the habit of spending

    A lot of people are quick to swipe their credit cards simply because they’re in the habit of doing so. Once it becomes a habit, it’s really hard to realize how often you’re doing it. 

    There’s no doubt that we live in a society of consumerism, so it’s no surprise that so many people fall into the habit of impulse shopping. 

     

    You’re bored

    Have you ever been bored, so you pull up the website for your favorite store? You swear you’re just going to look, but of course, you end up grabbing a few things. 

    Or maybe you have some time to kill, so you decide to stop at Target. And if you’re anything like me, you can always find something at Target you’re convinced that you need!

     

    You’re emotional

    Yeah, I’ve definitely been guilty of emotional spending. I used to have days where I had a really bad day, and after work drove straight to my favorite store to distract myself from whatever had gone wrong. 

    Emotional spending is a real thing. And it’s not just used to counteract negative emotions either. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we celebrate exciting news by spending money. Often it’s the first thing we think to do!

     

    You have FOMO

    I think we can all relate to this reason for impulse buying. You’ve seen something that everyone else has or that everyone else is doing, and you don’t want to be the only one to miss out. 

     

    You want to save money

    This one seems counterproductive, and it totally is, but it’s also a justification that a lot of us use for impulse spending!

    If you see something you like and it’s on major sale, it’s easy to convince yourself that it would be irresponsible to pass up such an amazing deal.

     

    How to Stop Impulse Spending

     

    Make a Budget and Stick To It

    I talk a lot about budgeting on this site and without a doubt think that everyone should have a budget. But you have to do more than that.

    There’s a big difference between people who have a budget and people who have a budget and stick to it. 

    To be clear, I have definitely been the person who has a budget but does not stick to it! 

    Unfortunately, there’s no secret hack to help you stick to your budget other than discipline. You just have to force yourself to do it. 

    However, the other tips on this list should help as well! 

    Related Articles:

     

    Treat Yourself with Planned Purchases

    You might think this tip is counterproductive since the goal of this article is to help us to spend less money. But I promise this works. 

    You know how super-restrictive diets are almost impossible to stick to because when you restrict yourself too much, you end up overcorrecting the other way. And by that, I mean totally blowing the diet. 

    Well, budgets are pretty much the same. 

    If you restrict yourself too much, you’re going to eventually end up breaking the budget. And you’ll probably go way overboard. 

    But by treating yourself in small ways and building that into your budget, you’re scratching the shopping itch without blowing your budget. 

     

    Focus on Your Financial Goals

    My partner and I love to eat out. If we’re going to blow the budget anywhere, it’s going to be on eating out. 

    The one thing that has been most effective for us to stop impulsively going out to eat several times per week is putting our financial goals front and center. 

    We bought a big whiteboard and hung it in our living area. On it, we wrote our financial goal.

    We also included a budget tracker to show how close we are to our financial goal, and a budget tracker showing how much we have spent eating out that month.

    Every day, we are looking at our financial goal. And every time we impulsively go out to eat, we have to mark it on the board so that we’re hyperaware that we’re choosing to put that money toward eating out instead of our financial goal. 

    And it’s actually worked!

    Figure out a way to put your financial goal front and center so you’re constantly reminded of the opportunity cost of impulse buying. 

    Related Article: 8 Important Habits of Financially Successful Women

     

    Stick to a Waiting Period

    Create a rule for yourself where every time you want to buy something, you have to wait at least one week before pulling the trigger. 

    Chances are, that feeling that you absolutely have to have it will have dissipated during that week. You may not want it at all anymore. 

    If the week passes and you do still feel like you must have it, then it’s time to revisit the budget.

    Can you fit it into your budget for this month, or do you need to set aside money for it for a few months before you can pull the trigger?

     

    Unsubscribe From Email Lists

    For the longest time, I felt like it was super-practical to be on the email list for all of my favorite stores. Then I would know when they were having a sale, and that’s the only time I would let myself shop. 

    But here’s the problem. Stores know that people do this, and so they are always having a sale

    Meaning I was constantly being given opportunities to impulse shop and feel like I was saving money.

    It’s better to unsubscribe from those emails and remove the temptation altogether. If you have a specific item that you want to buy, then you can just set an alert on that one item to be notified when it goes on sale.

    Related Article: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

     

    Unfollow on Social Media

    If you follow many influencers on social media, then you’re probably constantly being marketed to. Seriously, every day some blogger is popping into my Instagram stories or feed to talk about some new beauty product or clothing item that they’re obsessed with and that we all absolutely need to have. 

    It can be a lot. And if I was still an impulse spender, I would probably be spending all of my money on things I don’t need. 

    If you struggle with impulse spending when you hear about new products from bloggers and influencers, then it’s probably time to start unfollowing. 

    At the very least, mute those influencers during specific times of the year (i.e. during the Nordstrom sale – better yet just stay off social media during that week). 

     

    Don’t Shop When You’re Emotional

    I mentioned earlier that emotional shopping is one of the reasons that many of us impulse shop. So the obvious answer, of course, is to just stop emotional spending. 

    Easier said than done, I know. 

    The best thing to do is to make a plan for what you’ll do instead of shopping when you’re emotional. 

    For example, I have found that journaling is one of the best ways to get out of a negative mindset. If I’m having a rough day, I feel so much better after writing it out. 

    So instead of shopping when I’m emotional, I write. 

    Other things you can do instead might include meditating, working out, or talking to a friend or partner. 

    Related Article: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2020

     

    Avoid Using Credit Cards

    If you’re an impulse shopper, you need to avoid credit cards at all costs!

    Credit cards are a super-effective way of being able to impulsively spend money without feeling the hit right away. 

    It’s so easy to pretend it doesn’t really “count” because the money isn’t actually leaving your bank account. 

    If you have ever made this argument to yourself, it’s time to hide your credit cards. Seriously. 

    I used to make this argument to myself a lot, and now I’m paying off the credit card debt from that time in my life.

    Switching to only using a debit card made a huge difference because I was limited as to how much money I could spend, and was forced to prioritize my spending between impulse spending or more important things. 

     

    Shop With a Friend

    Let me preface this one by saying that this is a situation where you really need to know your friends and what influence they have on you. 

    I can confidently say that I’m going to spend less money if I’m shopping with my best friend or my partner. 

    Part of the reason for this is that they don’t spend a lot of money shopping, so I’m more likely to spend less money. 

    Also, they both know me well enough to tell me if I’m going overboard or buying things I don’t really need. 

    Related Article: 38 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

     

    Shop Online for Necessities

    One thing I have found to be really effective for limiting my impulse spending is just to stop going into the stores that tempt me and order things online instead. 

    For example, let’s say I’m out of dry shampoo and need to run into Target to get more. Now I’m in the Target beauty department and can be tempted by everything else in the Target beauty department. 

    But instead, I can buy the same dry shampoo for the same price and get free shipping via the Target or Amazon app, and I’m not putting myself in a situation to be tempted by anything else. 

    Not only am I saving myself the time it takes to drive to Target and back, but I’m also probably saving myself some money. 

     

    Do a No-Spend Month

    So you know how I said most of us are just in the habit of spending, and that’s why we find ourselves making so many impulse purchases?

    I think the best way to get out of that habit is to have a no-spend month. 

    During a no-spend month, you don’t spend money. It’s pretty self-explanatory. This obviously doesn’t apply to necessities such as food, or any toiletries that you might run out of. 

    Most people only think about the benefit of a no-spend month in terms of just that one month. And yes, you’ll definitely save some money that month. 

    But the benefits will last a heck of a lot longer, because you’ll have eliminated the habit of shopping when you’re bored or emotional or having FOMO, and you’ll be less likely to do that kind of spending in the future. 

    Over the course of that month, you’ll have learned to be okay not buying that thing that everyone else is buying. 

    You’ll have found other things to focus on when you’re bored instead of shopping. 

    You’ll have found other ways to deal with negative emotions rather than emotional spending. 

     

    Final Thoughts

    Impulse shopping is obviously a huge problem in our society today. Consumerism is constantly being marketed and advertised to us. 

    But it is possible to get rid of your impulse spending habit. 

    It’s not easy, and it’s not always going to feel great. But I promise it will feel amazing when you are reaching your financial goals because you didn’t spend money on things you didn’t really need! 

    I’ve had my fair share of struggles with impulse and emotional spending, and the tips I shared in this post have helped me immensely. 

    I hope they help you too! 

    CONTINUE READING

  • The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

    The Best Budget Apps to Help Your Manage Your Money

     

    Do you have a monthly budget?

    I was probably in my early to mid-twenties before I created my first monthly budget. It was definitely eye-opening – I honestly had no idea how much money I was spending every month!

    When I first started budgeting, I just used a simple spreadsheet. However, there are so many awesome budget apps out there that can make it so much easier for you to manage your money!

    Using a budgeting app has been such an amazing way for me to keep my spending in check and save for some big financial goals – like paying for a wedding, vacations, and someday a home. 

    In this post, I’m sharing 8 of the best budget apps on the market. Whether you’re looking for a basic free budgeting tool or a more robust budget system, there’s something in here for everyone!

     

    The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Best Budget App for Hands-On Budgeters: You Need a Budget (YNAB)

    As someone who loves hands-on budgeting, You Need a Budget (YNAB) has quickly become my favorite budgeting app that I’ve tried! 

    With YNAB, you sync the app with your bank and credit accounts to track your income and spending. 

    You break up your spending categories. This includes financial goals, which is a feature I love. For example, we have spending goals set up for our wedding and for a trip to Spain we have planned for later this year. 

    The thing that really sets YNAB apart from other budgeting apps is that rather than creating a set-it-and-forget-it budget, this app works on the premise that you only budget the money you have now. 

    For example, each time we get a paycheck, we hop into YNAB and divvy up how we’re planning to spend that money. So we wouldn’t budget for all bills for the money, only those that are due before we get paid again. And rather than budgeting for our food spending for the entire month, we’re only budgeting for our food spending for the next two weeks. 

    It’s definitely a hands-on approach to budgeting. But that’s how I prefer to do my budgeting! Prior to using YNAB, I was using a spreadsheet where I typed in every transaction manually, so this is still less work for me!

    You Need a Budget is a paid subscription, but they do offer a generous free trial.

     

    Related Article: How to Create a Monthly Budget

     

    Best Free Budget App: Mint

    Mint is definitely one of the most – if not the most – well-known budgeting apps out there. Mint is owned by Intuit, which is the same company that owns QuickBooks and TurboTax. 

    Mint works by connecting to your bank and credit accounts, importing and categorizing transactions, and allowing you to set budgets for each spending category. 

    The app is super easy to use. You can add your own categories, recategorize expenses, split expenses into multiple categories, and split ATM transactions into the cash purchases made later on. 

    The budgeting features in Mint are really robust, and they send alerts when you’re approaching or over your budget. 

    I also love that Mint allows you to set financial goals and budget money monthly for those goals. 

    Mint also tracks your net worth by connecting to all of your investment and debt accounts and updates your credit score regularly. 

    And as robust of a budget tool as Mint is, it’s relatively hands-off for those who don’t want to be updating their budget on a daily basis. 

     

    Related Article: 16 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

     

    Best Budget App for Investors: Personal Capital

    Personal Capital is a personal finance app with a primary focus on investing. 

    Personal Capital does allow you to connect to your bank account and monitor spending, but it does not have the robust budgeting features and Mint and YNAB do. 

    Personal Capital is really for those looking for a tool for investment management. You get access to project portfolio values, as well as retirement forecasting to make sure you’re on track for retirement. 

    Personal Capital has many free features. Personal Capital also offers premium features for those look for true investment management. 

     

    Related Article: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2019

     

    Best Budget App for Couples: Honeydue

    If you want to budget with your significant other but don’t share a bank account, then Honeydue is the app for you. 

    Each of you connects the app to your bank account, and you can choose what you want your partner to be able to see (all transactions, account balance, etc.).
    Honeydue then has basic budgeting and spending tracking features where you can budget using the spending from all bank accounts. 

    My favorite feature of Honeydue, and the reason we signed up is that you can divvy up expenses and the app will keep track so you can square up bills. This app makes it so easy for us to split expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, etc. 

    The app has a “pay what you want” function. And yes, you can choose to pay $0.

     

    Related Article: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

     

    Best Budget App for Dave Ramsey Fans: EveryDollar

    If you follow the teachings of Dave Ramsey, then you might enjoy the app EveryDollar, which he created. The premise of EveryDollar is that every dollar gets a job. 

    With this app, you add your monthly income and plan your expenses so that every dollar gets a job. Then throughout the month, you add your transactions and track your spending. 

    The big downside I see with this app is that you can’t connect to a bank account and automatically import transactions unless you join EveryDollar Plus. However, true Dave Ramsey fans might still be on board because signing up for EveryDollar Plus gets you a spot in Finance Peace University, Dave Ramsey’s nine-less class that teaches you to pay off debt, save, and build wealth.

     

    Best Budget App for the Envelope Budgeting: Mvelopes

    The “envelope system” for budgeting has become super popular. The app Mvelopes allows you to digitize that system so you aren’t actually carrying around envelopes of cash. 

    First, you connect Mvelopes to your bank account to track your income and expenses. 

    Then, you split your money into different categories, or “envelopes”. 

    The budgeting features are pretty basic for a paid app, but if you find the envelope system is what works best for you, then the $4 basic plan might be worth it for you. 

    Mvelopes also has two more premium options that include features such as their Learning Center, Debt Center, quarterly coaching, or a monthly call with a Personal Finance Coach. 

     

    Related Article: 8 Important Habits of Financially Successful Women

     

    Best Budget App for New Investors: Acorns

    Acorns isn’t technically a budget app, but I still wanted to include it since it helps users to save! 

    Acorns works by automatically rounding up transactions and investing the change. For example, let’s say you make a purchase for $1.50. Acorns would round the purchase up to $2 and send the extra 50 cents into an investment portfolio diversified with exchange-traded funds. 

    Acorns is a great way to get started with investing for those who want to dip their toes in, but really don’t feel ready to do any hands-on investing. 

    The app is free to join and charges a small fee on your investment earnings.

     

    Related Article: 35+ Legit Ways to Make Extra Money

     

    Best Budget App for Bloggers & Small Business Owners: QuickBooks

    In addition to using an app for my personal budget, I also use QuickBooks Self-Employed to manage my blog income. 

    If you are a blogger or small business owner, you know by now that you should be tracking your business finances separate from your personal income. QuickBooks allows you to do that super easily. 

    QuickBooks connects to my business bank and PayPal accounts so track all business income and expenses. It tracks my revenue and profit for the year and lets me know how much I need to pay in quarterly taxes. 

    One of my favorite parts of QuickBooks is that since it is owned by the same company as TurboTax when tax time comes around I can export all of my business financial information over to TurboTax with just one click of the mouse. It makes things SO easy. 

    QuickBooks is a paid subscription, but you can snag it for 50% off through this link.

     

    Related Article: Tax Tips for Bloggers & How I Manage My Blog Finances

     

    Final Thoughts

    I’ve talked many times before about the importance of maintaining a monthly budget. It has honestly helped turn my financial situation around!

    These budget apps for iPhone and Android are some of the best on the market. And there’s an app for every budget style, whether you prefer a set-it-and-forget-it system or a super hands-on system like I do!

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Repair Your Credit During Major Life Changes

     

    Let’s be honest, credit repair can be a little confusing. And overwhelming. We all know it’s important to have a good credit score, but some of us might not be sure how to improve our poor credit scores, or even why we need to.

    Making things even tougher, going through major life changes can be really hard on your credit score. And let’s be real, your twenties and thirties are full of major life changes!

    If you’re struggling, just know that you’re not alone. I’ve been there too! Luckily there are plenty of resources and credit repair tips out there to help you turn things around.

    In this post, I’m sharing tips for how to repair your credit during major life changes (or really any time)!

     

    How to Repair Your Credit During Major Life Changes

     

    My Credit Journey

    My credit journey has been a bit of a tumultuous one so far. I’ve gone through a lot of major life change in my adult life so far, and major life changes can really take a toll on your credit.

    When I graduated from college, I was where I assume a lot of my peers were around the same age. I had a ton of student loan debt and a relatively low income.

    Things turned around a bit though. Sure, my income was still low (I work in public service, after all). But I got married pretty young and my husband had a good income.

    My credit score had increased pretty steadily since college, and over the next two years, we purchased multiple cars and a house, all of which went onto my credit report.

    And then we got divorced.

    I had to apply for apartments while still having a mortgage on my credit report. I had to refinance my car loan while I had two car loans on my credit report. And I had to take out a credit card to help finance my moving expenses.

    Needless to say, it wasn’t great for my credit score.

    This is around the time I really dove into learning everything I could about personal finance, including how to repair my credit. And over the past two years, I’ve been able to take what I learned and make real progress toward credit repair.

    Related Article: 38 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

     

    How Credit Scores are Calculated

    Credit scores are a mystery to a lot of people. They know they have one, and they know it’s important to have a good credit score. But they aren’t really sure how to improve their credit score, or even how it’s calculated.

    Honestly, I was the same way. Prior to getting divorced, I really didn’t pay much attention to my credit score! I probably checked the number on a semi-regular basis, but I definitely couldn’t have told you what went into it.

    Your credit score is made up of five major components:

    • Payment History: This makes up 35% of your credit score, and shows your history of paying your debt payments.
    • Credit Utilization: This makes up 30% of your credit score, and shows the amount of debt you carry in relation to your credit limit.
    • Length of Credit History: This makes up 15% of your credit score, and shows how long you have had active credit accounts.
    • Types of Credit: This makes up 10% of your credit score, and shows the different types of credit accounts on your credit report.
    • Credit Inquiries: This makes up 10% of your credit score, and shows the number of hard inquiries to your credit report.

    Since there are a number of different factors that all play a role in making up your credit score, make sure you’re paying attention to all five in your own life. They can all make a difference!

    In my own experience, there were some areas I was doing really well. But then there were some areas where I definitely could have been doing better, and those were damaging my credit score. Just having the information made a big difference!

    Related Article: 8 Important Financial Habits of Successful Women

     

    Why Your Credit Score is Important

    I’m pretty sure most of us know that our credit score is important. I know I did, but that’s where my knowledge ended. I didn’t know why it was important. And I know this is something other people struggle with as well!

    Your credit score is incredibly important in determining how likely you are to be able to take out loans in the future, as well as the interest rate you’ll get on those loans. Essentially, it gives the lender an idea of how likely you are to pay them on time every month.

    Your credit score also helps landlords determine whether to rent an apartment to you and whether you’ll be likely to actually pay your rent every month.
    Basically, if you ever see yourself wanting to rent an apartment, buy a car or house, take out a business loan, etc., your credit score is seriously important!

    And when you’re going through major life changes, it’s pretty likely you’re going to need to do some of those things. When it came to my divorce, I was applying for an apartment, refinancing my car loan, and taking out a new credit card all at once. And it definitely took a toll on my credit. And had my credit score not been in decent shape before then, I wouldn’t have been able to do all of those things.

     

    How to Increase Your Credit Score

     

    Check Your Credit Report

    The three credit bureaus are required to provide you with a free credit report annually if you request one. And these days there are so many apps and websites that allow you to check your credit report at the drop of a hat.

    Knowledge is power, and the most important first step in repairing your credit is knowing exactly what is on your credit report.

     

    Pay Your Bills on Time

    Since your payment history is the most significant factor making up your credit history, it’s essential that you have a clean payment history. This means making every single payment on time every single month.

    Keep in mind that late payments stay on your report for seven years, so your credit score isn’t going to be magically fixed right away. But it will prevent your credit score from getting even worse.

    The better your record of paying your bills on time, the better your credit score will be.

     

    Pay Off Debt to Keep Your Credit Utilization Low

    Your credit utilization ratio is another important factor in determining your credit score. Because of that, try to pay down some of your debt quickly so you are using a smaller percentage of your available credit.

    Less than 30% is considered ideal for a credit utilization ratio. So if you can get it below that number, then you’re in good shape!

    Related Article: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

     

    Stop Applying for New Credit

    Hard inquiries are a hit on your credit report. And while it might seem like applying for new credit would be helpful because you may improve your credit utilization ratio, it’s also counterproductive because you’re just putting the negative hit somewhere else.

    At this point in the process, it’s better to focus on making your payments on time and paying off as much debt as you can.

     

    Check Your Report for Errors

    When you check your credit report, make sure to be thorough about checking for errors. Mistakes can slip through, especially if you have a number of negative marks on your report and might not notice one extra one. However, you’d be surprised how many people are denied loans for homes and cars due to errors on their credit report!

    Late payments and derogatory marks can stay on your report for seven years, so it’s definitely better to fix it as soon as possible than to just let it fall off on its own.

     

    How Long Does it Take to Repair Your Credit?

    The number one question I heard from people, outside of what they need to do to repair their credit, is how long it’s going to take. I definitely understand wanting to move the process along, because a bad credit score can really hold you back!

    Unfortunately, you have to give it some time. Negative information stays on your credit report for seven years, meaning your credit score can’t fully recover until that information is gone.

    The good news is there are things you can do to change your credit without, even as some negative marks remain on your credit report. And by following all of the credit repair tips above, it’s definitely possible to start turning your credit score around within a year!

    Related Articles: How to Create a Monthly Budget

     

    Final Thoughts

    Major life changes can take a serious toll on your credit score. And going through the process of repairing your credit can definitely be daunting, but just know there are credit repair tips, resources, and people who can help. By really prioritizing your finances, you’ll see that credit score start to move in the right direction!

    CONTINUE READING

  • 38 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

    Personal Finance Tips to Help Your Manage Your Money

     

    I think we can all agree that money management can be pretty overwhelming, and the learning curve seems pretty steep at times.

    There was a time in my mid-twenties when I really felt like I had gotten my money shit together and my financial future didn’t seem all that scary.

    And then I got divorced at 27. My ex-husband was the breadwinner in our marriage, so my lifestyle changed pretty drastically. And I was basically starting over financially.  

    And suddenly I no longer felt like I had my money shit together.

    Determined not to let my situation keep me down, I threw myself into learning all the personal finance tips I could.

    In this post, I’m sharing 38 personal finance tips I learned to help me master my money, and that can help you master yours as well!

     

    Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Create a Budget

    When it comes to personal finance tips, creating a monthly budget is pretty much Money 101. I think it’s something that way too many people put off because it seems either overwhelming or unnecessary, but it’s actually neither!

    Make a list of your monthly income and expenses and create a budget for yourself based on your financial goals. Be realistic with your budget, and be sure to update throughout the month to make sure you’re staying on track!

    Creating a monthly budget is essential, even for those who aren’t struggling financially. I remember when I created my first budget in my early twenties, I thought I was doing pretty well. We made a decent amount of money and never felt like we were running out.

    And then we did our budget and realized we had been spending $1,000 every month eating out. $1,000 freaking dollars!

    Had we not created a budget, we would have continued to waste an awful lot of money on an unnecessary expense.

    Next Steps: How to Create a Monthly Budget (Even if You Hate Budgeting)

     

    Use the 50/20/30 Budget Method

    Many people struggle with creating a monthly budget because they just aren’t sure what portion of their income they should be devoted to each part of their budget.

    The 50/20/30 budget helps to take some of the guesswork out of budgeting by creating a basic guideline. It looks like this:

    • 50% of your budget should go toward non-discretionary spendings like housing, utilities, transportation, and food.
    • 20% of your budget should go into savings
    • 30% of your budget should go toward discretionary spendings such as entertainment, vacations, and shopping.

    Depending on your salary and where you live (since this will affect your housing costs), this budget may or may not work for you. But at the very least it gives a general framework for how to break down your budget.

     

    Set Financial Goals

     

    It’s important to have financial goals for yourself! Setting financial goals helps you to determine where you should be prioritizing your money every month.

    Some financial goals might include paying off debt, saving for a vacation, or putting away money for a downpayment on a house.

    Even if you aren’t saving for anything in particular right now, your financial goal can be getting to a certain amount in your emergency fund – 3-6 months worth of expenses is recommended!

    Once you have your goals laid out, you can create a line item in your budget for those accounts to be sure you’re consistently putting away money.

     

    Know Your Net Worth

    Most people pay attention to what they can see: the money coming into their bank every month, and the money going out. But that’s a really short-sighted way to look at your finances.

    While those things are important to pay attention to, you should also know your net worth!

    Your net worth looks like this:

    Net Worth = Assets (what you own) – Liabilities (what you owe)

    Assets would include:

    • Money
    • Investments
    • Real Estate
    • Vehicles
    • Anything else of value that you own

    Liabilities would include:

    • Student loan debt
    • Mortgage
    • Credit card debt
    • Auto loans
    • Any other money you owe

    Unfortunately, thanks to student loans, most adults leave college with a negative net worth. Start keeping an eye on this as early as possible and always be working to increase your net worth.

     

    Check Your Finances Regularly

    Prior to my divorce and starting over financially, I rarely check in on my finances. I had never had a month where I didn’t enough to pay the bills, and I just assumed that would always be the case.

    Then, once I was on my own financially and starting from scratch, I really wasn’t in the habit of checking my finances regularly and wasn’t really aware of what my own financial habits were.

    It was definitely an eye-opening experience to realize how much money I was spending every month without realizing it!

    Since then I’ve made it a habit to check my finances very regularly. I open my budget app at least once every single day. I’m always aware of where my money is going. 

    Sure, there are still months where we go over budget. But it’s always a conscious decision and we’ve made a plan to make up for it.

    Here are my favorite budget apps for checking in with your finances.

     

    Start Reading Personal Finance Books

    When I was ready to get serious about turning my financial situation around, I really threw myself into reading a lot of personal finance books. The books I read covered a variety of personal finance advice, from money mindset to budgeting to getting started with investing.

    Some of my favorites included You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

    Next Steps: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2019

     

    Read Personal Finance Blogs

    There are so many amazing personal finance blogs out there and if you aren’t following them, you’re really missing out!

    In fact, reading about other people’s financial journeys and progress is part of what helped to inspire me so much on my own financial journey.

    The best part is there are different blogs out there no matter what your financial goals are and where in your life you are.

    If you’re a single millennial woman trying to get ahead of the financial curve, there are financial blogs for you.

    If you’re a mother trying to save for the future while paying for kiddos, there are financial blogs for you.

    If you’re ready to sell all your stuff and travel the world, there are financial blogs for you.

     

    Check Your Credit Report

    Your credit score is incredibly important to your long-term financial success. Your credit score represents your creditworthiness, meaning it will help lenders choose whether you’re a good candidate for borrowing money for large investments in the future.

    Your credit score can make a huge difference in the interest rate you’re offered when taking out a loan for a purchase such as a home or a car. A good credit score might save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan!

    Be sure to check your credit report regularly. There’s no need to pay for a credit check – apps like Credit Karma allow you to check your credit report for free at any time.

    This will allow you to make sure you’re maintaining a healthy credit score, as well as ensure there aren’t any errors or fraud on your credit report that might be hurting your score.

    I also love that apps like Credit Karma will proactively alert you if there have been any changes to your credit report, both good and bad.

     

    Use Online Budgeting Tools

    Since most of our lives exist online these days, it makes sense to take your budgeting online as well. You can connect your bank and credit accounts to a third-party aggregator that tracks your finances for you. Some of the tools available include Mint, You Need a Budget, and Personal Capital.

    These budgeting tools make it super easy to stay on top of your finances because they track everything for you. You can set spending goals for yourself, and the tools can let you know if you’re going over budget.

    If an online budgeting tool isn’t for you, you can put together a budget spreadsheet to track your finances. For several years, I just kept a budgeting spreadsheet in Google Drive, and that was how I tracked my budget all month!

    I’ve found that my favorite budget tools are those that have a hands-on approach like You Need a Budget or a budget spreadsheet.

    Tools like Mint can be helpful, but they really don’t force you to stay on top of your budget in the same way that other tools do.

    Next Steps: The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

     

    Build an Emergency Fund

    You’ve probably read the statistic that fewer than 50% of American households don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency. It’s a pretty frightening statistic!

    It might be tempting to put all of your savings toward more exciting financial goals such as saving for a home or a vacation, but the emergency fund is even more important.

    While you may feel financially secure right now, you just never know what is going to happen in the future, whether it be a medical emergency or being laid off from a job.

    The recommended emergency fund should have 3-6 months worth of expenses. However, Dave Ramsey recommends creating an emergency fund of $1,000 and then turning your attention to debt repayment, before going after the 3-6 month emergency fund. 

     

    Pay Yourself First

    There are many people who wait to see how much money they have in the bank at the end of the month, and then decide if they are able to throw a little in savings.

    The problem here is that there might be a lot of months where you aren’t putting any money in savings at all.

    Instead of just saving what you have left at the end of the month, start budgeting the money you’ll save, and make that your first payment after you get paid.

    I have an automatic transfer from my checking account to my savings account the day after I get paid every single month, and I never have to stress about whether I’m putting money into savings – it’s automatic!

     

    Reduce Variable Expenses

    Your monthly spending can be broken up into two categories: fixed expenses and variable expenses. Your fixed expenses are those that are the same every month, such as rent or mortgage, loan payments, insurance, and more. Your variable expenses are those that change month to month. Those expenses include food, shopping, and entertainment.

    Variable expenses are easier to reduce. Look at how much you’re spending now on those expenses, and see where you might be able to make cuts. I remember being taken aback when I realized just how much I was spending on eating out, and it was an easy category to cut back on!

     

    Choose Your Priorities

    My theory is that everyone should pick one or two spending categories that are a big priority for you and you’re willing to splurge on, and then decrease spending everywhere else.

    For example, my significant other and I love to go out for food and drinks, and we love to go see live music. And often the two go hand in hand. Because of that, those are the areas where we spend the most money.

    However, I buy all of my makeup from the drugstore, and I only buy new makeup when I’m out. Similarly, we only buy new clothing when something needs to be replaced.

    Overall, we hardly ever shop. And because of that, we’re comfortable increasing our budgets a bit for the areas where we do like to spend a little more money.

    This is going to look very different for everyone.

    For example, I know some people who really love fashion. They’re budgeting money for new clothes every single month because that is what is most important to them.

    And where we spend quite a bit of money eating and drinking out, I know people who might only eat out once per month. And they’re perfectly happy with that because eating out isn’t a big deal for them.

     

    Create a Vision Board

    You might not see a connection between your finances and a vision board. But I promise there is one!

    My significant other and I have some big financial goals over the next few years, and I was having a hard time staying motivated to cut spending.

    It turned out that a vision board was exactly when I needed. When I can literally look at our goals, it’s a lot easy to push myself to keep working toward them!

     

    Use a Meal Plan

    Food is one of the biggest monthly expenses for many families. Meal planning can help you save a lot of money on groceries, as well as cut down on wasting food. Meal planning can help you avoid those nights where you aren’t sure what to make for dinner, so you resort to eating out.

    If you’re new to meal planning or are struggling to stick with it, you need to check out $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a meal plan and grocery list every single month. The meals are affordable and easy to make!

     

    Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses

    How many monthly payments are you making that could be lowered, or cut altogether?

    Start by considering which expenses you can completely cut. This might include cutting cable in favor of a cheaper alternative or cutting monthly subscriptions or gym memberships you aren’t really using.

    Once you’ve cut where you can, look at which expenses you can reduce. Can you find a cheaper phone plan? Are you overinsuring any of your vehicles and could lower your payment by reducing your coverage a bit?

    Making quite a few small changes can go a long way in your monthly budget!

     

    Use Coupons

    Make it a habit to use coupons when you shop, whether you’re shopping in the store or online.

    Services like Ebates and Honey can help you to get good deals when shopping online. And coupon apps like Ibotta can help you get cash back on the purchases you make in stores.

     

    Diversify Your Income

    These days, whether you’re working on paying off debt or are saving for future expenses, it seems like everyone needs a side hustle! If you’re in a full-time where you can’t increase your income right now, picking up a side hustle is a great way to bring in some extra money and diversify your income!

    My favorite ways to diversify my income have been my starting my blog and my Etsy shop, but I’ve also diversified even more by picking up freelance writing gigs.

    Next Steps:

     

    Ask For a Raise

    Instead of increasing your income by starting a side hustle, you could also increase your income by asking for a raise. However, when you approach your boss about this, don’t make it about you wanting more money!

    Make sure to demonstrate to your boss the value that you have brought to the company, and will continue to bring to the company.

     

    Change Careers

    This might seem like drastic advice, but it’s really not when you think about. Staying in a low-paying career for your entire working life will cost you an incredible amount of money over the course of your life.

    For example, I currently work in a government job. Yes, it’s sometimes personally fulfilling and the benefits are great. But government jobs aren’t exactly notorious for their great pay, and I’m very conscious of that as I create my career goals for the next five years.

     

    Make Money While You Watch TV

    Most of us spend a LOT of time watching TV. And let’s be honest, that isn’t the most productive use of time. I tend to get a bit bored and antsy when I watch TV, so years ago I discovered a great way to have something else to keep me busy while I watch TV that also allows me to make some extra money: online surveys!

    There are lots of companies out there who will pay you to take market research surveys online. They’re free and easy to join and use. You aren’t going to get rich this way, but you can definitely make $100+ per month! My favorite survey company is Survey Junkie!

     

    Learn to Say No

    When someone invites you to join them in a fun activity or going out to dinner, it can be tough to say no, whether it be because of FOMO or just because you feel bad saying no.

    This can lead to a lot of unnecessary spending though!

    I’ve created a rule for myself that I only spend money to spend time with people who I really enjoy spending time with. Sure, I’ll spend money to grab lunch with a good friend or have a night out with my best friend.

    But I’m not going to spend money to grab lunch with a coworker or acquaintance I’m not interested in spending more time with just because I feel bad saying no.

     

    Focus on Getting Out of Debt

    Most of us are carrying some sort of debt, whether it be student loans, credit cards, car loans, or other personal debt.

    Not only does debt cost you a lot of money in the long run because of interest payments, but it also takes a pretty significant emotional toll. Finances are a huge source of stress for most people, and one of the leading causes of divorce!

    If you’re carrying debt, paying that off should be your #1 financial goal right now. Figure out how you can cut expenses elsewhere, and put as much money as you can every month toward paying off debt.

    You can use Dave Ramsey’s snowball method, in which you pay off your debts smallest to largest, snowballing your monthly payments until you’re putting all of that money toward your largest debt.

    You can also use the debt avalanche method, where you put extra money toward the debt with the highest interest rate to get that one paid off first.

    The debt avalanche method probably saves you a bit more money in the long-run, but the snowball method gives you small wins along the way as you get your smaller debts paid off.

     

    Avoid Credit Card Interest

    There are plenty of people, including financial expert Dave Ramsey, who advise that you should never use a credit card.

    And while I certainly don’t agree with such a broad generalization, it’s definitely important to proceed with caution when it comes to credit cards.

    There are some credit cards that have some really great rewards programs. If you travel regularly and use travel rewards, you know how amazing those credit card rewards can be!

    However, credit card rewards are only beneficial if you’re paying your credit card off monthly and avoiding paying interest. Credit card interest is a huge waste of money!

    While some people are able to have a credit card and consistently only spend what they have in their bank account every month, other people tend to overspend and eventually aren’t able to pay off the balance every month. It’s really about knowing your financial habits.

     

    Start Saving for Retirement

    It might seem silly to be talking about retirement when it feels SO far away. And if you’re a millennial, it might feel as if you’ll never be able to retire anyway. But it IS possible, and NOW is really the time to start.

    If you have an employer-sponsored 401k plan, that’s a great place to start. Bonus points if your employer will match any of your contributions! Even that probably isn’t enough, though. There are plenty of ways to diversify your retirement savings whether it be a 401k, IRA, or long-term investments.

    Unfortunately, our generation may not have social security to rely on, so it’s important to take things into our own hands.

    Next Steps: 8 Habits of Financially Successful Women

     

    Maximize Your Employment Benefits

    If your employer offers benefits like a 401(k) plan and is willing to match your contribution up to a certain amount, make sure to max out that benefit. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the table.

    Not only does this benefit you in the long-run, but it also benefits you in the short term by reducing your tax burden for the year, as the money for your 401(k) comes out pre-tax.

     

    Avoid Impulse Spending

    I used to be terrible when it came to impulse purchases. Like, really terrible.

    In college, I would go to the mall and if I saw a piece of clothing I liked, I would buy it. And a lot of those pieces would sit in my closet, never to be worn.

    Now I keep a pretty minimalist wardrobe, so I’m almost never tempted to buy clothing!

    However, I have had other spending temptations to deal with.

    When I bought a house, it was home decor items. And I love to read, so I’ve struggled with impulsively buying books in the past.

    Recently, however, I’ve made a rule for myself that I don’t buy anything on impulse. If there’s something I want to buy, I add it to my Amazon shopping list. Then, if I find myself continuing to think about it and decide I really need to have it, I can always go back and purchase it later.

    If you’re someone who struggles with impulse spending, set a rule for yourself where you have to think about every purchase for 24 hours before pulling the trigger!

     

    Use Windfalls Wisely

    When I was in college, tax season was the best because it meant I was going to get a tax return that could be put toward a vacation or some other fun purchase.

    Now that some time has passed, I see how much more wisely I could have spent that money!

    Yes, it’s tempting to find something exciting to do with those small windfalls like tax returns or work bonuses. But they are much better spent going toward paying off debts or building an emergency fund.

    And once your debt is paid off and you have a solid emergency fund, you can put them toward a financial goal like a house or retirement.

     

    Unsubscribe from Sales Emails

    You wouldn’t think this would make any noticeable difference, but it really does! If you unsubscribe from sales emails, you won’t be tempted the next time your favorite clothing store is having a big sale.

     

    Save for the Holidays All Year Long

    Most people drop quite a big of money during the holidays but don’t prepare for it ahead of time. In fact, I see a lot of people put all of their holiday expenses on a credit card, and then pay interest on it for the next six months while they try to pay it off.

    What if instead you put a little money away every month, and then by the time the holidays arrived, you had enough money in the bank to cover everything?

    The first year I did this, I couldn’t believe how much less stressed I was when Christmas shopping rolled around!

     

    Sell Unwanted Items

    You probably have a lot of time sitting in your house that you aren’t using. Well, you could make money from those items! Just because you don’t want them anymore doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be valuable to someone else.

    I’ve had luck selling my clothing to consignment shops and selling household items on the Facebook marketplace.

     

    Ask For an Increase in Your Credit Limit

    Your credit utilization, or the amount of credit you’re using compared to your credit limit, is a big part of determining your credit score.

    By asking for an increase in your credit, you can decrease your credit utilization and probably increase your credit score.

    Most people only think to ask for an increase in their credit limit when they need that extra credit to buy something, but that’s the wrong time to make the ask!

     

    Don’t Close Old Credit Cards

    Like your credit utilization score, the length of your credit history also determines your credit score. The longer your good credit history, the higher your credit score.

    This means that even if you aren’t using those credit cards any longer, you don’t want to close the accounts. By closing those accounts, you’re erasing years of credit history!

    The only exception to this rule would be credit cards you aren’t using anymore that have a high annual fee.

     

    Communicate About Finances

    As I mentioned earlier, financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce.

    And it really does make sense. Money is a huge part of every single day of our lives. So if you aren’t communicating about money, you probably have some pretty large communication issues in general.

    Remember that you are a team! My significant other any I talk about money all the time, whether it’s just checking in on how we’re doing for the money or we’re making a plan to reach one of our financial goals.

     

    Get the Right Insurance Coverage

    Insurance requires an up-front cost before you see any return on your investment. Because of that, it may be tempting to cut corners in this area. Don’t do it!

    Figure out what insurance coverages you need to have in place, and get them in place. Insurance coverage might include: rental or home insurance, medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and life insurance (just to name a few).

     

    Avoid Bad Debt

    First of all, let me just say that in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to go into any debt at all. But let’s be real, most of us had to take out loans for college, and most of us aren’t paying for our house in cash!

    Since debt is a part of our society, at the very least we can work to avoid the bad debt.

     

    Bad Debt

    Bad debt is any debt that does not have a return on the investment.

    One example of bad debt would be car loans. Many of us take out loans to buy a vehicle, mostly because we want to buy something that is going to last a long time. But remember that cars lose so much of their value as soon as you drive them off the lot. So if you borrow a ton of money so you can get a fancy car, you aren’t getting that money back.

    Another example of bad debt is personal loans. There are some situations where a personal loan might be your best option, but I also see many people taking out personal loans for terrible reasons, like to pay for weddings, vacations, and other unnecessary purchases.

     

    Good Debt

    Good debt is the kind where you’ll get a return on your investment.

    For example, a business loan might be good debt. You need a little help to get it started, but you know you’re going to make that money back and then some.

    Student loans are also seen as good debt since you’re using your degree to (hopefully) land a good-paying job. Although more and more people are finding out that their college investment isn’t exactly paying off!

    Finally, real estate is a good debt. Unlike cars, real estate continues to increase in value, meaning you’ll get your money back and then some when you sell.

     

    Don’t Increase Your Lifestyle Costs When Your Salary Increases

    If you get a raise, that’s awesome! But don’t also your monthly costs to make up for it.

    Many people start upgrading everything from their car to their house to their wardrobe when they get a big raise.

    However, just imagine how well prepared you would be for the future if you kept your lifestyle the same each time you got a raise?

     

    Ask for a Lower Interest Rate

    It seems simple, but it really works sometimes! Sometimes your lender might be willing to lower your interest rate for a variety of reasons.

    For example, I had been paying my student loan payment every month for literally years. And then one day I asked about a lower interest rate, and they said they could lower it half a percent if I set up automatic payments instead of making the payment manually every month.

    Such an easy change to make, and it’s going to save me money over the life of my student loans!

    The worst that can happen is they say no, so it never hurts to ask!

     

    Final Thoughts

    Dealing with money and budgeting can seem so overwhelming. I know I felt like there was a huge learning curve when I started getting serious about my finances.

    By tackling the basics, you’re setting yourself up for success and can move onto more advanced personal finances when you feel ready. As with anything else, it’s important to go at your own pace.

    These 38 personal finance tips are a great place to start if you’re ready to get your financial life in order!

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  • The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2022

    The Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2020

     

    I love to read, so it’s no surprise that when I was finally ready to tackle my finances, I turned to books to help me.

    These days most of us have some serious personal finance goals that we’re trying to meet. More of us are graduating from college loaded with debt, and just the idea of homeownership seems out of reach, not to mention retiring someday.

    No book can change your life – you have to do that. But you might find the right book that can give you the information and motivation to change your life for yourself. The books on this list did that for me!

    In this post, I’m sharing the 7 best personal finance books to read in 2022 if you’re ready to transform your finances.

     

    The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2022

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

     

    I loved Jen Sincero’s book You Are a Badass, and this follow-up book on money mindset definitely doesn’t disappoint either.

    In this book, Sincero shares her personal money journey. She talks about overcoming her bad money habits and her negative money mindset.

    This pulled me in right away because so many of the negative thoughts about money that Sincero said had held her back are thoughts I have had about money too.

    I love that she wrote the book from her own personal experience, and I genuinely think everyone can find something in this book that really hits home with them, from identifying the money beliefs that are holding you back to transforming your relationship with money.

    Finally, I just love Sincero’s writing style and sense of humor, which made it really easy to read.

     

    Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry

     

    One of my biggest complaints about personal finance tips and books about money that I’ve read before is that they really aren’t written for a millennial audience. And thanks to student loans and the financial climate we’ve started our careers in, millennials really face different financial challenges than previous generations.

    If you’ve run into the same problem, then this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

    In this book, author Erin Lowry dives into real-life issues that millennials are facing when it comes to money. Some of the topics include student loans (obviously!) and addressing whether we millennials will EVER be able to retire.

    She also dives into some of the more personal issues surrounding money such as millennials moving back in with their parents, and the topic of money in friendships and romantic relationships.

    This is definitely the most relatable personal finance book for millennials that I have read.

     

    Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

     

    I first discovered this book by David Bach when I listened to him being interviewed on a podcast. He was talking about the unique financial needs that women have as a result of the pay gap, our longer life expectancies, and the fact that men have traditionally controlled family finances.

    It was so eye-opening for me and I bought Smart Women Finish Rich right away.

    In this book, the author all of the financial steps that women should take at various parts of life to prepare for the future. He walks you through advice for saving for short-term and long-term goals, as well as ensuring you’re able to retire someday.

     

    Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez

     

    This book is very different from Dave Ramsey’s book in that it’s not about giving you a step by step plan for your finances. Instead, it’s about figuring out your relationship with money and creating financial goals based on your personal values.

    The big takeaway from the book is the question, “How much money are you willing to trade your life for?”.

    The authors of the book really emphasis that making money is what you need to build a life that makes you happy. So why would you do something that makes you unhappy in order to earn more money?

    And if you decide you’re willing to earn less money to achieve true happiness and earn back more of your time, then this book can help you create spending habits that align with your new budget.

     

    I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

     

    This book by Ramit Sethi is one of the more big-picture books on saving money and budgeting. This book is super comprehensive and would be a great starting point for personal finance beginners.

    In the book, Sethi covers four major pillars of personal finance: banking, budgeting, investing, and saving.

    I love this book because so much of the advice he shares are tips that you can literally do today. As I was reading it, I found myself taking lots of notes and taking immediate action on some of the items. 

    It’s also very comprehensive, so you’ll be able to use this book for many areas of your life for years.

     

     

    The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko

     

    I love this book because rather than telling you what you should be doing with your finances, the authors share the seven common traits they find across most (or all) millionaires.

    They basically figure that if you want to be a millionaire, why not learn from people who have already done it?

    One of the big takeaways for me is that becoming a millionaire isn’t about finding a job that pays you a ton of money, it’s about properly managing the money you do make.

    Here’s a spoiler for you: millionaires get that way by being frugal!

     

    The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

     

    I talk so much about automating parts of your life that I just had to include this book by David Bach.

    This book is incredibly relatable because it focuses on an average, middle-class couple who are doing amazing financially because of the systems they have in place regarding their money. They own two mortgage-free homes, put their kids through college, and retired at 55 with more than $1 million in the bank – all with a joint income that never exceeded $55,000. Is that aspirational or what??

    Bach argues that it’s not through budgeting that someone becomes a millionaire, but through automatic saving and investing.

     

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    There are so many more personal finance books I could recommend to you, but these seven are an amazing starting point. They cover the basics of personal finance from mindset to practical steps you can take today.

    If you have any personal finance books that you love, leave them in the comments so we can check them out!

    Looking for additional personal finance content? Be sure to check out my post on the best personal finance blogs for women.

     

     

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