How to Take Control of Your Finances
FMoney isn’t important but it does equal freedom. Being financially unburdened is like turning 16 again when you’re finally able to hop in a car and go anywhere. Having security in your finances means options and options are power.
The first rule of money, at least in my eyes, is that you’re not allowed to compare your financial situation to someone else’s. For a long time, this was my fiscal hamartia; I always wanted to compare bank accounts, salaries, allowances, and it ended up hindering me more than it helped. It can become an obsession: wanting to know how everyone is doing everything they’re doing, how they pay for what they pay for — and not in a snooty way, just to use as a precursor of how much I should have/be making/have saved. But I’ve learned that comparison is a thief; it robs you.
The only money that matters is your own and similarly, the only person’s money goals that matter are your own. Do you want to save 1K? 10K? Your money goals should be a reflection of you and your personal lifestyle, not anyone else’s. If you’re ready to take hold of your finances, keep reading for a few tips.
(Photo Credit: NeON BRAND)
Start with realistic goals.
Realistic is the key word; it’s easy to say, “Hey, I want to save $20,000 to put down on a house” but to do it? That’s much trickier. Start small and keep this acronym in mind: SMART. According to Natalie Bacon, financial goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and timely. Maybe your goal is to go one month without shopping for clothes. Or maybe your goal is to save $1,000 just in holiday money for you to spend on gifts. No goal is too small, as long as it’s smart.
Be intentional with your credit.
Credit can really help you but it can also hinder you, too. The golden rule I lived by when I got my first credit card at 21 was passed on to me by my mother: Only use your credit card to pay for gas money and groceries. I never had more than $300 to pay off on my card, so I didn’t dig myself into a hole of debt. The great thing about using credit vs. debit is that credit earns you cash back and points, so if you’re using it correctly, you can really benefit. But, if you’re using it the wrong way, it can end up messing with you later when you have to repair it.
Budget your money.
I’m the worst budgeter because I don’t like hearing that I can’t have something. (Of course I can afford this $10 salad, even if I went over my food budget this month.) But budgeting doesn’t have to be disgustingly strict; it can just be a guide so at the very least, you realize where your money is going. Perhaps if you are shocked about how much moolah is going to one specific place, you might learn to be more intentional with your cash.
Invest in your retirement.
I know, I know — ew. Retirement is SO not something we want to think about when we’re young and beautiful and our skin is still as soft as a baby’s bottom. In the long-term though, investing in your retirement is something that’s really worth it. Plan your 401K; don’t just hope that it’s magically going to come together and take care of itself. Sadly, it won’t. It has to be you who harnesses control over it.