This week’s post is a little different from the first three in my five-part series, “Get it Together. You’re an Adult Now.” The past posts focused on organization and getting into a routine. Now that you’re feeling successful with the quick success of organizing your bathroom for the last time and feel confident in your morning and night routines, we’re going to dive into something that can be overwhelming to many people – money.
If you struggle to grow your savings and cut down your debt, these five tips will help you get on track towards a healthier relationship with your money.
How to step off the money struggle bus
1. Understand the power of delayed gratification
Money can’t buy happiness, but many people live like it can. You might feel overwhelmed with student loans, car payments, insurance, house or apartment payments, and all the other bills you need to pay. So, as long as you’re throwing money towards adulting, you might as well get a manicure every two weeks, right? You’ve earned a little short burst of happiness in your life… right?
Often times, we try to find happiness with seemingly small frequent purchases. We think it will make us happy, and it might for a short time. But many times, these habits snowball into more stress later on down the road.
Am I anti-manicure? Not at all! But do I think saving $30-40 every two weeks and putting it in my savings for a bigger life goal is better than having professionally done nails all the time? Sure do!
Delayed gratification means putting short-term bursts of happiness aside for a much greater outcome. You’ve probably heard the recommendation to put your Starbucks or Caribou Coffee habit aside and save that money toward your bigger goals. You can do this with coffee, manicures, highlighting your hair, name brand clothes, and accessories or anything else in your life. The point is to have a bigger goal to reach. This leads to the next step.
2. Create specific financial goals
Goals shouldn’t be “save more. spend less.” In order to envision your greater goal and be motivated to continue to work towards it, you’ll need something better. Believe me. Create specific financial goals.
The one goal I recommend for everyone to make is to have enough money to sustain you for at least three months; six months or more is even better. This is the emergency fund. It’s common not to plan to lose your job or become injured. An extremely scary and difficult situation can be made even more stressful if you don’t have a cushion of funds to get through that time. Even when Mike and I weren’t making much money, we still saved a certain percent in an emergency fund, just in case. But all the things we cut back on or didn’t do was all worth it for peace of mind and security.
Here are some examples of other goals you might make
- “I want to pay off student loans five years early. In order to do this, I need to put in $X more per month to make that happen.”
- “I want to go on a 10-day vacation in Europe. In order to do this, I need to put away $X in savings each week/month.”
- “I want to purchase a new home in this specific price range. I’ll need a downpayment of $X amount to make it happen.”
Some great ways to visualize your goals is to do just that. Print out a photo that represents the goal you have. Put it somewhere you see every day, like your bathroom mirror, your desk, bedside table or kitchen. Or, make a board on Pinterest and pin things that represent your goal.
If you’re married or have a significant other, I strongly recommend bringing them into the conversation. Having shared goals has a huge number of benefits. You’ll be on the same team and can keep each other accountable while working towards your goal.
3. Make a budget
If you don’t have a budget, now is the time to make it happen. Your bank may already have something on their website that can help you create this. One of my favorite online services is mint.com. You can login through your online bank accounts (if you use a variety of banks for different things, this is a great tool to use). I’m sure there are others out there, but I have used mint.com and really like it. Note: I’m not getting paid by Mint to say it, just really like their site.
What I like are the visuals. There are graphs that show the amount of money you’ve spent in each category and how close you are to the top of your budget for the month. If you go over, it turns red and sends a notification so you know to stop spending or to cut back in other areas in order to stick with your plan. Remember, don’t make it rain when you can only afford a drizzle.
The great thing about banking now is it’s very easy to save. Mike and I have set up an auto savings account. Every week I get paid, a certain amount of it automatically gets deposited into our savings account. That way, we don’t get the chance to even look at it – it’s already in savings. This helps us stay accountable to our goals. It also is a nice surprise when we don’t look at the account for awhile!
5. Achieve your goal, celebrate, and continue the cycle
Once you reach your financial goal, save a little bit more so you have a cushion of funds. And then go for your goal! Celebrate – you did it! You’ve done something huge like repaid your student loans, purchased a new car or house, or went on your dream vacation. What an accomplishment!
Now, start saving for the next dream!