3 money habits to start ASAP

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hi how are ya? did anyone read that in jeffree star’s voice? haha

so i am not a financial expert but i have spent a lot of time learning about and practicing good financial habits for a while now, so i thought i would share my top three tips with you.

obviously money is extremely personal and everyone has different personalities and priorities when it comes to the subject - i feel like i’ve always been meticulous and a little cautious about it. just so you get the full picture and can see where i’m coming from (and hopefully then identify where you’re coming from), i like to save and am more conservative when it comes to risks, but i think you should treat yourself in moderation, too.

lastly, before i jump in.. if the idea of finance makes you nervous, let me break the ice with a fun little confession: i was in DC last year, and when i went to take out my room key to use the elevator, my credit card accidentally slipped out, and you know where this is going it go… it bounced three times and then fell right down the shaft. like something out of a movie. i basically heard it echo down to the bottom (not really).. but it was a moment, let me tell you.

so although finance can be somewhat of a daunting subject, its better to jump in and immerse yourself in your situation. being educated and on top of what your finances look like (and figuring out what you want them to look like!) is the key to success. truly.

3 money habits to start ASAP

1. make YOUR budget and stick to it.

did you think my first tip would be to save? ha i feel like that’s a total given, so i decided to pick another important one.

here’s the thing: budgets sound great and practical but what it comes down to is how well you implement it. you can find a million generic budgets online, but in order to make it stick, you have to customize it so that it’s true to you and reflects your priorities.

so, take an hour or two to sit and really go over your finances: look at how much you are bringing in (whether you use your net or gross income is up to you), and then make a list of everything you’re spending on, from bills, to shopping, to coffees or dinners out. the more detailed you are the more helpful it will be - try differentiating fast food from sit down meals, or make note if that clothing bill was for a wardrobe staple or random shirts you didn’t need. try to use a few months’ worth so you can see a more comprehensive picture.

sometimes when you do this, you will be surprised at how much you spend on eating out or how often spending the minimum to get free shipping adds up - don’t panic, it’s ok. ignorance is not bliss, so just being aware of it is going to make a big difference.

next, use your data to make realistic boundaries (aka your budget) that you can stick to, whether that means cutting your coffee fund in half or setting up auto-transfer so you force yourself to save a higher amount. there are some apps that will create categories and track your spending for you, but i’m usually a pen-and-paper kind of person.

a helpful tip: don’t overkill it. if you force yourself to go from high-spending to the absolute bare minimum, you’re possibly setting yourself up to fail because not everyone can be that extreme. that’s why you have a budget - to allow yourself to get fancy coffees because you know you aren’t going to be buying designer bags all the time. it’s balance.

also, keep in mind that a budget isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. keep tabs on it, and allow your structure to change as your spending priorities and salary changes, too. if you’re a college student, i recommend revisiting your budget every quarter/ semester.

PS - remember, it’s YOUR budget and no one else’s. no need to justify it to others, and no need to stretch yourself to match anyone else’s lifestyle, either. for example, i don’t drink, so i don’t even factor nights out like that into my budget. my friends are super understanding and we do other fun things together. moral of the story: make your budget true to you, not anyone else.

2. ask questions!

if you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten most of your financial advice from your parents, which isn’t a bad thing. but again, because people have different spending habits and priorities, it’s important to expand your horizons and learn from others. i’m still bummed that there were no finance classes offered in high school, so to make up for that, i’ve bought quite a few finance books over the past few years, and immersed myself in them - you truly cannot learn too much. if you don’t know what a credit utilization ratio is, or the difference between a Roth IRA and 401(k), do some research or ask people close to you. there is so much more to money than daily transactions, loans, and bills. the more you know, the better off you will be. get into the habit of looking up acronyms you don’t know, or if you don’t quite understand something on a bill or in a contract, ask. no one likes to sit on hold for twenty minutes, but it’s worth it. and spoiler alert: you will not look dumb; you will look engaged and like you care about your finances, which is a good thing.

also, whenever possible, try to ask the some of people you know about their take on money, too. some people aren’t open to discussing it, but most are willing to talk when you come from an honest, curious (nonjudgemental!) perspective. asking questions has taught me so much about different saving strategies, and getting on the phone every year with my credit card company has helped decrease my interest rate a LOT, which isn’t too impactful because i pay it in full each month. but it makes me feel better and more in control, and practicing those kinds of responsible conversations regarding finances when they stakes are low has helped me feel more comfortable and ready for bigger conversations, too.

3. build an emergency fund.

if it was fiscally responsible for me to do so, i would rent a banner and an airplane and fly across every college campus with this statement flying high. when you get done paying off your rent and bills, the money you have left is NOT just for fun. set aside a percentage (again, you know what is realistic for you) for emergencies because they happen. one day your car will need new tires, or your friend will not be able to pay you back even though they swore they would ASAP. things come up all the time, and it seems like they happen more frequently when you aren’t prepared for it. when i first started out doing this, i set a concrete percentage and set aside that much each month, but as i got more comfortable with the concept, i got a little bit more competitive and now i try to set aside a little more each month when i can.

if you need a little more motivation to build your emergency fund, remember that every single penny adds up.

or think about this: maybe if you aren’t in love with your job so you are spending more freely to “make up for it” during your free time.. think of the emergency fund as a “goodbye” fund where, once you have enough to live on for a few months, you can say sayonara to your crappy job and find one you love. no matter what motivates you - start building your emergency fund and at some point, you’ll thank yourself for it.

what money tips, tricks or hacks do you swear by?

thank you for reading 💛