Unless you're lucky enough to be balling out of control, finances are probably on your mind at least some of the time. A lot of us have debt, and don't feel like we're making enough money, and at the same time we have a lot of expenses and still want to enjoy our lives while we're waiting to get super rich (it happens).
Realistically the best thing we can do is start to improve our finances today, even in small ways, which is not only going to set us up for a better future but also reduce some stress we might not have even known that we had. Here are some easy(ish) ways to improve your finances stat.
13 Set Up An Automatic Transfer To Your Savings Account
If you don't already have a savings account then get on that, since you make a bit of interest from having money in there as opposed to your checking account. There is usually a limit to how many times each year you can transfer money from your savings to checking account, which will help motivate you to keep it there. But you have to put it in there to begin with, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to set up an automatic transfer each month. Then you never have to feel the burn and you won't be tempted to spend the cash, since it just won't be available in your checking account.
12 Double Check Your Bills
Shocker...sometimes we get overcharged for things. It's sort of tedious to check the phone bill, but mistakes do happen and you don't want to give away more cash than you need to. Plus if you get in the habit of checking your bank statements for weird charges, you can not only catch fees you don't owe, but you're more likely to notice if any identity theft is going on. Hopefully it never does, but in the circumstances when it does happen, it's better to catch it right away so you can alert the bank and get the charges reversed.
11 Set Some Goals
If you don't set any goals around money, you might do fine anyway, but it's a lot easier to save when you're actually motivated by something. Of course we have to save money for things like bill paying, but make your life interesting by saving up for something fun as well like a trip. Once you have a goal in place that's actually appealing, it's way easier to decide that you don't actually need a newer version of your blender when your old one is doing just fine. Having a clear vision can keep you accountable.
10 Don't Fall For Retail Tricks
The retail industry is expertly set up to convince you to buy things that you don't need, so get smart and stop doing it. The grocery store is purposefully set up for people to get lost (and therefore see more things that they "need" on their walk), and bulk bargains are usually a trick. Something might be advertised three for five dollars, but not actually be providing any discount versus purchasing the single item. Even the music in stores is often chosen to encourage people to spend more, and try not to look at anything in the checkout aisle, that is there for impulse grabs.
9 Keep Track Of What You Spend
If the concept of writing down everything that you spend each dollar on over a two week period makes you feel uncomfortable, then it's a great sign you should get to it. We've all heard the stats about how much money we waste drinking our delicious Starbucks, but there might be way bigger cash drains that you're not even totally aware of. Think about your TV watching habits, how much you spend at the bar, all the makeup you buy with your Amazon Prime account, and even what you spend taking Uber or cabs. The point isn't to not spend money, but just to prioritize so you don't spend money what you don't have on things that you don't really need.
8 Sell Things You Don't Want
If half of the clothes in your closet are items that you don't have any interest in, start selling those bad boys. Apps like Poshmark are even easier to use than eBay and make listing clothing a piece of cake. It functions like a social media site where other users follow your "closet", and when a sale goes through, they just email you a prepaid postage label. Most people can order free shipping supplies from USPS as well as schedule free pickups, so there's basically no risk involved and hardly any effort besides transferring all that cash into your bank account.
7 Research Things Before You Go To Buy
If you're in the market for a bigger ticket item like a TV or tablet, do your research before you head to the store. A lot of companies will price match to a lower price than they are advertising if you just ask, but to do so, you need to be savvy on the current TV market. The Internet is also a really good place to find honest product reviews, and sometimes you can find way better deals online than in a store anyway. Just do your research before letting a salesman convince you into spending more than you should.
6 Negotiate Your Salary
Yikes, ask for a raise? As weird as the concept is of asking your boss for more money, you might be owed one depending on what type of job you do and how long you've been there (oh, and how good at it you are). It's appropriate to ask for a raise if you've been at a job for a long time, if you have recently changed titles upwardly, or if you recently found out that you are being paid less than your peers for doing the same or comparable job. Just be sure and do your research ahead of time and present the straight facts about why you deserve the money, as opposed to begging for it.
5 Pay Off Your High Interest Debt
Having some debt is not the end of the world, it can actually increase your credit score and of course give you the opportunity to get loans for important things in life. But anything that has a really interest should be paid off as quickly as possible so that you don't just continue digging yourself into a hole. In addition to the added money you have to pay back from interest, late payments can end up costing you more from late fees. Set aside a little extra money each month to get yourself out on stable ground as soon as possible.
4 But You Might Want To Pay Off Your Smaller Bill First
While it's important to go after high interest debt, some research has shown that completely paying off a smaller bill first can give us the confidence and oomph we need to stick with our financial goals. Something about having the task completed reminds us that we're capable of saving money and paying things off. So if you have a $2,000 credit card bill as well as your student loans, keep making the minimum payments on your student loans but then also go above and beyond to wipe out that credit card debt as soon as possible. It's one thing you can check off your to-do list.
3 Use Rewards Cards
If you are actually able to pay off your credit cards each month (super big if), then you might be able to take advantage of some rewards card programs. Credit card rewards can be anything from extra fraud protection to getting points on things that you already buy anyway. Just be sure and read the fine print, and don't take out any new credit cards unless you are capable of paying off the monthly balance so you don't start collecting interest on your bill. Some rewards tack on a yearly fee that is more than a normal credit card, but if they give you bonus points that you actually use it might be worth it.
2 Invest Wisely
If you have money to invest, it's usually best to do it in index funds and other broad market options as opposed to investing in a single spot. The payoffs aren't necessarily as large, but you're less likely to lose money which is very a good thing. Even if you know a lot about the stock market, it's still never completely predictable, so you'll want to invest your money in places that aren't going to keep you up at night worrying. Some funds also have fees associated with them, which is another reason to keep it simple if you're not familiar with investing practices.
1 Plan Your Meals
Food is a strange expense because we have to eat and we really enjoy eating certain things more than other things, but it can also can get very very expensive. You shouldn't skip eating out for fun times, but if you can cook at home most nights you can save a lot of money over ordering in last minute. All this requires is a bit of planning in advance so you can grocery shop for what you need and have it on hand at the end of the day. You'll feel way more guilty deferring to one of those food delivery apps if you have some perfectly good stuff already in the refrigerator.