Personal finance is like exercise: We only pay attention to it when we feel as though we’re lagging behind. However, like working out, staying ahead is what’s going to leave us with a sense of security and accomplishment, but getting to that point can be a tough road.
It’s no secret that our finances are going to be the instrument that dictates a lot of the decisions and choices we can make, which begs the question: Why do we ignore what’s good for us until it’s sitting right in front of our face?
However, contrary to popular myths, managing your finances doesn’t have to be a painstaking process. All it takes is a little bit of the right mentality and being mindful of habits. Check it out below:
Do: Start a Savings Plan
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to start honing in on your finances is strategizing a savings plan. This includes establishing short and long term goals that are going to have an impact in the years to come. For example, while you might not be thinking about retirement right away, it’s important to keep in mind in your current financial picture. Additionally, you might have other goals as well, such as traveling abroad, which while won’t take as long as other targets, it still needs to be balanced out with the rest of your financial picture. The overarching goal here is to get in the mentality that you can’t predict the future, but it’s never too late to start planning for it.
Don’t: Rely On Your Checking Account
A practice many of us are all too familiar with is solely having our primary checking account as the hub for all of our money. This is a terrible practice as the money is always available anytime you need. Remember, savings accounts, IRA’s, and even Index Funds are designed with security in mind, meaning that you can’t just pull from them without a penalty. It’s a preventive measure, but one that’s crucial if you’re looking to establish sound financial principles.
Do: Invest In Your Credit Score
Your credit score is going to be the lifeblood of your financial freedom. It’s going to dictate everything from what types of rates you’re going to get on a loan to the type of home you can buy in the future. As creditrepair.com, a credit repair agency, notes, it’s never too early to start building up your credit score. All it takes a little understanding of what credit is, how to utilize it, and some strategies you can take on off the bat that will help improve your score tremendously.
Don’t: Get Yourself In Excessive Credit Card Debt
This is a mistake that a lot of Americans find themselves in at some point in their lives. In fact, according to NerdWallet, the average American has $16,425 in credit card debt, which, while not terrible, can be a pretty big damper on your financial picture. If you ask anyone that’s been in credit card debt before, they’ll tell you it’s a relatively easy hole to find yourself in. After all, when you’re given money to spend that you haven’t earned, it doesn’t exactly feel as though it costs anything. This is the clear danger with credit, and something you should be mindful of. Now, I’m not saying “don’t get a credit card” as there are plenty of responsible uses, including building credit, emergencies, and even as a way to accrue rewards off expenses you’d otherwise incur (I.E.: airline miles). The golden rule though is if you can’t afford it, then you shouldn’t even consider it.
Do: Plan For The Future
Planning for the future is the name of the game in personal finance. Many of you reading this probably have common goals in mind, including getting married, buying a house, or even moving to another part of the country/world. Even with bootstrapping it, these are still incredibly expensive ventures, but ones we consider worthwhile. That’s why saving towards them is not only a smart idea but the route that’s going to leave you with the most enjoyable experience. Plus, life is full of the unexpected, which you should prepare yourself for.
Don’t: Loan Out Your Future
A lot of people take the approach of “I’ll spend it now and worry about making it up later.” I’ll admit in emergency situations this can be absolutely necessary. However, loaning things out that you can’t afford anytime soon is only going to dig you in a deeper hole than when you started. This makes whatever you spent your money on less enjoyable and more of a headache, rendering it practically useless. Happiness isn’t a short term goal, but something that you want to last a lifetime, so act upon it. The question is: How far do you want your money to go?