Unless you’re a finance or money guru (so lucky!), keeping track of your money is hard. From our weekly (er, daily, for some of us!) Target runs to buying a little more than you expected at that last Madewell sale, we don’t always understand the small changes that could help us reach our savings goals. Personal finance doesn’t have to be exclusive to math geniuses any longer. Alysha Olson is a Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach (yeah, like Dave Ramsey, the financial guru we’ve been looking up to for decades!), and she’s letting us in on some of the easiest ways to improve your finance game ASAP. With her tips, that summer Greece vacation seems pretty doable!
1. Run your credit report
Between student loans, car payments, and the oh-so-convenient credit card, do you really understand how much money you owe to others? The first step to moving forward is understanding where you are today. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting companies. You can look here for more information.
2. Set up a recurring auto-draft for savings
Ideally, you would do this for your retirement and your savings accounts. Auto-drafting as little as $30 or $50 a month adds up quickly and you probably won’t even notice it’s missing! Your future self will thank you when the inevitable rainy day hits!
3. Close one account
When I was first starting to get my financial house in order, I realized I was paying for a gym membership I wasn’t using! Every month I meant to cancel but life would get busy and I would inevitably forget. For you, it might be a membership, subscription, or credit account. If you have that one expense that you keep meaning to drop, don’t even read the rest of this article — do it now.
4. Quit one habit that’s costing you money
Try visiting the coffee shop three days instead of five, have one drink at happy hour instead of two, grocery shop instead of ordering out. There are boatloads of habits we form that cost us money. It doesn’t need to be drastic, but saving $10-$20 a few times a week adds up quickly!
5. Track what you spend
Get an app on your phone or carry around a good old fashioned notebook to document every single cent you spend. The numbers may surprise you. You can use this information to create a budget for next month!
6. Visit the bank or ATM
Use cold, hard cash when you can. On average, people spend 12-18% more money when they pay with a credit card.
7. Clean up
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that squanders a shopping itch like an empty laundry basket. When all of my clothes are clean and in the closet, I realize how much I already have!
8. Cancel auto-payments
Hear me out on this one. Auto-payments are a procrastinator’s best friend, but when is the last time you really looked at one of those bills? Chances are, if you are auto-paying bills, you aren’t “feeling” how much you are spending each month. Typing $175 into the online payment website hurts. Paying bills yourself will force you to examine your expenses.
That being said, if forgetting to pay bills on time is impacting your credit then keep the auto-payment on and set a financial date with yourself (use that handy reminder in your phone) to look over your expenses each month.
9. Speak kind words to yourself
I am constantly hearing my clients say “I’ll never have enough money” or “I will never figure this out.” Your mind will believe you when you say things like that! Speak positive words out loud to yourself. Marie Forleo loves to say, “There’s more where that came from!” every time she picks even a penny up off the street!
10. Talk to someone else
Tell a friend, your mother, your therapist — anyone who is trustworthy — about your financial hopes, fears, struggles, and frustrations. Chances are, they too have been through something similar or are in the trenches with you. You may find out your mom has a great grocery shopping tip or your friend is also feeling burdened by your twice-weekly happy hour habit. Remember you are not alone, my friend!