This post encapsulates my all-time favorite “words of wisdom”, jotted down in one simple place.
There’s a bazillian of things I’d love to share with everyone, but there are 4 main biggies I repeat over and over again – whether on this blog, or when talking to friends, family, or strangers. They aren’t new, but they sure do work! And I follow each and every one of them personally, even if I do slip at times ;)
I truly believe that these will improve anyone’s finances, regardless of age, occupation, or net worth. Your wallet will thank you, your peace of mind will thank you, and you’ll find yourself feeling sexier than ever! So here they are – my all-time favorite pieces of advice:
1. Pump up your 401(k)
If your company offers it, jump in as hard and as fast as you can! Contribute AT LEAST as much as your employer matches. if they match 100% of 6% invested, invest 6%. If they match 25% of 3%, invest 3%. Whatever the case may be, their portion is FREE money baby! Aka 100% guaranteed profit before it even gets invested! And if you have the means to put even more in? Then you, my friend, qualify for the Bad A$$ of the year award ;)
Not only that, but Uncle Sam will hate you for it… at least for now (that’s a good thing). The more you invest, the fewer taxes you pay out that year. Say your annual gross income is $50k. Well, if you don’t put anything in at all, you pay taxes on that $50k. BUT, say you contribute $10k towards your 401(k) in that year, well now you’re only taxed on $40k! (you pay the taxes later) So yeah it may suck initially “being out” of a little money each paycheck, but over time you’ll get used to it and maybe even forget since it’s all automated. Either way, those amounts pile up BIG time over the years, and you’ll be thankful you jumped on this money train when you did!
*if your company doesn’t offer a 401(k), OR they don’t match, consider picking up a Roth or Traditional IRA instead (or in addition to). There’s a pretty cool breakdown of the differences and benefits here
2. Track your spending for 3 months
This is the one thing you can do to learn EXACTLY where your hard-earned money goes to. Think of it as an E-True Hollywood Story based on Your Financial Life – you think you know, but you have noooo idea! haha…okay, well maybe it’s not that drastic, but you’d be amazed at the things you’d find if you actually sat down and sorted through it all. Even if you do it just one time, and one time only, it’ll give you a better over all picture of your finances.
Once you know EXACTLY how much you spend, you can then figure out how to move forward – whether it’s to remain on the same route you’re currently taking, or move to a newer one. I went back through 3 months of checking and credit card statements to figure out my habits, and boy was i surprised! It wasn’t so much in seeing the items purchased, as I remembered them all, but it was the grand total of the expenditures that hit me. I had a guestimated a budget of $500 for my credit card each month, but in reality i was spending between $800-$1200! Woops. I then created a more realistic budget ;)
3. Create an Emergency Fund
Simply for a great peace of mind! There’s something to be said in having a pile of cash in your account for whatever it is you’ll need it for. I really don’t know what constitutes an emergency, exactly, but for me it’s more of a stash to keep myself out of trouble ;) As for how much to put in there, I personally shoot for 3 months, but it really depends on what you’re comfortable with. It can be 2, 3, even 6 months, whatever you feel would make you sleep better at night. Once you reach that point, you’re all set! You can then go about using your money as you wish, knowing you have that safety net.
4. Pay off all Bad Debt
Get rid of it! Whether it’s credit cards, outstanding loans to friends or family, or whatever – it’s not great to have. This is much easier said than done, of course, but my goodness if it’s not true. It effects everything from credit scores, mortgage rates, car loans, and even worst – your overall happiness :( What would you do if you had $0.00 in debt?! How insanely awesome would you feel! It’s not gonna happen overnight, and it certainly won’t be easy, but it’s definitely imperative to work it all out. Whatever you need to get rid of it, just start.
And that’s it! Those are my Top 4 all-time favorite pieces of advice I give out. Some are easier to follow than others, but they all work magic on your financial health!