I grew up paycheck to paycheck and thought my financial anxiety would melt away when I started making more money. But it turns out that not knowing what to do with my money was just as stressful as not having any.
The problem is that more money didn’t suddenly make me financially literate.
Financial literacy is about knowing what you spend, what you make, and what you owe. When you know where you stand financially, you’re able to make plans and decisions that are impossible to make when you’re in the dark about your finances.
The good news is that getting on track with your finances is fast, fun, and easy.
Here are three simple habits you can practice to get on track financially.
Take a look at your finances
I used to avoid looking at my bank account because I didn’t like what I saw. But you can’t fix your finances by avoiding them. The good thing is that even though looking at your finances can be scary at first, ultimately knowing where you stand will make you feel more in control, and more control leads to more confidence.
Start gaining financial literacy by dragging your last three bank statements out of the darkness and into the light. Schedule some time in your calendar to tally up what’s coming in and what’s going out to get a sense of how much you spend every month. Create the habit of reviewing your bank accounts once a quarter, and before you know it you’ll have changed your financial life for the better.
Save 3-6 months of expenses
After you get a sense of how much you’re spending, you’ll be able to calculate your monthly expenses. Multiple that number by three or six to create your first savings goal. Saving 3-6 months of expenses will give you a great buffer for any unexpected life events like unemployment, a car breaking down, a medical emergency, or even helping family or friends who have fallen on hard times. Saving is another great habit that will help you get on track and stay on track with your finances.
Create financial goals
Many life goals are also financial goals. Whether you want to go back to school, move to another city, or buy a car, all of these things are financial goals you can create a plan to reach. Just make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based). For example, if your goal is to pay off 12k of debt within twelve months, then the plan is to pay 1k per month towards your debt every month. Or if the goal is to save 10k in twelve months, then the plan is to put away $833 per month towards your goal. You can use the same method to save for a vacation or even a creative project.
Creating financial goals is a form of financial planning, which is also a great habit that will take you to new heights when it comes to your money.
I hope this was helpful. Ultimately managing finances is about knowing what you have, what you make, and what you spend. Creating a habit of reviewing your finances so you always know where you stand will create long-term financial stability. Remember, creating new habits takes time. Don’t worry if you’re not perfect out of the gate. Give yourself the time and space to make mistakes and the valuable opportunity to learn from them. Pretty soon, you’ll be right on track.
As always, get out there and get to work.
-The Werking Writer