People have a bad habit of losing control of their money and letting it run their lives. I used to be bad for this. My money didn’t have a job. I would work, my pay cheque would get deposited into my bank account, then I’d freely spend until I ran out of money and did it all over again. I didn’t put any thought into what I was spending on and savings? That was for old people! I had all the time in the world to worry about grown-up stuff like buying a house and saving for retirement. Luckily I had parents in my life who asked me some tough questions and guided me into thinking about money a different way. Instead of letting it tell me when I could and couldn’t do things, I was able to take control and give each dollar a job.
Need some help putting yourself in the driver’s seat? I’ve got a few tips that will help you get there.
No More Excuses
“I can’t afford to save money.”
“Investing is way too complicated.”
“Everyone has debt, it’s normal.”
We’ve all heard (and probably used) every excuse in the book to justify our debt, our pitiful savings rates, and our lack of understanding, but that’s all those are, excuses. This is not meant to discredit those people who have justifiable excuses; it’s just that 90% of us can do more. Even if you’re not in a position to save right now, maybe you could read up on investing, so you’re ready when you are able. We need to eliminate the impression that being good with money is hard, and takes too much time and effort. I promise that’s not the case. It’s way more stressful to let your money control your life.
Don’t let a lack of knowledge be a detriment to your financial well being. There are so many resources (many of them free, like this blog) out there to teach you everything from how to snowball your debt to what the difference is between a mutual fund and an ETF.
Pick up a book about personal finance (I love Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry because it’s perfect for beginners and not written by a stuffy old dude) or subscribe to a podcast like Honest Money Conversations from Cait Flanders and Carrie S. Nicholson. What’s easier than learning how to take control of your money on your morning commute? Once you start looking for it, personal finance information is everywhere. Just remember, not everything you read on the internet is true. It’s a good idea to get your info from more than one source. The more you immerse yourself in finance, the more motivated you’ll be to improve. I still do this all the time. If I’m having a hard time staying on track, I’ll pick up a new personal finance book to remind myself what’s important.
Not only do you need to educate yourself about the broader concepts of personal finance, but you also need to educate yourself about your situation. Having a grasp of the concepts is great, but knowing where you can make improvements is even better. Start tracking your spending (you can do this using an app or a spreadsheet). The goal is always to have money leftover at the end of each month. Spending more than you earn means debt, and avoiding debt is always the best option.
Balance Saving with Spending
It can seem like a great idea to go all out when you first get interested in personal finance. But you want to ease yourself into it. Saving money is kind of like dieting; a hardcore elimination diet can lead to cheating and binges after a few weeks. The same thing can happen with spending money. If you cut your expenses all the way back to the bare necessities, then you don’t leave any room for fun. This might work great for awhile, but eventually, you’ll get down on yourself and end up buying something dumb. Set a portion of your budget aside each month to grab dinner with friends or see a movie, you’ll be happier and more committed to the plan. Fun money keeps you going, and you’ll have better results long-term.
If you’re new to personal finance then investing can be terrifying. The thought of losing all your money in the stock market sounds way worse than earning a few percentage points. But really, the chances of you losing all your money are slim, and there are strategies you can use to lessen the risks. It’s also important to note that not investing comes with its own set of risks. If your money isn’t earning you anything, then it won’t even be keeping up with inflation. Keeping everything in cash might seem safe, but you’re losing your future purchasing power.
Most of my readers are millennials just like me, and that means we still have time for our investments to work their magic. The benefit of time is compounding. Every time your money grows it gives you more money to start with the next time. If you start the year with $1,000 and it earns a 5% rate of return, you’ll end the year with $1,050 without adding another penny. This is why everyone always says the earlier, the better. Long-term investing also helps mitigate risk because you’re able to ride the ups and downs of the markets without having to withdraw your money.
If you have shorter-term goals, then you’ll want to stick with lower risk investments. But if you’re saving for a retirement date that’s still 20 to 30 years in the future, you can afford to take more risk.
The simplest and cheapest way to start investing is by using a robo-advisor. These are online based companies who will select a managed portfolio for you based on your goals and risk tolerance. You can set-up an account in just a few minutes and either make a lump-sum deposit or set up automatic contributions to come straight from your bank account. If you want a recommendation, I’m a fan of Wealthsimple.
Set a Goal
Make yourself accountable by setting a goal that is easy to track. It could be to pay off X amount of debt by the end of the year, create a budget for yourself, or save X amount of dollars in an investment account. Keep it fairly short-term (6 months or one year). I find that being able to see the finish line helps me stay motivated. You can even break it down into smaller chunks along the way. Have a set dollar amount you’re chasing? Determine how much you need to set aside from each paycheque to make that happen. Bonus points if you set up an automatic payment.
Then, once you’ve hit your goal, reward yourself. Don’t go crazy, but becoming the boss of your money is a big deal. Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at a local restaurant you’ve been dying to try, or maybe tickets to a concert. I always think spending money on experiences over things is a better reward. You’ll never forget that time you got to see Lady Gaga because you paid off all your debt, but you’ll probably end up throwing away a pair of shoes.
What have you done to be the boss of your money? Or, when has your money been the boss of you? I’d love to hear your experiences.
This post was proofread by Grammarly.