So after a few blogs on politics, let’s change gears. Let’s talk about money. Something everybody knows something about. Everyone has an opinion. Many people don’t want to deal with it or understand it. But just like knowing how to change a flat tire, or change your oil, if you have some basic knowledge you can be ready to deal with pop-up emergencies and keep your money working for you like a well-maintained engine. Ok. Enough car analogies.
So the basics:
I like money. I want/need more of it. How do I get it? How do I manage it to be successful? Here are 5 simple tips that are easy to say, and hard to implement.
- Live on less than you make.
- Don’t borrow money.
- Save Money.
- Prioritize your spending. (Budget)
- Give money.
1. Live on less than you make.
You’ve probably heard this before. But it makes sense. If you live on less than you make, it allows you to follow principles 2 and 3. This is easier said than done. But principle 4 is required to succeed at this step. You’ll have to adjust your lifestyle to match your income. This can be a hard pill for some people to swallow. The “I deserve” mentality that people have, and that creditors market so heavily can be deeply ingrained in people. Like it’s a foundational doctrine in their life. If you have ever spent time oversees in other countries, you can often realize that you don’t necessarily need all that stuff to survive and be happy. You can adapt to your income environment. If you don’t like the level of lifestyle that permits, then go out and change it! You can go work harder and earn more money. My first tech job started at $14 / hour in 2008. That’s just over 29k annually. That wasn’t good enough for me and my growing family. So I worked harder, earned promotions and moved to better paying jobs. I don’t want to brag, but I make good money now because I continue to work hard and improve myself. Thus companies value me more and pay me more. No need to blame the economy for your income. Your work ethic can overcome a crappy economy. I am proof of that.
2. Don’t borrow money.
Do everything you can to avoid debt! I wish I had learned about this sooner. Often times the largest part of you monthly outgo is to debt payments. Student loans, cars, mattresses, etc. When I started earning more money, I realized I wanted to be done with debt. Me and my wife had about 30k each in student loans! I was tired of so much of my monthly income going to Sallie Mae or Visa. I’d rather spend that money on my family or save it for something cool like a vacation or motorcycle. It took over 7 years, but we paid it all off. We paid off the last 45k in two years alone. Not having stupid payments has really allowed me to do principles 3,4, and 5 much more efficiently. I’ve learned, I’d much rather save up for something and pay cash, then finance it and deal with the stress of payments, and interest. You really can do it!
3. Save Money.
This is another common sense thing people “know”, but don’t do. When you save money, it makes dealing with “emergencies” way less stressful. I know my property tax is due each year in December. So instead of waiting till December and going, “ah, crap!” I put $30-$50 a month in an envelope for that throughout the year. Then when the bill comes due, I’m ready for it. This year, I over budgeted and had $50 left over after paying that bill. I haven’t decided if I wan’t to leave it as a head start on next year’s property tax, or use it for something fun. But it’s my choice and I have that flexibility because I saved for it. Novel concept I know. But it works and it’s awesome! Same thing with car tires, car registrations, vacations, kids baseball season, etc. You can plan ahead and save money for these things. Saving money in 2016 has allowed me to cash flow a roof replacement, and cash flow a vacation to DC and NY. I was also able to plan ahead for Christmas presents so no credit card was needed for that either. I’ve got some active duty time coming up in 2017 and I know my income will be much lower compared to my civilian job. Guess what I’m going to do? Complain? Well probably a little bit, but I’m already planning for that and starting to save money so it won’t be a huge strain to deal with the change in income. I haven’t talked about 401k’s and Roth IRA’s yet. Those are both excellent tools to save for retirement. I’d highly recommend learning about them and using them to save money long-term. I’ve really enjoyed learning about investing over the last few years.
4. Prioritize your spending. (Budget)
Uh oh. I used the B word. But it shouldn’t have such a bad rap. It shouldn’t be feared. This is the single most important tool to be successful with all these principles. Having a budget is not difficult. Yes it does take time. Yes you will make mistakes. Yes you do spend that much money at QuikTrip. But it gives you so much visibility into where your money goes and your spending trends. It really allows you to analyze past performance and use that data to plan for future months. I’ve been using budgeting software for almost 4 years now. I switched about 18 months ago to YNAB (You need a budget) software. I love it. It has allowed me to be successful in paying off debt and saving money as well as realistically planning for the month ahead. I recommend using a zero based budget. I plan for each month individually. I adjust throughout the month (subtracting extra money from gas to add to groceries envelopes for example) and then reconcile all the envelopes at the end of each month to correct any over-spending. This is fixed by taking the money from another envelope vs a credit card. I also use envelopes to save for bigger expenses. I have a house maintenance envelope, and a car tires envelope that I put money into. Not every month, but when I can I contribute money into it. Especially if I know I will need new car tires in 8 months, I make that a priority to contribute to that envelope so that when it comes time I already have the $500 or so that I will need for new tires. No emergency! Just a normal errand to run that I have the money to do. This also equals less stress. Rinse and repeat, scale up and down as necessary for your money goals. It really does work. You just have to do it. Over and over and over again.
5. Give Money
This is another part of money I’m starting to really enjoy. Managing my money better has allowed me the opportunity to give more. I am able to support causes and organizations that I want to. I was able to double my Christmas budget from last year and give people more gifts. Being able to help people out by giving money is very rewarding. It’s often more rewarding that accumulating more stuff. Give it a try.
So there you have it. My 5 money principles for success. Have I mastered them all? Nope. Do I still make mistakes? Yep. Has being intentional with my money allowed me to be successful? Absolutely. I’m a huge budgeting nerd, so if you have questions feel free to ask me. I’d love to talk money ideas with you and help you be successful with money as well.
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