I have a hard time digesting information. That has been true for my entire life — it’s not that I’m not smart, I just often need to take extra time to understand what is going on before I proceed. I’m the type of person that needs to really think about what someone said before I respond to it. I need to read the page of the book over a second (and sometimes third) time to make sure I’ve really soaked in everything that happened before I move on to the next bit. Throughout the duration of my college career, I needed to go home after class and read the chapter over, or rewrite my notes once or twice more on cleaner sheets of paper to make sure the information really settled into the parts of my brain where I needed it, so I could recall it later when I had to.
So it comes as no surprise that I find advice a lot more helpful when it is delivered to me in small, bite-size pieces — especially when the topic is one as dense and often serious as money. Remembering an entire article’s worth of helpful financial advice doesn’t come naturally to everyone (even me, someone who often writes the articles on helpful financial advice). Which is why I’ve really taken to sound bites. I love short-form, sentence-long bits of helpful info that I can recall quickly and easily when I’m approaching the checkout at a store, or groggily sitting at my desk in the morning coaxing myself to begin my hefty to-do list.
I’m a person who does really well with short, accessible, easily digested goals. My new year’s resolutions lists have always looked something like this:
- Bake more banana bread
- Put your things away after you finish using them so your home stays clean-ish
- Put $100 in savings every month
I like quick. I like easy. I like when there’s not too much thought behind what I’m telling myself to do. (Or at least when the thought is hidden and I don’t really have to focus on it. I love to keep the focus on action.) Because of this, I decided to do a little information round-up of the best, one-sentence (or two-sentence, and a few three-sentence) rules I try to follow on a daily basis to help me keep my shit together (both financially and otherwise).
1. Transfer a chunk of each paycheck into savings every payday — even if it is a small one.
2. Better yet, have your direct deposit set up to put a slice into savings without having to even see it hit your checking account.
3. Have an entire notebook dedicated to your to-do list, rather than a pad or random scraps of paper. That way, it is all neatly stored and organized, and you can flip back a few pages and refer to the list last week to catch up on any tasks that rolled over.
4. Teach yourself to live comfortably on a little less than you have, if possible.
5. Keep all of your most important documents and information in at least two or three places. (One hard-copy and one digital, at very least.)
6. Make sure you see your money. You want to know when it is coming, and where it is going. Always.
7. Automate what you can without making it so thoughtless that you stop thinking about it.
8. Force yourself to become comfortable with saying no to what you can’t afford. Even if it is to your mom, or your significant other, or your best friend.
9. Assign due dates to yourself for work or personal projects that are at least three days earlier than the project needs to be completed. Leave room for error, or procrastination, or for life to get in your way. Adhere to those deadlines as much as possible, because things almost never go to plan.
10. Identify what zaps your energy and productivity, so you can figure out what to swap for other activities and what to cut back on. There are a lot of minutes in the day; you might not be using them well.
11. Set small goals, track good habits, and celebrate the victories often (even when they’re small). Instant gratification is something everyone loves, but if we can get our instant-gratification-fix by seeing ourselves check off our “drink eight glasses of water today” goal, we’re less likely to seek it out by spending money on shit we don’t need.
12. Remember that if you’re obsessing over the $1.50 your friend owes you for the water bottle you bought them when you left the bar, you probably weren’t in the financial situation to be out with them that night.
13. Do your work when you need to. Don’t make it hard for yourself by procrastinating; the work isn’t too hard, and you’re fully capable. Just do it right away.
14. Save an emergency fund — even if it is a small one — before you start aggressively paying down debt. You’ll feel more confident throwing big chunks of money that you won’t get back at your debts if you know you have a safety net beneath you in case anything bad happens that requires money. (And I promise you — bad shit will happen that requires money. It always does.)
15. Keep up with all the “small” life tasks you have as you go, like cleaning, cooking, restocking food/toiletries, keeping bills/tax papers/other important documents organized and filed, making the calls/appointments you need to, etc. If you get yourself into the groove of maintaining your life as it goes, you will feel less of a need to stop it dead in its tracks for a stressful full week of playing catch-up in all the areas of your life where you haven’t been keeping it together.
Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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