It can be really easy to feel down on yourself about where you are with money. And it can be equally disheartening to spend any amount of time reading about finances and feeling like you’re way, way behind — like you won’t actually reach the top of a mountain labeled “Good With Money” until you are a home-owning, diversified-portfolio-managing, financially-independent entrepreneur. But that is all nonsense: we are all going to have different definitions of what “successful” and “comfortable” look like, and we all have to measure ourselves not by where we are, but by how far we’ve come.
And given that half of all Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, in debt of some kind, and couldn’t pay for an unexpected emergency of $400 or more, one quickly realizes that we are probably doing better than we thought we were. And here are 29 little signs that you’re much more on the right track than you probably thought you were.
1. You know what you have, you know what you owe, you know what you earn, and you have at least a few money goals you’d like to reach.
2. You pay your bills on time each month (with maybe one or two exceptions), and aren’t constantly feeling that awful sinking feeling of “Oh, shit, was my credit card payment due last week?”
3. You have at least somewhat mastered the art of setting reminders for yourself, and putting things like Google Calendar to use.
4. You don’t have to check your bank account balance while waiting in line at the grocery store.
5. You have at least one money app that helps curb some of your worst habits, or keep you on-track for some of your more important goals.
6. You’ve stopped feeling like a meal out is incomplete without ordering a beverage.
7. You have come up with at least a few go-to alternatives for hanging out that aren’t “let’s go sit at the bar and scream at each other over top-40 hits from three years ago.”
8. You put a little bit in savings every month, even if it’s just a few dollars.
9. You make enough to have leftovers, and actually eat them that same week. (Bonus points if you arrange your own little homemade Responsible Grown-Up TV dinners and store them in the freezer for when you’re too lazy to cook.)
10. You cook, period (and don’t make those tired jokes about how you’re like Carrie Bradshaw or whatever and use your oven for storage, because let’s be honest, no one over the age of 19 should aspire to do essentially anything like Carrie Bradshaw).
11. You bite the bullet and take public transportation instead of a car home after a night out — even if all your tipsy ass wants to do is sleepily browse Instagram in the back of an Uber.
12. You say “no” straight-up when you can’t afford something, instead of committing and then awkwardly backing out at the last minute.
13. You know what an emergency fund is, why it’s important, and you either have yours or are actively working on building it up.
14. You talk to your friends about money in a way that doesn’t feel judgey or awkward, and let them know they can come to you if they ever want to talk about finances.
15.No matter how much you’re able to save each month, you know it needs to be automated so that that money never touches your checking account — because the more you see it, the more likely you are to spend it.
16. You don’t have to buy ridiculous quantities of objectively not-important things simply because they are on sale. (I’m looking at you, buy one get one off 24-packs of grapefruit La Croix).
17. You have a good idea of what is worth investing in, and what you should just get cheaply and efficiently, and try to spend your money accordingly.
18. You do your grocery shopping with a meal plan in mind, using a list, and never when you are hungry or slightly drunk.
19. You always bring home a doggy bag from a restaurant, and try to make sure it’s half your meal because a) no one needs all that food in one sitting and b) getting an entire extra lunch out of a meal out is the ultimate lifehack everyone can master.
20. You know what your worst spending triggers are, and are generally pretty good at avoiding them.
21. Even if you cannot do things like invest, buy a home, or have a retirement account just yet, you have at least familiarized yourself with all the terms and know the steps you need to be taking if you want to make them a reality.
22. You always take advantage of any employer match on a 401k, if you have one.
23. You actually put effort and care into keeping your home organized, clean, and a place where you want to be productive.
24. You know when to split the check evenly, and when to figure out what everyone owes (like when you’re at a group dinner and people you don’t even know ordered 2x as many apps and drinks as everyone and it’s just like ????).
25. You know what your credit score is, and how to improve it.
26. You know what a competitive salary is for your current job, and if you don’t have that yet, you have a plan for getting it.
27. You have goddamn health insurance, and not just a plan picked at random off some employee worksheet, but the best plan for your needs and budget.
28. You go through your account statement at least semi-regularly to make sure you’re not still accidentally paying for shit you meant to cancel, or had a fraudulent charge at one point without even realizing it.
29. You are not afraid to ask questions, you make it a point to read about what you don’t know, and you make money a conversation that you bring up, because you know that speaking the language of money is the first step to being really, really good with it.
This post was originally published on April 7, 2017, and has since been updated.
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