1. Keep emergency cash with you.
LOL. I don’t know that one person has ever said this to me; I think EVERYONE has said this to me. I constantly think about how I should keep emergency cash at my house, or in my wallet. Here’s the problem: if I put emergency cash in my wallet, I spend it. And every time I vow to keep emergency cash at my house, I withdraw cash and put it in my wallet, and then it never makes it to my room. Thus, I’ve been meditating on this idea for two years, but haven’t successfully implemented it.
2. Always put the maximum amount in your 401k and IRA.
When I worked at a company with 401k matching, I was consistent about putting in the most I was allowed to put in (automatically), and my company matched in full. However, when I left my full-time job, I had to start contributing to my IRA, and I had difficulty meeting the minimum I could put in. To be clear, I guess I didn’t blow off this advice as much as I am just not able to follow it this year, but I’m not going to be too far off from the maximum amount I can put into my IRA in 2016, so that’s something.
3. Make a list of which payments go on which cards.
This is a rule that I recommend everyone looking to organize their finances follow. Unfortunately, it took me about two years to actually listen to this advice. My credit card information got stolen about a year ago, and I had no idea which payments I needed to reschedule, because I’d never made a list of which payments are billed to my credit card. In the time I spent floundering to figure out which utilities providers I needed to call, my internet bill was late. It was a $25 mistake, but at least it forced me to be more aware of which bills came out of which accounts.
4. Keep. Your. Receipts.
I am *finally* getting better about this, but it took more than just a little bit of time. My receipts used to end up in an inky ball at the bottom of my oversized purse, and by the time I’d unwrinkle them, the amount spent on a work lunch was no longer intelligible. I now have a filing system (which, by the way, traveled with me to New York so I couldn’t slack on it) for my receipts, and I tracked all my work-related expenses with Evernote. By the time tax season 2016 rolls around, I’ll be an organization poster child. Hopefully.
5. Actually use your credit card.
When I first got a credit card, I was scared to use my card for anything other than a random purchase online here, or swiping at the gas station there. There are a few issues with this. You need to actually use your credit card to build credit. As NerdWallet says, “To have good credit, you need a record of on-time debt payments. If you’ve never had to make such payments, you don’t have good credit — you have no credit.”
Also, there are these great things called rewards that you can get from using your credit card consistently (and wisely!). And as long as I was, say, $1,900 away from my first credit card minimum ($2,000), I sure as hell wasn’t qualifying for many rewards. I eventually got into the habit of using my credit card more consistently (as long as I knew for sure I could pay my balance off in full every month), but I still reach for my debit card more than some would recommend.
6. Don’t rely on technology to pay for things.
There was a while where that I wouldn’t travel with a checkbook, and then I’d get myself into trouble for not being able to pay a bill from far away. As much as I wish the entire world used Venmo, I can’t Venmo my rent payment, so if both my roommate and I are home for the holidays, I need to send a check. Similarly, I can’t Venmo the IRS for my taxes, because the IRS (understandably) does not want to humor my millennial ways. I paid taxes from New York, and it was the first time in the history of my life that I can remember actually having my checkbook with me because I’d planned ahead. Here’s hoping that my technology-reliant self still remembers basic money principals for years to come.
7. Verify that there is enough money in your checking account when you write a check.
The amount of times I have overdrafted in my life is just embarrassing. I remedied this in two ways: first, I now have notifications set up with my bank, so I get an alert if my account drops below a certain amount. And secondly, when I write a check, I now have to transfer the money to cover the check as soon as I write it. You would think that I’d made this mistake enough times to not repeat it, but unfortunately, to think that would be overly optimistic. If I don’t transfer the funds immediately, it doesn’t happen. But because I know that about myself, I can plan for my own forgetfulness.
8. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend the money when you actually need something, instead of buying the cheap version.
Even when I have the money to buy the better-quality kitchen tool/shoes/etc., I often talk myself out of it because of the price. We talk a lot about spending up-front to save money in the long run, which might involve something like buying a nice-quality pair of jeans, instead of a fast fashion pair of jeans. I know that this is good advice, but when I’m making my purchase, in the moment, sometimes I’ll still blow the advice off and buy the $15 flats. And consistently, when I make that choice, the shoes end up crapping out on me much sooner than I would like them to, and I’m left regretting the fact that I didn’t do my research, and buy shoes that will actually last.
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