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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Steps I'm Taking to Improve My Financial Wellness

I've come to the conclusion that adulthood is the ultimate double-edged sword that includes so many freedoms, and yet, so many responsibilities. One of the primary responsibilities involves personal finances, a wonderful pastime in which you can literally watch your decent-looking account balance go into rapid decline in a span of about 5 minutes. It can be a very daunting experience learning how to budget and save accordingly when you go from having little to no financial responsibility in high school, college, or grad school to more responsibility than you might have bargained for when you get your first job.

I can personally attest to this as was my experience when I landed my first job as an Academic Counselor at Western Carolina. My parents had done a good job in teaching my how save and budget my little $250 checks from my part-time gigs throughout high school and college, but if we're being honest, a lot of that money went to my disposable income of new clothes, gas for my car, my social life, and sorority dues. It wasn't until I was looking at rent, utility bills, gas, groceries, and credit cards that I thought 'I'm interested in cancelling my subscription to adulthood. Who can I speak to about this?' Haha! And while I've made mistakes and managed to get my checking account balance into the single digits a couple of times, I've also learned a few tricks that have helped me to improve my financial wellness in the past several months and really helped me to live a little more comfortably. Building on this progress in the new year is one of my biggest goals. Today, I want to share some of the tricks of the money trade that have worked for me and might also work for you.

Tip #1: Get a Planner AND Use It

Being able to see when all of your bills are due throughout the month is invaluable when it comes to the budgeting process. Having a planner that includes both a monthly and weekly calendar allows you to see the big picture of when everything is due and go week by week to make sure you make every bill payment on time. This also helps with the budgeting process because, if you have an added expense like a birthday for a friend or a weekend getaway planned, you can look at the month and see where you need to be adding more to your savings so you're prepared or which weeks you need to be more conservative with your spending.

If you look through my planner you will see that every bill payment is accounted for in the monthly calendar, but that I also check off each bill payment as I make it in the weekly calendar. I also include any family obligations or social functions I might have coming up that month that I will need a little extra money for when they arrive. That way there are no missed payments and there are no surprises, at least that I can control.

Tip #2: Evaluate Your Spending Habits

Anyone who knows me can confirm my spending history precedes itself. I like to travel, buy new clothes, I have a slight addiction to shoes, and I like to do things socially with my friends. A couple of years ago, though, I was noticing that my accumulation of things and my social life were causing me to live outside of my means in many instances. I would charge something to my credit card and tell myself, 'oh I'll pay myself back when I get paid.' However, I was terrible about holding myself accountable and acquired some debt that I'm still paying back. 

When I think back on some of those impulsive purchasing decisions I realize how irresponsible they really were. Now I'm so much more conscious of how I spend money and realize that I don't need that sweater in every color nor do I need to eat out tonight when I have dinner at home. It's these types of little decisions that have really helped me to keep more money in the bank. And while I'm still learning and really have to challenge myself to not buy something simply because I want it in that moment, I have really come a long way.

Tip #3: Try a Dry-uary Month of Spending

Some of you may be wondering what the hell Dry-uary means. Dry-uary means to be "dry" from an unnecessary spending. Essentially this means no new clothes, no eating out, no long walks down the aisles of Target, etc. Haha! But y'all get it; you just don't spend any money that is not necessary to your livelihood FOR A WHOLE MONTH. I've been doing Dry-uary this month and am amazed at how many times I have easily given into a good sale or gone to a store just to look, but then end up buying something I didn't need. I'm also finding new ways to spend that time by trying new workouts, trying new recipes, reading more (Barb would be so proud I already finished a book in 2019), and listening to a couple of podcasts I'd been wanting to, but put off so many times.

Tip #4: Do a Monthly Savings Challenge

If y'all have ever wondered how I go on so many trips throughout the year, I'm giving you my secret weapon- the monthly savings challenge. I got this idea from someone I follow on Instagram, who was doing a savings challenge over the summer and encouraging people to do it with her. I'm all about some extra cash so I gave it a try for a month. That month turned into two months, then three, and before I knew it the monthly savings challenge had become a regular routine for me. It's something I now budget for every month because I like the way that savings account be looking!

The way it works is that you choose a dollar amount, whatever makes sense for your budget, and for every weekday you transfer that amount from your checking to your savings. I decided on $20 per day so at the end of a week I have $100 in my savings. At the end of a month I have about $400 in my savings and allow it to accumulate from month to month. Again, my efforts at this have not been perfect. There have been some months where I had to dip into my savings before the month was over, but at least I was making the concentrated effort to set money aside for those unexpected situations or to plan better for the future. 

Here's to more life and more dollars in 2019! I hope some of these tips will work for y'all the way they've worked for me!

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