Today is National Dollar Day! Not really it’s a fake holiday, but any opportunity to put away a few extra bucks is worth our time, right?
I am pretty open about my lack of general financial knowledge, a blind spot I think many people share. For a lot of us there are just so many money things that we were simply never taught. So, it is up to us as individuals to educate ourselves about our finances.
But! That doesn’t mean we all need to learn the ins and outs of the stock market, or study up on macro economics or the rise and fall of interest rates (although those things can help). So here are a few simple tips that can offer big returns down the road.
Up your 401(k) contributions: If you’re lucky enough to work at a company that provides a 401(k), one of the simplest things you can do to put yourself on better financial footing is increase the amount you pay your future self. Increasing your contribution by as little as 1 percentage point can have truly enormous returns later in life. So all you procastinators, go log in right now and up your contribution.
Aggressively — and honestly — track your spending: Don’t do it in the “Oh, yeah, I’ll look at my bank statement and see where my money went” sense. Set aside an hour tonight and obsessively pore over the last month of your purchases to see where you can cut costs. A brief glance isn’t enough; be honest with yourself about the things you consistently regret spending money on. I found a budget-tracking app Mint, which can be as aggravating as it is helpful, but in the best way possible.
Set up automatic, recurring savings with your bank: Like a retirement fund, the best day-to-day saving plan is to “set it and forget it.” When I examined my budget, I saw I was spending at least $25 per week on a daily, super-fattening, vanilla latte. Eliminating that, of course, has not made me rich but I did lose a couple of pounds. Now every Thursday, my bank moves that $25 I’m no longer spending on coffee from my checking account to my savings account. In the nine months I’ve had this transfer running I’ve put away almost $1,000 without any effort. I still enjoy that occassional cup as a treat instead of a daily entitlement.
Stop “saving” money: I am the owner of a blue yoga mat I never needed, don’t particularly like and haven’t used once since buying it. So why do I own it? It was on sale on Amazon for $5 off, and I can never pass up a deal. In “saving” that $5, I spent $12 to buy the mat that I could’ve used on something I would actually use. The allure of a deal is real, and the downfall of so many of us. Resist it at all costs.
How do you trim your budget? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Budget” in the subject line.
Have a great week!