Good advice can be hard to take – especially when it comes to money. Often, the thing that’s best for us is the thing we really don’t want to do. Saving more and spending less is boring; why do that when you can have fun now?
Well, you know what else sounds boring? Working for the next 50 years.
There are some very basic pieces of money advice that experts give, but no one seems to follow. So, let’s make a deal: How about we start listening to what these experts are saying? The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll reach our financial goals.
Here are nine pieces of financial advice you need to stop ignoring.
- Run your financial life like a business. You should treat your budget like a business because, in the business of life, the bottom line matters. Many of the same principles business owners use can be applied to your personal life: prioritize, assess and restrain. Everything that keeps a business running will keep your personal finances in order: prioritize your spending, assess your profits and losses, and don’t lose sight of the big picture, like saving for retirement or getting out of debt. This is fairly common advice, but when it comes to actually saving and making more money, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Just like every business has its own unique goals and needs, you will too – so manage accordingly.
- Make saving part of your lifestyle. Saving money doesn’t always come naturally. Successful savers usually fail a few times (or more) before they figure out what works best for them. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up, but just like exercising and eating well, saving money takes a while to get right. It’s also important to remember that a frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean living in deprivation. People who live with less and save more know where to cut back. Even shrinking your grocery bill by just $15 a week will save $780 a year – imagine all the other little cutbacks that are possible. So instead of making drastic lifestyle changes, build your savings muscle slowly by making small adjustments over time. After a while, you won’t even notice a difference – except in your bank account balance.
- Save the difference. Are you a bargain hunter, coupon clipper or thrifty shopper? What do you do with all the money you save? If you’re like most consumers, you just spend it on something else. The point of getting a discount is to save money, right? The next time you get a discount or score a sweet deal, save the difference of what you didn’t spend.
- Automate the process. This is a piece of money-saving advice that is echoed by nearly every financial expert. Paying yourself first is the first step, which means setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account into a savings or investment vehicle. You can set up one large transfer to go through monthly, weekly or whenever works best for your finances – as long as it’s automatic, you’ll be saving without even realizing it. Some experts recommend transferring a portion of your paycheck into savings, and once you reach a certain balance, transfer any additional funds into an investment account. If you aren’t sure where to start, try automatically transferring 10 percent of each paycheck and see how that feels.
- Seek advice on your 401(k). It’s official: People with 401(k)s are better savers, according to a study last year by Natixis Global Asset Management. Want to get the best returns out of your nest egg? Get professional help. The study found 74 percent of people who see a financial advisor for 401(k) advice know exactly how much they need to have saved by the time they retire. Set up your complimentary appointment with First Financial’s Investment & Retirement Center to discuss your retirement and investment goals. Contact the IRC at 732.312.1500 or email Mary.Laferriere@cunamutual.com.
- Save your spare change. We all have loose change filling our pockets or strewn on our bedside tables. Start banking that change, and you could put a serious dent in your savings goals. For example, putting just 50 cents a day in a jar can help you save nearly $200 over the course of a year. Some experts also recommend only using paper money for daily expenses, such as coffee and lunch, and then saving the difference. If you don’t carry cash, consider using an app like Acorns, which invests your spare change for you.
- Fill a need. Many experts say the trick to making money (so you can save more of it, of course) starts with thinking about others before you think about yourself. Basically, the path to success starts by first identifying a need and then filling it. Your earnings are a byproduct of how well you serve your audience. So, focus on filling your customers’ or boss’ needs, or solving a problem, and you will likely make more money (whether through a raise or increased profits). This concept can also be used for people who freelance or want to start a side business – find out what people want, and give it to them; you’ll be in high demand.
- Live like a student. No, you don’t have to survive on a diet of ramen and frozen burritos in order to get ahead, but you can take a lesson from struggling students everywhere and learn to live with less. If you are just starting out in the workforce, try living on half your paycheck. Since you’re probably already used to living off very little, half your paycheck should be enough to get by. Meanwhile, you’ll pad a robust savings account with the equivalent of a full paycheck each month. For those who aren’t fresh out of college and have large expenses like a mortgage or child care, try saving a penny of each dollar you make; then, step it up another penny every six months. In five years, you’ll be saving 10 percent of every dollar you make; in 10 years, you’ll be saving 20 percent.
- Trick yourself. Many behavioral economists say mental accounting (i.e., treating different piles of money with different intentions) helps trick your brain into better budgeting and saving. This strategy might sound a little complicated, but it’s really a take on the classic envelope system, where you allocate your paycheck to a weekly or monthly budget and put the cash into different envelopes – one for each budget category. Once the envelopes are empty, your budget is maxed out.