Life should just be about having fun with bills as a side note. Unfortunately, I need money to have some of my fun — I’m thinking sandy beaches or whiskey trains. It doesn’t have to be difficult to balance your budget while keeping your sense of adventure and fun.
Take control of your personal finances by following these tips to steer yourself toward financial success and a lifetime of excitement.
1. Establish a Budget
Yes, I said the “b” word, and yes, you’re still headed towards fun and excitement. Create a budget that you can actually stick to. If you aren’t dying to work with spreadsheets, try using an automated program like Mint. Mint is primarily used for managing your personal finances.
It helps to set your bills up on auto pay once your budget is established.
2. What You Don’t See Can’t Hurt You
Pay into your 401k. These funds are taken out of your paycheck before you ever see it. That means that if you make $50k, and you’re putting in 10% — the full amount your employer will match — you’ll have $10k for retirement.
Use the same process to establish an emergency fund. Have HR take $100 per paycheck and put it into a savings account. The goal is to save up three to six months of your income, because emergencies without a financial plan B will steal your fun.
It’s a long way off, but retirement is one of the best times to have a good time. Or do you want to work until you’re 99?
3. Pay Off Debt
Be it student loans or credit cards, debt isn’t just money owed back, it’s money that’s bleeding you dry. According to Practical Money Skills’ loan calculator, a $25,000 student loan at 4.00% over 30 years will cost me an additional $17,967.38.
Look into snowballing debt payments, a process that involves paying off the smallest debts first, and then moving that freed up payment amount towards larger loans.
4. Wait It Out
The iPhone 7 has been out for three weeks and you still haven’t bought it yet. Resist the lure. You’re iPhone 5s is barely scratched. Wouldn’t you rather take a mini-vacation and pay off debt with that $700?
Waiting out luxury purchases doesn’t mean you have to give them up for good. They’re luxuries for a reason, and sometimes you need to pamper yourself. Just be sure you budget accordingly.
5. Have Fun Money
Have you ever tried a really strict diet and failed miserably? Many diets incorporate “cheat” days for just that reason, and a successful financial strategy for smart spending isn’t any different. You can’t swear off new tech toys forever. I even know someone with a specific “tech gadget” column in her budget.
As long as you’re meeting your other goals, why not?
6. Personal Layaway
Again, the point of all this money management isn’t to take away your fun. If you see something that you have to have — take a deep breath — make yourself wait at least 24 hours before you buy it. If that feeling of need fades, don’t buy it. If it doesn’t, go back for it.
7. Ask Reddit
What? No, really, r/personalfinance is one of the best subreddits around. These people are geeks for budgets. They make spreadsheets for fun! Who are these masked heroes?
These people are all about getting your financial world in order. If you have a problem that you don’t know how to deal with and aren’t comfortable, for whatever reason, discussing it in the fleshy world, this group will send you in the right direction.
If you just want a few more ways to save some cash, visit r/frugal for really clever and often simple ideas.
On one hand, using a credit card with rewards points is a good way to earn free stuff, be it money or frequent flier miles, but on the other it’s an excellent way to trap yourself with debt. If you can’t pay the full balance of your credit card monthly, then don’t use one. The second you start paying interest on your purchases you’re paying too much and cancelling out any rewards.
Consolidating Student Loans
If you have Federal loans, your best option is probably to leave them alone. If you’re struggling with payments, contact Fed Loan Servicing for guidance or read over their payment FAQs. If you have high-interest private loans, hop on the phone with a financial advisor and discuss consolidating.
Daily Deal Apps
There are a few apps out there full of amazing discounts and deals. Surely, these apps are for you, right?
Only if you have a lot of self-control. If you find yourself spending more than you should because a massage is 75% off, it’s time to delete the apps. However, if you max out in your thriftiness, apps like Groupon and LivingSocial are a good way to have a lot of fun on the cheap(ish) side.
Managing your personal finances doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. There’s an app for just about everything, and once you have your budget established and practiced, you’ll be on your way to financial and spiritual freedom.
Anum Yoon is a blogger, freelance writer and everything in between. She loves writing about personal finance, as seen on her blog Current on Currency. When she’s not budgeting for her next makeup haul, she’s on Twitter, so check out her latest updates.