I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the best at keeping track of my finances. I’ve never been one to pay too much attention to what was sitting in my bank account. Because as far as I was concerned, if I had enough money in the bank for my rent and my bills – with a little extra for the occasional trip – I had enough.
Rewind to a few months back when we had a financial advisor come to teach us a few things at work (we’re a company of young adults, so most of us were hanging on his every word), and I realized how wrong I was. Just because I was fine now, did not mean I would be fine in a few weeks, or even tomorrow. We all know life is unpredictable, but the last thing we want is for our financial situation to be unpredictable as well.
So as I was quickly becoming obsessed with the word “retirement,” I sat down at my computer that night and ordered a few self-help financial books to give me the kick and education I needed. First on the list? The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan. Since it was so eye-opening for me, and I gathered that quite a few of you guys might be as young and clueless as I am, I thought I’d share a few points that really stuck with me.
- Give A Shit About Your Money: You just have to. Plain and simple. Because if you want to travel, move, start a family, go to school, donate to charity, or retire, you have to give a shit about your money. There’s no way around it. But how do you do that smartly? Start simply. I know thinking about getting your finances in order might cause you to break out in a cold sweat, but it really is all about the simple steps. Because as Chelsea puts it, “the chances that there isn’t at least one thing in your life that could be immediately (easily!) improved, when it comes to your finances, are probably zero.” For me, that was as easy as not getting takeout a few times a week and cutting down on my afternoon coffee runs.
- Budgeting Is Important: To be painfully honest, I used to think that the only people who budgeted their money were people who were struggling so much that they had to budget their money. And that is just not correct. At all. Budgeting is a massive part of being smart with your money. It’s all about taking responsibility and using a lot of self-discipline to stick to your budget. Sort your budget into things like rent, bills, savings, food, transportation (for the nights you use Uber), self-care (however you choose to spend it), entertainment (bars, books, movies, happy hour), and a little wiggle room for emergencies (like spilling your coffee on yourself on the way to work and having to stop and buy a shirt). Once you’ve figured out what your perfect budget looks like, you’re ready for the next bit, which is building up your emergency fund.
- Building An Emergency Fund: Yes, a savings account is important. But it should definitely not be confused with your emergency fund. Your emergency fund should be for e m e r g e n c i e s. Aka if you suddenly lost or quit your job and need to have a few months of living costs ready. Since the first couple of years in the marketing world can be a bit hard to navigate, I’ve had a few moments where my emergency fund has come in handy, so I strongly suggest that you guys get to work on making this happen! There is obviously no great part about not having a job (for whatever reason), but the one thing I had always been proud of was that I made it through with the help of my emergency fund.
- Credit Cards Are A Double-Edged Sword: Whatever you do, do NOT get tricked by your credit cards. I was oh-so-young and oh-so-naive when I got my first credit card and it was the worst form of self-sabotage I have ever put myself through. (And if you’ve seen my dating record, then you know my situation was truly tragic if I’m saying this.) I thought it was great that I had a way to spend now without having to pay now. But years later, I am still paying for it. Yet my past debt is not a reason to completely cut off my relationship with my credit card. I realize that there are many upsides to having a credit card (actually building your credit, emergency car maintenance, buying a laptop when mine crashes, etc.), and I have learned to be way smarter about how I use mine. I switched to a mileage credit card (Because, hello, have you met me? Travel is my favorite thing in the world.), and I make sure to pay off my balance at the end of each month. They say a wise person learns from their mistakes, but a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others – I can only hope you are a group of truly wise people and that you learn from me here. Be careful with your credit cards!
I honestly could keep going on about The Financial Diet and all the things it taught me and it made me start focusing on, but I can’t give away all of Chelsea’s secrets. At least not all in one blog post 😉
If you have any interest in sorting out your finances a bit more or diving a little deeper into the topics I addressed above, I definitely suggest buying The Financial Diet (click here) and staying tuned for my next Financial Book Club post!