Let’s face it. Not all of us make the best money decisions -especially those of us in our 20’s who don’t quite understand money management yet. With a weak job market, expensive housing, and crushing student loans, staying out of debt and making sound financial decisions can be tough. Financial literacy is one of the most important life skills you can have. Without it, you can find yourself stressed, unhappy, and perpetually in debt. Whether you want to stay out of debt or get out of debt, here are a few simple ways to improve your financial fitness.
If You Can’t Pay In Cash, Don’t Buy It
A simple rule is this: if you want something, yet you wouldn’t be able to pay for it without running up your credit card, don’t buy it. That’s it. If you can’t pay for it in cash, you can’t afford it and if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t be buying it.
Pay Credit Cards in Full Every Month
Credit card interest can crush you if you don’t pay your balance in full every month. As tempting as it is to leverage your credit line past your billing period, it’s not a wise financial choice. If you can think of a credit card as just a temporary cash alternative rather than a long term loan, you will have a much healthier relationship with your finances. Credit cards should not be treated as free money, rather as a payment alternative to using cash you already have.
Save Every Month
It doesn’t matter if it’s $50 or $500, save every month. Set your bank account to automatically move money to a savings account and don’t touch it, no matter what. Act as if the money doesn’t exist. Yes, it takes discipline, but you’ll be glad you have that rainy day fund if you ever get in a pinch.
Get A Side Job
If you find yourself in debt or living paycheck to paycheck, it may be wise to take on a second part time job. Even though you’ll be working more hours, until you can get your finances in order, having the extra money will help you stress less and get out of the hole. You can even do random side gigs from sites like Fiverr or Task Rabbit to pull in extra cash around your schedule. It’s simple math: the more you work, the more money you make. The only way to get out of debt or to escape being broke is to work more. Until you’re out of the red zone, take on extra gigs. Sure, it’s not fun short term, but long term it will help you become financially healthy again -a worthy sacrifice.
If You Don’t Need It, Don’t Buy It
We have a culture of buying way too much stuff that we don’t need. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. If you’re in debt, buying stuff you don’t need may provide you with temporary pleasure, but long term it can stress you out and make you feel depressed. This is especially true for impulse shopping and “retail therapy.” If you’re feeling down, exercise, hang out with friends, or call a loved one -don’t head to the mall! Recognize that sometimes you’re only buying things to fill an empty spot or void. Once you realize you’re just trying to feel better, you’ll find healthier ways of dealing with stress rather than running up your credit card.
Want more tips and facts on managing your money? Check out this handy infographic, courtesy of Mint.com: