Not all personal finance tips or rules are created equal. Each piece of advice may also not be for where you are at in your life and your finances. However, through all the personal finance tips and advice, these are what I consider to be the best rules to remember and live by. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Personal Finance is Personal
Everyone's situation is different, so it makes sense that everyone's finances are different. While you may have some things in common with a friend, no one's life or experience is the same as someone else's.
So if you are finding yourself feeling down because you don't measure up in your mind to someone else. Stop. Personal finance is personal. Focus on what you are doing right and where you can improve.
It's fine to be inspired by what somebody is doing, but don't let that turn into negativity about what you are doing.
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2. Make More Payments to Pay Less Interest
If you are working to pay off debt, you are likely trying to pay more than the minimum payment each month. However, if you are making that extra payment at the same time you are making a minimum payment, you could be costing yourself money.
Interest often accrues each day (though check your loan terms), so if you can submit an extra payment that lowers the principle twice instead of once a month, you will be paying less in interest. The more payments you make a month, the fewer amount of interest will accrue between each payment.
3. No One is Perfect With Their Money, No Matter How Many Personal Finance Tips They Follow
There is no perfect way to handle your money. Everyone no matter how wealthy has experienced buyers remorse at some point. Personal finance is personal; there are as many ways to handle money as there are people handling money.
You have to figure out what will work for you and your financial goals. I find it easiest to stick to my budget with multiple checking accounts; maybe that isn't your thing. That is okay. You do you.
4. Track Your Spending
The famous Joe Biden quote is something like, show me your budget and I'll tell you your priorities. I have to disagree respectfully, show me your spending, and I'll tell you your priorities. Actions speak louder than lines on a budget.
If you are struggling to figure out why you aren't accomplishing your goals, start looking at your spending. It can be eye-opening to realize how much certain things that you don't particularly care about cost you.
5. Learn to Budget
Once you've been tracking your spending a while, it is much easier to set a realistic budget that will work for your goals. Got financial goals? Tracking your spending and then learning to budget, go hand in hand when working to achieve those goals. Need help to learn how to budget? I've got you covered.
6. Always Take Your Employer Up on Free Money
I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about investing, which is why I don't talk about it on the blog. But I know enough about my retirement account that I get the as much free money out of my employer as possible.
My old employer offered a 401(k) plan with a 100% match on 5% contributions. After three years, it jumped to an even higher match. What does that mean? If I input in 5% of my paycheck, which to make things easy let's say amounts to $200, that means my company will match and also contribute $200 to my 401(k). That is an immediate 100% return on my investment. It's free money.
7. Credit Cards Are Not an Emergency Fund
When you have an emergency, the last thing you want to do is pay interest on that emergency. Credit cards should always be a last resort. Save for an emergency fund; you can start with just $25 a month. That is what I started saving, now I'm up to saving $200 a month. In 3.5 years with an emergency here and there I've saved up a little over $3k in my emergency fund.
You can do it, make it a game if that helps. Every little bit helps and it will all add up in the end. Skip the 18% interest rate and just set what you can aside. Apps like Chime and Qapital can help if you struggle to save.
8. Timing Matters, Make Sure You Are Ready
Yes, interest rates are low, but if you don't have a solid down payment saved for your dream house, then it's not worth buying the house right now. Same with buying a car and any other big purchase.
Just like if you wouldn't buy something anyway, you shouldn't buy it just because it's on sale. Don't buy just because it's a "good deal" especially if it isn't a good time.
9. College Does Not Automatically Mean Success
Growing up, my going to college was a given. I'm glad I went, but a college degree is not necessary to be successful. One thing that is always necessary to be successful is hard work. While a college education can sometimes give you a head start, make sure it actually puts you ahead and you're not in the hole more than you can handle.
They say if you are going to buy a house you shouldn't buy more than 1.5 times your annual salary. It might be a good idea to abide by that rule with your education as well. Though I think going beyond what you are likely to make in a year is pushing the envelope.
10. Money Doesn't Buy Happiness, But it Can Buy Options
When you don't have enough money it can feel like your back is against the wall. Having a little flexibility with your money allows you the ability to have a few more choices. It might not happen overnight but if you take action on a few of these personal finance tips, you will get to a place where you financially have choices.
Wrapping it Up with a Bow on Top
There are tons of money rules and personal finance tips and it can be overwhelming but remember that what will apply for where you are at in your life and money may be different than that of your sibling, friend, or colleague. Once again here are the 10 best money tips to remember and live by:
- Personal Finance is Personal
- Make More Payments to Pay Less Interest
- No One is Perfect
- Take Time to Track Your Spending Every Once in a While
- Learn to Budget
- Always Take Your Employer Up on Free Money
- Credit Cards Are Not an Emergency Fund
- Timing Matters
- College Does Not Automatically Mean Success
- Money May Not Buy Happiness, But it Can Buy Options