The Three Simple Tips to Help You Meet Your Financial Goals
There are millions of tips and tricks and theories and strategies out there to help people improve their financial situations. Whether their goals are to get out of debt, save money, buy a house, travel, etc. I’m not saying all of this information is bad (although I’m sure there is some bad advice out there) but it can be overwhelming. I was raised in a house where debt was the enemy, but I knew that to live the life I want that it is a temporary, albeit necessary evil. I have boiled it down to the three most simple steps which should be able to be applied to anyone and everyone. I don’t think I could make it more basic than this. If you are looking for in depth analysis and all of the tricks in the book, you will need to look elsewhere or check back later as I elaborate on each of these tips.
This is the most important step. Prioritize. Sit down, by yourself or with your spouse and family and decide what matters the most to you. Make a list in order of importance and see how far down the list you can get before you can’t afford to do more. It is so important to differentiate between “wants” and “needs” in this step. We need a roof over our heads and food to eat, we want to travel and watch cable TV. For us, the most important is that all of our bills are paid in full each month, this falls under “needs.” I would encourage you to list this as your top priority as well. Next was buy a new (new to us) house- from here it is all “wants.” Our next priority was our mini travel bucket list. After that is the hubs’ pesky student loan debt. The last of our high priorities is to build our savings and increase our contribution to retirement. The caveat in this tip is to stop at the priority where you run out of money. As long as you live within your means and make sacrifices when necessary, you will find a way to make it happen if it is a priority to you. It may take time. We don’t intend on taking our next two trips back-to-back while simultaneously paying off all of the student debt by tomorrow. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Prioritize for the short and long term. Short term, we are planning to go to Vegas, and after that, Europe. Long term, we plan to travel the world and visit each state and every baseball and football stadium along the way. It all depends on what you want out of life. Not everyone wants to travel and that’s why you have to set your priorities instead of letting someone else set them for you. Making your own priorities allows you to have control and allows you choices when setting your budget. When you have the money to spend on things you enjoy it will help you stay motivated.
This is the obvious and most tricky step. Once you have a list of your high priority, short and long term goals, you may realize that there is too much list at the end of your money. If that is not the case then the last two steps can be optional for you (yay!) For everyone else, you are just getting started. Reduce expenses/ spending. There are a million and one ways to skin this cat. (PSA: don’t skin cats, it is an expression.) I will do my best to cover my favorites in more detail later. The best way to do it is to jump in get started. Take a look at your credit card and bank statements or receipts if you use cash. Where are you spending your money daily? Weekly? Monthly? What are you spending money on that you don’t need or use- a gym membership, lunch or breakfast out because you hit snooze one too many times before work, that outfit that looked great at the store but you will never go anywhere where you can wear it. Now take these items out. What are you spending a lot of money on that you could get a comparable service or good for a lower price- groceries, cable TV, vehicles. You would be surprised how often you can save money just by asking. Since we have started doing this, we have saved hundreds of dollars. Common questions you will overhear us asking just about anytime we spend money “Are there any specials or deals right now?” “Is this on sale?” “Where is the clearance section?” “Can this coupon be applied to this purchase?” “Is there anyway I could get this for a cheaper price?” “I work for _______, is there a discount for my employer/ line of work?” “Do you have a customer loyalty program?” “Is there a discount for paying in cash/ early/ automatically/ yearly lump sum?” Most times, we end up saving a little on things we were buying anyway. Worst case scenario, we wasted ten seconds asking a question. We have saved on our recent couch purchase, our cell phone plan, groceries, eating out, home alarm system, insurance, cable and internet and many other places just by asking. If you don’t ask you won’t get the discount. A trick I recently tried, while waiting in line at the cash register, I check my email or the store’s website. I typically can find a coupon or code for 20-50% off one item or the entire purchase. Use caution anytime you are asked to open a credit card for a discount or you may end up heading down a slippery slope. There are some credit cards I would recommend opening for the discounts, but it depends on where you shop the most frequently and if you can resist running up the balance on the card. By decreasing what is going out, you will have more money to work with and allocate to your higher priority goals.
This is the most difficult of the steps. I don’t want to discourage people from trying, but for the longest time I thought that this was out of my control. Increase your income. Anyone can do this, actually everyone can do this. There are plenty of ways to increase your income if you are currently employed. You can ask for a raise, more hours or both. You can pick up a second job or a better paying full time job. If your schedule is a barrier, look into an online side hustle. Use the education and experience you have to guide you in a direction where there is room to grow financially. Network. Go back to school. Learn a trade and change fields completely. Currently my husband works a full and part-time job, he is able to get overtime at both. I work one full time job and overtime exceeding 30 minutes needs approval. So it is a little harder for me if we need some extra money. This tends to leave me with a surplus of time and a lack of funds, hence where this blog comes in. If you aren’t working or you are working but don’t want another traditional job and can’t pick up shifts or get a raise, never fear! You still have the opportunity to increase what you bring home. You can sell your stuff that has been in storage for months or years on online yard sale sites, mystery shop and get paid to answer some questions about things you were doing anyway, work online doing freelance or virtual assisting jobs, start a blog, open an Etsy shop. There are plenty of options out there and something for everyone. You may need to get creative, but you can only cut down your expenses so far before you have plateaued. Best of all, you have already set your budget without this extra income so all of it can go straight to your goals. Diversifying your income can be helpful in the case of an unexpected job loss or drop in pay. For anyone living paycheck to paycheck this could be a devastating financial setback. Increasing, and diversifying, your income will expedite reaching your financial goals.
So there you have it, the three simple tips to achieving your financial goals. These won’t get you there overnight, but it will get you there eventually. Stay motivated, set goals, prioritize, save money and increase your income and you will be on your way in no time.