Personal finances can be intimidating. Perhaps it’s because our finances are so closely tied to other important aspects of our lives (e.g. where we can afford to live, how much we can freely spend and even how we stock our pantries). Or maybe it’s because most of us weren’t taught enough about personal finances in school growing up.
The truth is, our finances can be stressful because they’re just so, well, personal. There’s no one right way to do things.
Whatever your reasons for resistance, we don’t blame you if thinking about your finances is uncomfortable or even downright scary. We’ve been there. And we want to help you take control of your finances so you can look at your bank statement not with fear, but with excitement about the opportunities ahead of you.
That’s why we’re sharing 15 easy ways to take control of your finances with courage and confidence. You can use one or you can use all, but the point is to just start. Taking control of your finances by completing small, simple steps can be fun, motivating and inspiring. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
1. Read personal finance books
You might be familiar with book titles like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Those books are great, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. The good news is that there are tons of personal finance books out there for people just like you.
Whether you’re a millennial or you’re Gen Z looking for savings tips, a newly married couple dealing with joint finances for the first time or an older couple thinking about retirement, there’s a book out there for you. Hit your local library shelves so you can find titles that interest you!
2. Listen to personal finance podcasts
If reading isn’t your thing, try a personal finance podcast instead. Rather than listening to the same old playlist on your morning commute (Beyonce isn’t going anywhere), switch it up with a personal finance podcast. Find a list of great 2021 finance podcasts here.
3. Follow a personal finance blog
If you’re against books and podcasts, you must like reading blogs, right?! Personal finance blogs (like this one) are updated frequently and we write about a myriad of financial topics in an easy-to-read style, so you can learn a lot! Check out what else we’ve been writing about here, and feel free to let us know about other finance-related topics you’d love to read about.
4. Create a budget
It’s time to remove negative associations around the budget. Although you may think a budget is nothing more than a restrictive spreadsheet that will make you feel guilty about eating out, we know that’s just not the case.
With the right mindset, budgeting can be freeing and does not mean you have to stop spending money on things you want. Instead, it just gives you more clarity on how you’d like to spend your money. Check out our blog about six benefits of budgeting that help you create a life with less stress.
5. Cut back on a single spending category
Whether you create a comprehensive budget or not, see if you can cut back on one spending category this month. This could mean you eat out for lunch one less time per week. Or it could be as simple as canceling that magazine subscription you never read anymore. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned.
6. Pack your lunch
There’s no getting around it. Those restaurant bills really add up, even if you’re eating out at fast-casual restaurants rather than fine dining. If you’re always eating out for lunch, try packing a lunch one or two days a week instead. Here’s a tip: pack it up the night before so you can just grab it and go if you’re running late in the morning!
7. Meal prep
Meal prepping is a surefire way to reduce your grocery bill and avoid having to throw out meat or produce that’s gone bad. If you can prepare a few meals on one of your days off, you’ll use those groceries you bought and save yourself money when it’s time for lunch or dinner. Check out this budget-friendly meal prep list for yummy, easy ideas and get cooking!
8. Cancel your cable service
Is cable really that necessary anymore? One survey found that average U.S. households spend over $1,100 a year on cable – eek! That’s a lot of money for something that could easily be replaced with one or two streaming services for $20 a month or less. (And we hear you sports fans, but with streaming apps like the NFL app, you can even watch most nationally broadcast primetime football games for free.)
9. Pay off your debt with the snowball method (or the avalanche)
Pay off your debt and free yourself from those pesky credit card bills forever! Depending on your preferences, you can use a debt payoff method to keep yourself motivated or pay those balances down faster. Learn more about the debt snowball method vs the debt avalanche method here, and choose the one that excites you the most!
10. Save a little every time you get paid
Every time you get a paycheck, pay yourself first by setting a small amount of that paycheck into a savings account. Don’t wait until after you pay your bills – setting aside a small amount now makes it more likely that you’ll keep that money in savings, rather than waiting until the end of the month to see what’s leftover.
11. Go on a spending fast
This tip is for those who enjoy a challenge. To see just how much money you can save, go on a spending fast for a few days (or up to a month!) on any category or categories you like. This could include eating out at restaurants, buying new clothes, alcohol or whatever tickles your fancy. To make it even more fun, challenge your friends and family members to join you and see who can last the longest!
12. Set a financial goal
Setting goals can be motivating. To focus on your goal, we encourage you to write your goal down and post it in a place that you’ll see often. The more you can see your financial goal, the more you’ll be reminded of how much you want to reach that goal. With the goal top of mind, you’re more likely to make intentional decisions with your money so you can reach that goal faster.
13. Put your savings in a high-yield savings account
High-yield savings accounts (HYSAs) offer higher interest rates on bank account balances than traditional checking and savings accounts. Most HYSAs are offered by online-only banks, as they have fewer expenses than brick-and-mortar banks and can thus fund higher interest rates on a consistent basis.
Of course, with interest rates as low as they are today, even high-yield accounts aren’t offering great returns. But they are offering about half a percent more than traditional banks, and every little bit counts. So if you’re saving for something like a down payment on a home, you might consider keeping those savings in an HYSA where they’ll grow just a little bit quicker until you’re ready to start home-shopping in earnest.
14. Check your credit reports
Part of taking control of your finances means taking control of your credit score. It’s important to check your credit reports so you understand your current credit position. Checking your credit reports often also provides the opportunity to discover inaccuracies or fraud on your reports. To learn more about why checking your credit reports is important and how to do so, read our blog post on the subject: Checking your credit report? Here’s what you should know.
15. Open a Loqbox
If you want to save money while building better credit, Loqbox can help you do both. Here’s how it works:
- Decide how much you want to save every month for a year.
- Loqbox then finances the full amount with a 0% APR loan.
- Each month as you make your payments, we report them to the credit bureaus.
- As long as you make your payment on time and in full, this helps build your credit.
- When you hit your savings goal, you receive every dollar you’ve saved back for free when you open a new account with one of our partner banks. (This helps us to keep Loqbox free.)
- Or you can transfer your savings into an existing savings account for a small fee.
If you want to save more money this year and improve your credit score, learn more about how we work today.
We hope you enjoyed these tips to help you take control of your finances! Remember, it’s not about doing all of them. It’s about choosing one or a few that work for you and that are easy for you to implement. At Loqbox, we’re wishing you all the success on your personal financial goals!