If you’re cursed with indecision and you’re having trouble starting, sometimes a concise list of important steps on the journey can be all you need.
When I was thinking about quitting my job to become a WAHM (and run a blog full-time), one of my priorities became paying down debt and getting an even stronger hold on our finance – you may remember my series on how we paid off $10,000 in debt in two months (while only netting $40k/year from our office jobs!)
Consider this blog post a quick cheatsheet for improving your finances in the long run so no matter your goal – working from home, getting out of debt, having extra spending cash each month – you can get there sooner rather than later.
Start a Budget
Knowing how much money you have right now, what your expenses are, and what’s most important is the foundation of getting financially fit. If you don’t yet have a budget (or you have one you don’t follow) then PLEASE develop one! I know it can seem overwhelming at first but you have no idea how much stress you’re carrying around by NOT having one. Read more about how to start a budget here!
Identify Your Debts, Highest Interest to Lowest
A lot of advice you’ll see about finances suggests paying off your lowest debt first and then applying that payment to others, but I’m not a fan of this sort of expensive motivation. Instead, aggressively pay from highest to lowest interest rates. This way you’re saving money that would normally wrack up over the year. A 22% interest rate $1,000 loan is $220 a year – that’s an INSANE amount of extra money paid!
Get a Cash Back Credit Card
Whether you have great credit, terrible credit, or no credit, having a cash back card is a great way to always save money (but ONLY if you can use it wisely!) Most cards offer up to 5% cash back (with a limit usually) on certain times and then 1-2% back unlimited on everything else. This is key because the economy right now isn’t offering a ton of savings account rates even approaching 1 or 2%. With the wealth of credit companies out there, most people can get a small line of credit with has cash back. Personally, I recommend the Discover Card – they give you an automatic $50 just for signing up if you click through this link!
Put Your Card and Budget Together
Take a look at your budget and highlight the things that you pay on a regular basis – gas, electric, garbage, groceries…. Seems silly not to try and save as much as possible on those, right? So why not make it a set-in-stone priority to charge recurring bills to the credit card and then immediately pay it off each month. As long as you never charge up more than you intend to pay off and NEVER carry a balance, you’re literally getting paid by the credit card company to buy stuff you would anyway. Pretty amazing, no?
Find a Side Gig/Hustle/Part-Time Job
Budget in the money you get from your primary income source and stay on top of it, then make a plan to pay off even more. No matter how much time you have left in your day, there are ALWAYS ways to make extra money each month to apply towards debts.
Check out these articles on the best ways to make extra cash online:
Almost everyone has a basement/closet/garage full of stuff that’s literally doing nothing but collecting dust and taking up space. Not only can you easily sell this stuff, but having clutter around can impact your mental health, too. Check out this post on how/why to declutter today!
Make the Most of Your Cash
There comes a time in your life when you realize that what you think is important really isn’t, and one of those things is name-brand anything. Aldi is my favorite grocery store, but even if you don’t have one in your area, there are always options to save money outside your big box store (like Walmart…ick…) Shop online, visit your local farmer’s markets, and reduce your grocery budget as often as possible! Be sure to use Ibotta to save even more (because seriously, it’s free…you like free money, don’t you?)
Be More Mindful
This goes hand-in-hand with reevaluating your dedication to name brands, but consider everything you buy as a chance to exercise free will. Every minor purchase – a coffee in the morning on your way to work, for instance – can and does add up over the course of a year. A grande drip from Starbucks, for instance, is $1.94 around here, and if you get one even 3 times a week, you’re looking at about $300/year, just in coffee. If you take that $6 and buy grounds that make 30 cups of coffee, and invest in a modest coffee maker at home, you’ll save AT LEAST $200/year!
The problem is, however, that the saving are small and need to compound to see the difference and that’s where mindfulness comes into play. Being aware of your money makes you less apt to waste it. Try thinking of going out to eat in terms of how many hours you have to spend at your job to pay for it, and you’ll see what I mean.
Establish Goals and Timelines
Set a goal and your project will grow to meet that goal. Yes, I said grow. While I’m all about setting realistic goals, don’t give yourself so much space that you procrastinate on getting control of your finances. Make a clear goal (pay off X credit cards this year, save $1000 for a down payment on a home, etc) and stick to it. If you’re a visual person, grab some markers and poster board from your local dollar store and create a chart. Or if you’re more of a internal motivator, plug shorter term goals and reminders into your digital calendar. Whatever your route, make it one that stays in front of you constantly.
Stack Your Money (in Your Favor)
If you’re already using your cash back card, websites like Ebates are a great way to establish multiple streams of discount/monetary rewards for buying things you already planned on buying. You can read more about how I make $1,000+/year with Ebates in this article here. Again – it’s FREE MONEY! No reason to procrastinate on this any longer!
And don’t forget about discounted gift cards! Shop through a company like Raise.com and buy discounted gift cards for things you’re already spending money on anyway – gas, groceries, clothing, the options are limitless! Click through this link to get $5 off your first $25+ purchase!
It’s time to get your finances under control and you can start TODAY. Kick the excuses to the curb and recognize that you do in fact have the power to get through this and find the financial freedom you’re so eager for.