My husband and I are still a few weeks into our first time coordinating a Financial Peace University class. It’s been insanely awesome so far, even if I’m not the biggest fan of talking in front of a large group.
The first few lessons of the course revolve around analyzing your spending habits and writing them down on your paper budget. Fun right? (It’s not). It’s especially not fun if you’re a technology-savvy guy or gal like me.
I love spreadsheets. I love quick-add columns. I love moving things around and trying new approaches without having to erase anything. And I especially love being able to transfer money in and out of my account whenever I need to, even if it’s not great for my financial health.
I realized this might be a bad habit when I said it aloud in the group discussion and I got a few weird looks. Apparently most people analyze their budget, transfer their money, and then…. Leave it there. There’s no checking in two or three times a day, moving a few dollars here and there or transferring money in to cover a surprise expense. It’s all taken care of in advance and they don’t check in more than once or twice a month.
…. That’s not me! I don’t know if it’s because I am on an infrequent pay period and we have money coming in all month (and never a set amount, at that), or if I’m just account-happy and we have too many “holding places” for money as it waits to be sent to a bill, but I got to wondering if I was all that weird.
The thought of not checking in on my accounts or being able to make transfers when I need to scares me! It makes me wonder if all my numbers add up perfectly, or if I’ve forgotten about an automatic bill that will cause an overdraft. I also wonder about how my husband’s transactions will hit the account (give or take a dollar for a gas tank fill-up, for example) and whether or not he’s paying attention to the balance.
Now, this is probably where Dave Ramsey’s cash envelopes system will work so well for us. There’s no overdrafting when it’s cash in an envelope. And so we recommit to using those envelopes for gas, food, medical co-pays, and spending money.
Do you check in on or manipulate your online finance accounts often? How often is often? And do you think it affects how much you spend?
There are two reasons people have issues managing their money:
1. Ignorance (meaning, you don’t know enough about money management and personal finance to make solid decisions)
2. Self-control issues (we live in a culture where consumerism is rampant and we are obsessed with having everything and having it now).
There are also a slew of issues that come from things like the wage gap, pay inequality, poverty, and various other social issues that I’m not going to get into here (chances are, if you’re reading this, you earn a wage).
But I think that with enough knowledge, the second issue becomes easier to manage. So, how do you learn about money?
Nobody comes out of the womb crunching numbers, investing their savings and calculating their net worth. We all have to learn from somewhere, and it’s clear that that North American school system isn’t that place.
And with an emerging cultural trend of self-directed online education through online courses, articles, eBooks, MOOCs, and countless other platforms, we’re taking it in our own hands.
Here are a few ways to learn about personal finance on your own so you can up your money game and start making awesome decisions about your cash.
I’m a HUGE fan of podcasts.
I have one of my own, and I listen to them constantly. When I’m driving, working out, walking anywhere, or doing anything mindless, I’m listening to a podcast.
I find audio learning the perfect way to learn something at my convenience.
I suggest my friend Jessica’s podcast, from Mo Money Mo Houses. She just launched and her episodes so far are great. Jess has the perfect radio voice and you always go away having learned something.
It’s a millennial focused podcast with interviews new guests each week about their personal money story. Topics include getting out of debt, doing a shopping ban, trying to overcome their inner shopaholic, quitting their 9 to 5 to become a solopreneur, starting a side hustle, money and relationships and more.
If you enjoy her podcast I highly recommend you leave a review here (every review helps – take it from a podcaster!) and subscribe to Jess’s show.
Jess is also hosting a giveaway to celebrate the launch of her podcast for:
Think about it – when you think of learning anything, what do you think of? For me, it’s picking up a book.
There are some amazing books out there about money, and you’d be surprised as to how much you’ll learn from each one – even if you think you already know everything about personal finance. I’m a blogger on the topic and I still learn something from every finance book I read.
Some great books are:
Anything from Gail Vaz Oxlade
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
The Wealthy Barber
Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University
MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom
Everyone will have a different style, so some of these books might not jive well with you, but you won’t know until you pick them up.
If you find yourself solid on one financial topic (ie budgeting) but lacking knowledge in another (ie investing), there are plenty of books about each topic so don’t worry about running out.
Blogs and Online Publications
I’m obviously a huge fan of blogs.
Hopefully you are too (otherwise you might be hate reading this =) ). And I’ve learned a crazy amount of information about money from blogs and online magazines (like FastCompany).
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of personal finance blogs out there, touching on every topic from investing to home ownership, to saving and budgeting and more, so it’s difficult to make any recommendations, but spend some time on a handful of blogs getting to know the author and the style.
Every once in awhile you’ll land on the perfect blogger/reader match and you’ll be hooked.
Courses and Products
Big, commercial courses and products are sometimes too faceless to be effective when it comes to learning about personal finance – after all, the word personal is used in there.
So once you find your favorite blogger (or two, or three) or authority on money who you trust, see if they have any products or courses you can sign up for to teach you a bit more about personal finance.
There are a ton out there and they can be mind-blowingly useful.
There’s no need to wallow in ignorance about money. We all need to start learning somewhere, so start where you are – and with what you have. Podcasts, books, blogs and courses are some of the best places to start.
You’ve done your homework and created a budget that maps out what you should be spending each month, but despite weeks of trying to stay within those limits, your outgoing expenses are always more than your incoming funds.
You’re probably beginning to feel hopeless and ready to give up on this whole budgeting thing. Maybe you’re even wondering if it’s impossible to live within your means.
Luckily, there are ways you can cut back without losing your quality of life. From grocery bills to insurance premiums, there are several methods to reduce spending in virtually every category.
For big families, this category can be the most expensive of all, but there are ways to reduce your grocery bill while still enjoying the food you love. Here are a few suggestions:
Sign up for your store’s rewards club to get exclusive savings
Consider cooking a meatless meal a few days a week to cut back on high meat costs
One of the greatest fears of establishing a budget is that you won’t be able to eat out anymore, but you simply have to be smart about your choices.
Some people limit eating out to a certain number of times per week, while others choose a set amount for the month. Either way, there are options to save money at a restaurant. First, join a membership club for access to coupons and discounts. Next, check out specials, such as “Kids Eat Free” days and free birthday meals. Eating family style can also be cheaper if you have several people.
One of the best ways to ensure financial freedom is by maintaining necessary policies. Car accidents and medical emergencies can strike without any notice, leaving you thousands of dollars in debt. Insurance is the only way to protect yourself from the financial downfall of such a catastrophe and while your premiums may be fixed each month, there are still ways to reduce your spending in this category. Contact an insurance agent to compare prices and check for specials, such as good student and driver discounts. Even a few dollars a month can add up to big savings over time.
Your mortgage is a payment that stays the same for several years, but even it can be reduced. If you purchased your home when interest rates were high, consider refinancing to a lower rate. The upfront costs can be recouped within a few years if you reduce your payment enough, meaning you’ll then be saving money each month for the life of your loan. The same principle applies for other forms of financing, such as vehicle or other loans.
Finding areas to make tweaks in your budget can seem like a small change at first, but the savings add up and over time you could be increasing your bank account by thousands of dollars. Whether it’s your grocery bill or your insurance premium, there are always ways you can cut back without sacrificing your quality of life.