Finance is a complex, nuanced subject some people spend their lives attempting to master. It requires an understanding of math, human behavior, global politics, chaos theory and research methods. This is true at the global level of multinational corporations and the personal level of keeping up with your bills at home.
This isn’t an excuse to give up on your personal savings and financial goals. The most basic and important financial habits are simple to understand and act upon. That doesn’t always mean it’s easy, but you learned many of the core concepts back in kindergarten.
Let people know about your financial goals and situation, especially your spouse. Sharing this information with your family means working together on attaining your financial goals. It can also provide accountability by forcing you to report any mistakes or shopping binges.
It’s hard to actively cheat on your finances in this age of automated this and internet updated that — but that doesn’t keep people from trying to scam you. Some of the most popular and successful scams are those that convince you there’s a way of cheating your way to the top. If anybody offers to sell you the secret of easy success, stay skeptical. Playing fair is the most reliable road to your financial goals.
Clean Up Your Messes
In kindergarten, this meant picking up your toys and cleaning spilled snacks. For adult personal finance, it means tracking your spending and fixing problems immediately. This can range from calling a business about a mistake in a bill, to curtailing a subtle spending habit, to cancelling unused memberships and subscriptions. Organizing your approach to money, and maintaining that organization, is a key to healthy personal finance.
Wash and Flush
Flushing and washing your hands after using the toilet has little to do with personal finance, but everything to do with establishing habits. This ritual was one of the first you developed, and one you (hopefully) observe to this day. Creating rituals surrounding your spending can help you save money and control your financial destiny. These rituals can range from how you store loose change to a three-day waiting period for expenses above a certain amount. The more positive habits you develop, the better your financial outlook will become.
Kindergarten was about a little time for everything — numbers, letters, science, art, discovery, play and time with friends. Balance in your finances includes setting aside a little money every month for play and investment. Other subjects get seen to automatically because somebody else is expecting that check. If you’re on a tight budget, set aside just a little. Ten dollars will buy a movie rental and popcorn fixings. If you don’t make room for these personal expenses, you’re likely to spend the money anyway — which throws all of your other financial responsibilities out of balance.
Look at the World Around You
Pay attention. Do research. Ask around. From getting the best deal on a major purchase, to buying appliances or cars when they’re on the best sales, to researching a vendor at RipOffReport.com, looking closely at spending opportunities means controlling your financial life. This research has the added benefit of forcing you to wait between wanting to buy something and actually buying it — a cool-off period that can help you avoid the most harmful impulse buys.
Rest is important in all human endeavors, and personal finance is no exception. This doesn’t mean ignoring your responsibilities. Instead, it means automating everything you can so your budget works even while you’re “sleeping on the job.” Automated bill payments can save you time, reduce your stress and even lower your interest rates. Automated transfers can help you dole out allowances and pull out money for savings or vacation funds. You can even automate your monthly budget tracking with a variety of smart phone applications and desktop software. The less you have to think about your daily financial details, the more energy you’ll have for the big picture.
Complexity may be a sign of intelligence, but simplicity is the hallmark of genius. Take the time to understand the details of every financial decision you make — then apply the simplest life lessons so those decisions are as wise as they are informed.