I know the economy seems rough right now, but by adopting some simple financial habits you can make sure to come out on top! Money should be simple but we tend to make it complicated. That's why I'm here to give you 9 simple and savvy financial habits that are easy to follow and remember! Keep in mind that the key to being wealthy isn't about scoring a big wad of cash, it's about properly spending and saving.
1. Live below Your Means
Of all the financial habits on this list, learning to live below your means should be the most important habit to adopt into your lifestyle. The key to saving money is to always try to live on less then you make. If you do this consistently then you are automatically saving consistently, how that be any simpler Aim to save about 10% of what you earn. Try not to upgrade what you already have until you really need to in order to keep paying less even if you start earning more. For example, if you start making enough money that you're able to buy a new car instead of driving around your older car, hold off! You always want to make sure your monthly bills are less than what you earn in order to save, not to add more monthly expenses just because you can afford it now.
2. Think about Your Happiness
The next time you consider taking a job you really don't want just because it you will make more money, remember that money only buys happiness to a certain point. Beyond that, more money makes no difference. As long as you earn enough to pay your mortgage or rent, put gas in your car, eat what you want when you want, and take the occasional vacation, more money will not make you happier. However, coming up short on any of these basic wants and needs can make you miserable. So if you need the money to meet your needs, take the job even if you don't care for it, if your needs are already met by your income, pass on the job and hold out for another position that you will actually be happy in, while making more money.
3. Figure out How Much Your Time is Worth
This is a great way to figure out if hiring someone to help you do something is actually worth it. For a quick and simple way to figure out how much your time is worth, remove the last three zeros from your annual salary and divide the remaining number in half. So for example, if you make $30,000 a year, that gives you a rate of $15 an hour. Then, use this handy formula to decide when it's okay to hire someone to do a task that you usually hate to do yourself. You can also use this formula when you are deciding whether or not it's worth it to work overtime or an odd job. If your time is worth more than the actual job will cost for someone else to do, hire them! If it's not, than you've got to suck it up and do it yourself!
4. Save Every Raise
This financial habit was one that I actually learned from my parents. For many people, getting a raise is usually an excuse to treat themselves to an expensive dinner, a vacation, or a shopping spree. It's great to celebrate an accomplishment, but at the same time, you shouldn't go overboard with spending now that you make more money. Instead, adopt the financial habit of increasing the amount of money you are stowing away every time you get an increase in pay. In other words, if you have been living comfortably before your raise, you should increase the amount that is going into your 401K plan after your raise in order to save even more than you have been! This goes for bonuses too.
5. Beware of Coupons
This is definitely one of those financial habits that we all could use some reminding of! Getting a coupon for your favorite store should not be a reason for you to go shopping. This is the lesson of the third, fourth, and eighth pairs of red pumps in your closet. Coupons should only be used if you needed to go buy something already. Don't see it as an excuse to take a shopping spree because in most cases it will have you spending more money than you normally would. Not to mention you usually end up with a bunch of things you didn't really need just because you thought you were getting a great deal that you couldn't pass up. A great way to decide if something is worth getting is to sleep on it. If the next day you still are thinking about it, then get it. If not, well then you didn't really need it.
6. Yearly Credit Score Checks
Every birthday you should check your credit score in order to stay on top of how you are doing. Your credit score is vital as it will be used to decide whether you get a loan, an apartment, a decent rate for homeowners insurance, or even sometimes a job. Protect your score by doing things that positively affect it such as pay your bills on time, don't use more than 10 to 30 percent of your available credit, don't apply for new cards too often, and don't cancel cards you're not using. The longer your open accounts are in good standing, the better your score will be. Don't let your credit score drop without realizing it by checking it yearly to see if you should continue with what you've been doing, or to try and change in a way that will raise your score.
7. Know Your Worth on the Open Market
This financial habit is huge to remember during this time when a lot of people are being let go at companies to save money. Make sure to know if you are worth more or less than what you're currently earning. If you're under earning, you're losing money every day you're not asking for more or searching for a new job that pays more. If you're overpaid, you could be in danger of being let go to save your company money so you'd better update your skills or improve your productivity. You can find salary info online at sites like Salary.com.
8. Realize That Others Are in Debt Too
In the United States alone, an estimated 115 million people have credit-card debt. So in other words, there's a good chance your flashy next-door neighbors have some flashy debt to match. Make your lifestyle and purchasing decisions based on what you can actually afford, not because you feel like you need the same expensive things other people have. Instead of feeling jealous that your neighbor just got a brand new Louis Vuitton bag, try to feel smug about your big retirement account and your zero credit-card balance. Jealousy and envy should never be reasons to buy something if you can't afford it.
9. Use Cash, Not Your Card
Studies have shown that people who use a credit card will typically spend more money when shopping than a person who is shopping with cash. Minimize the urge to swipe your card by using your ATM card once a week to withdraw the amount of money you have allotted yourself for the week. Keep your cards at home, and even stow your credit cards in a hard to reach place in your closet to keep you from using them! This is one of the best financial habits to adopt in order to stop racking up your debt! It will also keep you from buying things you don't need.
The biggest financial habit to remember is to always keep track of your spending in some way. Think of it as if you were counting your calories! Create an excel spreadsheet or sign up for the free site Mint.com to start tracking where your money is going in order to make some positive changes. The sooner you start following these simple financial habits, the sooner you will be feeling more comfortable with your financial situation. What have you been doing to make, spend, or save money better during these tough times?