5 small money habits that will make 2017 your best year
Even though the website has a new look and feel, don't be fooled. I've been writing about finance for nearly five years. In that time, I've done a lot of experimentation with both my business and my finances, mostly because, well... my business is all about my finances (a.k.a. this blog). I'm like Captain Ahab in search of his white whale; always on the prowl for the tips, money habits, or money tech that changes lives and makes it easier to stay out of debt, save, and live my life without overwhelming money stress.
I can't speak to what works for everyone, but the five money habits below are kid-tested (by me, not actual children) to have a profound impact on the way you manage your dollars and cents. Call these the bumper crop of the hundreds of wacky things I've tried in search of making managing money a little easier for us everyday folk.
Separate Bill Pay Account
I gave this piece of money advice in this great article by Natalie Bacon. The other women featured in the round up gave really profound, meaningful advice. I missed the boat and went with something more tactical, but I'm going to continue to evangelize this tip because it has truly made managing my finances so much easier.
I know in the name of streamlining people only like to have 1 checking account, but if you're prone to overspending (like I am) keeping your cash for bills separate from what's okay to spend can be a game changer. (You can also use this as an opportunity to sign up for a bank account offering a cash bonus. Ca-Ching!)
Get An App for Saving the "Couch Cushion Change"
Flipping over couch cushions and looking for extra change is so 1993. I've even tried keeping change in a jar in my house, but that jar has sat neglected for a few years now. The truth is, even though I'd like to be better about keeping cash on hand, mostly I deal in digital currency (Venmo, Paypal and Debit Cards). I remember being small and taking my change to the grocery store or bank to cash in. I know this adds up over time, but it doesn't super make sense for my hyper digital lifestyle.
But...I remember being a little kid and taking my change to the grocery store or bank to cash in. I know this adds up over time, but it doesn't super make sense for my hyper digital lifestyle. (I'll admit it! I'm a millennial and make my living blogging and I'm annoying sometimes with my technology!)
So, what about all of that "extra change" from my purchases? I'm still spending. Enter in new apps that help you save seamlessly by mimicking this "couch cushion" effect. Most of them function in the same way: by analyzing your checking account and removing super small amounts you wouldn't miss. Apps like Qapital allow you to set rules like rounding up to the nearest dollar or saving a dollar a week. We list some of our other favorite apps for this kind of thing here, and here.
Purge + Sell Obsessively
I like to live minimally, and I credit my days as an actor for why I live lean in terms of "stuff" I have around the house. When you're a "working" actor, you move around so much to take jobs across the country that it doesn't make sense to have a lot, so you get used to living with very little. You're also f*cking poor, but that's another story for another day. Even still, I obsessively like to cull my belongings so that only the truly purposeful items: the ones being loved, used and valued consistently stay in my home and creative space.
I know I'm different from most in my views on this, but I also believe that people just keep too much "stuff" around.
And while getting rid of your stuff is an opportunity to live more meaningfully, it's also an opportunity to make a little extra cash. Whether it's a holiday gift you didn't like or a dress you bought and wore once, there are many ways to repurpose your unwanted belongings into an extra $25 or $40 here and there. That "extra" cash can go a long way to debt payoff (as seen in my
That "extra" cash can go a long way to debt payoff (as seen in my $8k in 90 day challenge) or toward funding a savings goal.
If you're a personal finance blog aficionado, you're probably sick of hearing "automate your savings," but there's a reason every financial blogger/writer/journalist recommends this – because it WORKS. It just does. If you're struggling to save, try automating and then come back and tell me you still can't set aside money for a rainy day.
I also advocate automating your bill pay as well. I think it simplifies everything and puts so much time back into your day/week/month. Plus, if you're automating payments into a separate bill pay account (see above), it's a lot less to worry about.
Do An Annual Audit of Expenses
So this goes hand-in-hand with the suggestion above to automate your bill pay. While your payments can be on autopilot (and maybe you'll have an unusually high month for a gas or electric bill, say) it definitely pays to do an annual (or bi-annual) audit of your expenses. I'm talking about the things you pay for every month: car payment, mortgage/rent, insurances, and cell phone or utility bills. By ruthlessly looking for the best rates, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars over the entire year.
Here's how to do an audit for your own expenses, and there is no better time than the start of a fresh year to make this happen. I recently switched cell phone providers and nabbed $40/month in savings. That's $480 back into my budget in 2017 for a half hour of work (and yes, I actually went into the store. Some things you just can't outsource with an app unfortunately.)
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Related: Save money everywhere you go