Getting out of debt is actually quite simple. You just pay of your bills on time. Easy, right?
That is kind of like saying, “Losing weight is simple – you just eat less calories than you burn”.
The reality is, if it were SO easy to spend under our means, we wouldn’t be in debt in the first place. There are many internal scripts, emotional draws, addictions, dependencies, and serotonin hits surrounding how you relate to money.
Managing money is managing your psychology. Fortunately, you can take your personal hang-ups out of it, with the three simple steps below.
In college, I signed up for a ‘Gap Card’ to get 25% off a winter coat, not really understanding what I was doing. A late fee and a credit score ding later, I was terrified of ever touching a credit card again. It took me YEARS to recover from the trauma, and I used debit and cash for all of my transactions until about the age of 25. Yeah, my credit history is the age of a toddler.
Fortunately, when I did decide to get back in the credit rodeo for a second time, I had a plan. Without taking these simple and strategic measures, I certainly would have spiraled into a toxic mindset of scarcity, overwhelm, credit card dependency, and debt.
Here are the three small things you need to do today to set yourself up for a life of financial success and big, long term gains.
- Sign up for Personal Capital, Mint, Clarity, or all three.
Why is this tool so powerful? Thanks to Personal Capital and Mint, one password is all I need on hand to get a snapshot of my financial health. I don’t need to login to multiple banking websites, or conduct elaborate calculations to fathom my savings, debt, and income.
More importantly, these tools ‘gamify’ your finances. Suddenly, earning more and saving more started to become fun, addicting, even. Getting those numbers up has encouraged will encourage you to side hustle, ask for a raise, and just say no to those shoes at Ross.
Personal Capital and Mint help you run your life as a business, making sure profits are always up and never in the red.
For me, Mint has become a nostalgic archaeological dig site of my finances past. I can look back on days when I made less than 10K a year, take a deep breath, and remember how far I’ve come. Or, I can cringe at what I used to buy mindlessly, kind of like looking at my awkward 8th grade yearbook photo. Who needs scrapbooking when you are a finance nerd?
2. Get in a serious relationship with your bank.
Be your bank’s worst nightmare and best friend. Before you question this concept, understand how much money your bank makes off of you. If you store your cash in a savings account, your bank profits by lending out your money with interest.
If you are drowning in debt, even better. The cha-ching is in the outrageous interest you pay them every month.
Therefore, it is completely acceptable for you to call up your bank every month or two and request for them to do your bidding, such as:
- Lower your APR (if you have debt). They better say yes, because you can always sell your debt to a lower bidder. Don’t be afraid to wave the fact that you have options in front of them.
- Increase your spending limit (if you are debt free). The higher your spending limit, the higher your credit score will be.
- Reverse any and all fees. There is absolutely no reason you should be paying ATM or withdrawal fees. Don’t let your bank get away with this, ever. Or, better yet, signup for a bank with no fees like Charles Schwab.
3. Find strength in systems.
Humans are weak. Systems are strong. The more you lean on automation, the less you will be vulnerable to your spending whims and impulses.
Here is the system I set up in my early twenties to spare me from debt monsters:
Step 1- If offered, setup a paycheck direct deposit with your employer. Automate 5% of your pay check to deposit into your savings. If this seems overwhelming right now, start with 1% and gradually increase by 1% every month.
Extra Credit: Max out your employer’s 401K, and setup an automatic contribution to a Roth IRA.
Date: First of the month.
Step 2 – Automate your CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS.
Link your credit cards to your savings account, and schedule a date for them to be automagically paid.
Schedule date: The 7th of the month
Step 3 – Setup automatic bill pay.
You can do this with your phone, utilities, and even rent, if your landlord lives in the present day. Even if your landlord it still stuck in 1932, you can schedule a check to automatically be sent to the recipients address monthly on the date of your choice.
Schedule date: The 7th of the month
Complete these steps and you will have mastered personal finance: level 1.
If it feels overwhelming, just know that you should be able to tackle all of this in a day. It took me three months so, if I can do it, so can you!
What are some of the ways you optimized your financial systems to save more or spend smart?