5 steps to better financial habits

Alright, let’s get real about what’s going on in our wallets and bank accounts. For most of us, it isn’t looking good. We spend money on our college degree to (hopefully) make money being a boss queen, but that doesn’t mean we should have bad financial habits now that are going to be a rude wake up call when we’re out of college.

I first noticed I had bad spending habits when my bank account updated its mobile app to show you a “weekly snapshot” of your earnings and spending. I had a 0 percent income and spending waaay too much money every week. I was at a loss on how to change when everything I spent money on seemed like a necessity to me.  So this semester I’m taking a Personal Finance class and these are some tips I’ve learned on how to manage your money and have healthy financial habits.

Keep Track of Every Nickel You Spend

This is an easy one. There are so many apps out there that can help track how you spend your hard earned money. I tested two apps, Mint and Albert.

Mint helps you plan and stick to a budget, as well as remind you of all your monthly bills in one place so it’s easy to see and stay on top of your bills. Definitely my favorite feature of this app is the budget planning. This feature automatically includes your monthly bills so it’s easy to save money because you can visibly see where you spend most of your money.  For example, I noticed I eat out way too often.

Albert helps with budgeting as well as analyzing your spending. If it the app notices you’re staying within budget, it will put a small portion of your income into savings for you. Best feature though is the notifications! The app will send you notifications every month whenever you spend outside of your budget, for example when I blow money on unnecessary coffee at Starbucks, it sends me notifications reminding me how much I wasted on a quick caffeine fix. Brutal, but dang it reminded me to stay on track with my budget.

Just paying attention to where and how you spend money will help you out a lot.

Understand your personal financial statement

Your personal financial statement is as assessment of all your assets and liabilities.

Assets are your income and valuable. Liabilities are your expenses-- aka bills and loans.

Now, you do have to create a personal financial statement yourself. But once you understand what it is, it’s easy to do.  You should update it at least twice a year. Imagine your personal financial statement as a snapshot of your finances. It’s important to have one because you can show it to banks when applying for a loan, or even when you’re trying to purchase a car or mortgage.

Because we’re college students I know I’m not worried about getting mortgage at the moment, but this is a good financial habit to get started now so that you’ll be prepared in the future.

Pay yourself first

Treat payments into savings and investments as seriously as if they were bills you would never skip. Never forget that you’re the most valuable “asset” in your life, and investing in yourself will pay off in the long run.

My tip is to at least put 15 percent of every check in savings.

Make Savings Easy

Make your life a little easier by taking advantage of beautiful technology! Most mobile banking apps can be set up to directly put your paycheck into your savings, but like I mentioned before, the app Albert will also set aside savings from your budget that you don’t use.

Break down savings goals

Break down your savings goals into monthly, weekly and daily budgets. These smaller budgets will keep you focused on saving money in every day small ways that add up over the month.

For example, I want to save at least 500$ for spring break but with monthly bills it seems difficult to save that much. If I break that down into more smaller numbers it becomes more manageable; $100 a month = $25 a week = $5 on weekdays.  

I easily spend 5 dollars on coffee, food, or even something unnecessary like a face mask I could live without. You have to make sacrifices to save money, but if you cut the little things out, you won’t notice a huge effect on your daily life and it’ll create better habits in the future.

I learned all these helpful tips and trick from my personal finance class, which I highly recommend taking. These suggestions may seem like common sense, but sometimes all it takes is someone pointing out the obvious to make important changes for the future.