Taking control of your personal finances is key to living a more stress-free and stable life — a truly rich existence. All you need to do is take the first step: start becoming more aware of your bank account, and live by these very basic principals that just about sum up what personal finance is all about.
1. Pay yourself first
This is a common personal finance phrase that many people live by. But what does it really mean? No, paying yourself first isn't buying anything you want and letting your bills collect dust. Basically, it means that before you spend your new paycheck on necessities or wants, you should squirrel away a portion of it to your savings. Getting into this habit is helpful because you'll learn to prioritize saving, and the steady stream of monthly contributions is the best way to grow your emergency, savings, and retirement accounts. The best and easiest way to pay yourself first is to automate it so that the process is mindless.
2. Live within your means
Don't spend more than you can afford to spend. Don't take on loans or debt if you can't afford it. This even means being cautious on what is generally considered "good" debt. Ever since the financial crisis, all of us had to reassess what we initially thought of as good debt, which includes mortgage, school, and car loans. Once people started getting laid off and defaulting on payments, the good debt very quickly becomes bad. That's not to say that you shouldn't go to the college of your dreams; but you should still weigh the costs while keeping in mind realistic expectations of job prospects postgraduation. And if it's truly worth your investment, you should find ways to cut costs. For example, searching for scholarships to help with tuition. Other than not taking on debt, conscious spending is also part of what it means to live within your means.
3. Prepare for the long term and the worst
Don't spend your time living only in the here and now. Think ahead, and start preparing for your retirement and emergencies by starting an emergency fund and contributing to your retirement accounts. Here is a guide to everything you need to know about retirement to start with, and read up on the benefits of investing in a Roth IRA. Retirement seems really far away, but the sooner you start saving for it the better, because at the end of your long work journey, you'll be reaping greater rewards with the magic of compounding. The more money you put in earlier, the faster it grows.
4. Knowledge is king
Keep reading and keep learning about how to better your personal finances. This is just the start of your journey, and there is so much out there to learn. Read personal finance blogs like POPSUGAR Smart Living, Wise Bread, Get Rich Slowly, and more. And be sure to check out personal finance books for a more comprehensive overview of what your strategy should be.
What other personal finance principles do you live by?