If you’re new to personal finance and the closest thing you’ve done to “managing your money” was setting up your direct deposit, that’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with starting with the basics; in fact, that’s exactly where you should start. If you want to get rid of debt, build up your savings, and make sure you don’t run out of money before the end of the month, here are a few things you need to know right out of the gate.
Personal Finance isn’t about FUNctionality
When I first started learning how to manage money, I created flowcharts and graphs and calculated the ins and outs of every strategy, telling everyone about my newfound hobby. I thought I’d come up with a brilliantly complex system that would change the way I handled my money, unlocking unimaginable wealth.
Instead, I realized I was complicating the process and ruining my chances of success. What I should have done was take the advice of those who promoted a much simpler strategy. Dave Ramsey, for example, suggests a method that’s so simple it just works. Millions have benefited from systems that are fundamental. Here are some simple starting points:
Make Budgeting PerFUNktory: Start Winning Through Planning
A budget is not a thing to overlook or undervalue; and a “we-think-we’ll-spend-this-much” type of budget won’t work. You need a zero-based budget, one in which you spend your money on paper before the month of expenses even begins. Whether you use pen and paper or computer software, the important thing is to commit (in your budget) real dollars to specific purchases for the month.
Creating a budget will give you a good idea where you stand financially. You’ll clearly see how much money is coming in and how much is going out. A budget will also help you clarify your larger financial goals, and how much money you can allocate towards them.
Emergency FUNds: Grow Your Own Financial Security
Many Americans only have a few thousand dollars in their savings accounts. I think you can do better! Aim to save for three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund and you’ll be well on your way to avoiding a financial avalance. Remember, medical emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere—and they’re not cheap.
FUNnel Your Savings into Investments: Multiply Your Money
Everyone knows they should invest for retirement – but too many don’t have a plan to do so. Investing for retirement often begins after settling all non-mortgage debt and after building a sufficient emergency fund.
Many people will have an excellent nest egg if they invest somewhere between 10 and 20% of their gross income into mutual funds. If you’re starting later in the game, you might want to start with 20%. If you’re young and need the extra cash now, 10% is more appropriate. Try 15% for more of a balance.
Debt is DisFUNction: Set Yourself Up to Win
The PerkStreet community is strongly against the use of debt. Why use a credit card when you can make over $300 a year using PerkStreet’s Debit MasterCard? Our full-length review of PerkStreet details how we earn over $300 per year in cash back by using our debit card, and tells you everything you need to know. Simply put, we’re being rewarded (or “perked”) for spending responsibly. Not just in cash back, but by following some simple common sense basics of personal finance.
Whatever your financial goal is, you can reach it if you keep things simple and work hard to succeed. Get your budget started with StreetSense, a course you can take free of charge from PerkStreet that will help you win with your money!
What is other advice you would give to someone just beginning to manage their money? Are there other personal finance basics you think they should know? Post in the comments below!
John Frainee is a Customer Columnist here at PerkStreet, and the webmaster and a writer for the ever-growing blog, The Christian Dollar. John enjoys exploring how faith and finance interact, spending time with his wife and family, and meeting readers from all over the web. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and Christian Counseling and loves encouraging others in their financial pursuits. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.