Like any goal, making it in life financially is a matter of developing good everyday habits.
That doesn’t mean you need to overall your entire lifestyle and start sticking to a draconian budget starting tomorrow.
Small, incremental changes in the way you manage your money—such as trimming back some of your recurring bills and putting just a little bit more into savings each month—can, over time, significantly grow your net worth.
Success may not happen overnight, but financial wellness is worth working for.
Here are some ideas that can help put you on the road to a better financial life.
1. Reviewing Monthly Expenses
One of the simplest ways to improve your financial health is to take a closer look at exactly where your money is going each month.
Consider tracking expenses for a month or so, and then making a list of how much you’re currently spending monthly on essential and non-essential items.
You may want to list them in order of priority, and then look for places where you could potentially pair back, or, in some cases, completely eliminate the expense.
This might involve canceling inactive memberships and unused subscriptions, and/or re-evaluating your cell, cable and car insurance plans (do you have more bells and whistles than you need? Could you get a better deal elsewhere?).
Or, you might decide to cook more, and get takeout less often, or make fewer trips to the mall.
Another way to knock down recurring bills is to do a little haggling.
Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to get a provider to give you a better deal or to lower your rate.
For instance, if you see a promotion going on from a competitor, you can always ask your company if they can apply that rate to your account.
You can also call up a hospital to negotiate a discount on a medical bill.
2. Trying a 30-Day Spending Freeze
One quick way to change your spending habits is to put yourself on a one-month spending freeze, during which you avoid buying anything that isn’t a must.
If that seems too challenging, you might want to pick a single category (such as clothing or shoes) or a specific store to stay away from for 30 days.
To help stay motivated you might keep track of the money you didn’t spend during your freeze and then put it to use paying down debt, starting an emergency fund, or saving for a downpayment on a home or other short-term financial goal.
This can result in more money in the bank (or fewer bills) at the end of the month.
And once you start seeing the payoff of not giving in to impulse buying, you may find yourself spending less even after the freeze is over.
3. Automating Every Bill
Setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account to pay all of your bills helps ensure those bills get paid on time.
And, when it comes to improving your financial life, paying bills on time can have a pretty significant impact.
For one reason, it helps you avoid paying interest and late-payment fees.
It could also help improve your credit score. That’s because a significant portion of your credit score is based on payment history. In fact, it’s weighted more than any other factor.
Having a good credit score is important because it can help you qualify for the best interest rates on credit cards and loans, including a home mortgage.
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4. Putting an Extra 1% Towards Retirement
Even if you think you can always plan for retirement later, the sooner your start, the easier it is, and the more you’ll have when you do retire.
If you’re not yet maxing out your 401k contribution at work (which takes money out of your paycheck before taxes), you may want to increase it by just 1%.
You likely won’t notice the difference in your paycheck. But given the power of compounding interest (when your investments earn returns, those returns get reinvested and start to earn returns as well), that small increase can net more significant gains over time.
You may want to set up a timeline for when you want to bump it up another percentage point after you’ve gotten used to the 1%.
If you don’t have a 401k at work, you may want to look into opening an individual retirement account (IRA), keeping in mind that there are limits on how much you can put into retirement savings each year.
5. Paying in Cash
What is it about plastic that can make your brain think you’re not really spending money?
One way to curb unnecessary or mindless spending is to leave your credit cards at home and only carry the amount of cash you have budgeted to spend that day, or week.
When you can literally see your money going somewhere, you may find yourself becoming much more intentional in the way you spend it.
It can also be more difficult to get into debt when using cash, which could, in turn, pay off later by helping you avoid high interest credit card payments.
6. Creating Multiple Income Streams
You may not be able to snap your fingers and get a raise at work, but it might be possible to increase your income in other ways.
For example, is there a way to turn one of your hobbies, skills, or interests into some extra funds?
Maybe a favorite local business could use some help managing their social media account or designing or writing copy for their website.
Babysitting a neighbor’s kids, cleaning houses, walking dogs, or running errands for an older person are also options.
Or, you might consider taking up a side gig with flexible hours, such as driving, delivering food, helping people with small tasks, or personal shopping through one of the many on-demand service apps.
7. Saying “No” to Monthly Fees
Unless you’re looking very closely at your bank statements each month, you might not even be aware of the fees your bank may be charging every month for your checking and savings accounts.
These could include service fees, maintenance fees, ATM fees (if you go outside their network), minimum balance fees, overdraft/insufficient funds fees, and transaction fees. Over time, those little dinks can make a major dent in your account.
If you notice that you’re getting hit with one or more bank fees, you may want to consider shopping around for a less expensive bank, or switching to an online-only financial institution.
Because online financial institutions typically don’t have the same overhead costs banks with physical branches do, they generally offer low or no fees.
8. Making Savings Automatic
To start a savings routine, consider opening up a high-yield savings account or checking and savings account, and then setting up automatic, monthly transfers from your checking account into this saving account.
By having a set amount automatically transferred every month, you won’t have to think about (or remember to manually make) this transaction—it’ll just happen.
It’s perfectly okay to start small—even small deposits add up.
Before long you may have enough for an emergency fund (i.e., three- to six-months worth of living expenses just-in-case), a down payment, or another savings goal.
9. Knocking Down Debt
Having too much debt can hurt your chances of achieving financial security.
That’s because when you’re spending a lot of money on interest each month, it can be harder to pay all of your other expenses on time, not to mention grow your savings.
Getting rid of debt can have long-range consequences as well.
If you can lower your credit utilization ratio, which shows the amount of available credit you have, you could improve your credit scores. And that, in turn, could make it easier to qualify for lower-interest loans and credit cards in the future.
While knocking down debt may seem like a mountain to climb, choosing a simple debt reduction strategy may help.
Since credit card debt typically costs the most in interest, you might consider chipping away at these debts first, and then move on to the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on.
Another approach is to pay the minimum toward all your accounts, and then pay any extra you can afford toward the debt with the smallest balance. When that debt is wiped out, you can move on to the next smallest balance, and so on.
If you can qualify for a lower interest rate, another option might be to take out a personal loan that consolidates all those high-interest debts into one more manageable payment.
Making it financially doesn’t necessarily mean bringing in a huge paycheck or coming into a windfall (although those things don’t hurt).
Financial wellness is more about being able to live within your means, while also being able to put some money into savings or investments each month
Making a few incremental changes, such as putting just 1% more of your paycheck into your 401k, or siphoning off an extra $100 into a savings or checking and savings account each month, can slowly but surely help you build your net worth.
Taking steps to improve your financial well-being can seem overwhelming. But with a SoFi Checking and Savings® online bank account, you can track all your spending and saving with a single dashboard. It’s also easy to set up automatic transfers to savings accounts for different goals, all while earning competitive interest.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.