Practical Personal Finance for 2020
5 must-do actions to kick off the new decade
If ever there was a time for a clean start with your relationship with money and well, lack of it, it would be the start of the ’20s.
This isn’t an attack of your prior life (pre-2020), as that time period will be best remembered for the last breath of bank/investment exploitation in a digital format.
We’ve come way too far as a collective to settle for anything less than quality financial institutions that have exceptional digital services and maintain humanity at their core. AKA — not large banks in the United States.
So with all that bank bashing in mind, let’s get to the first 5 things you need to do to kick the new year off.
1. Stop the spending spree with a complete spending “fast”
“Fast” as in abstaining from buying nonsense, not spending more quickly.
What this looks like is limiting your spending only to your weekly groceries. Yes, you can cheat this and buy booze/toys/whatever at the store, however, even with the cheating strategy, you are going to save a considerable sum of money and also eliminate the mental strain/spend (via micro decision reduction) during your week by simply having a hard “no” answer to all of your small dollar (which add up to large dollar) excursions.
2. Find one or two new free activities/hobbies
Free or close to free is the keyword here. I know the obvious response to this is to binge the hell out of streaming services, but it’s likely a good idea to attempt other outdoors/out of your living room options first and then default to The Office re-runs if all else fails. Hiking, team sports, book clubs/libraries (or am I the only one still down for these?), community events, camping, whatever. Just try it and if it’s terrible than my apologies but at least you have a good story.
3. Pick a savings goal for the year and open a separate bank account for it
For those that know me as a writer/person/executive, I will openly admit bias here as we created a fantastic solution for this at Froogal (www.froogal.us) that essentially gives you a bunch of amazing rewards, just for saving which you were going to do anyway, like subscription boxes, streaming services, hotel nights, gym memberships, etc. If you don’t choose us, choose Ally Bank or a high rate bank (if you care about 1% interest) via listing on bankrate.com.
The key here is to pick a round number that is reasonably attainable. So if you’ve been sitting on $7,100 for the past year and can’t seem to get that number to grow:
Set the goal at $10,000
Remove all savings from your current bank (that one that you are using for a checking account and ATM access via your debit card)
Send the funds to a separate bank that either gives you rewards (Froogal) or pays you a decent rate (Ally), and who’s website/tools are atrocious (every other bank)
Each month, send over whatever you can spare post credit card bill & rent/utilities ($20 bucks count, but $100-$1,000 would be crushing it)
Check back once a month or once every 3 months AT MOST (the whole point is to keep this money out of sight so that 1) You feel poor again and are more conservative with your money, and 2) You don’t feel the urge to dip into these savings to pay for something you shouldn’t be buying.
This may sound silly, but it works. Give it a go. This should help you stop seeing the same number/getting stuck on $7k as your total savings every month/year.
4. Get serious about your student loans
The key here is to stop paying the minimum payment. Period.
If you think that this is a reasonable strategy (or that income-based deferment is your friend), your life will completely turn into paying Uncle Sam back with SIGNIFICANT INTEREST. Seriously, you’ll be 2–3 times the actual amount of your loan if you don’t get your sh*t together here.
There are essentially two strategies to going after your student loans (both involve paying above the minimum payment).
The first is the Dave Ramsey way — attack your lowest dollar amounts first with any of your available funds (after the credit card, home payments, and a little bit of savings have been paid/transferred) so you can build momentum. Momentum here is the amazing feeling of eliminating a loan entirely from your life no matter what the dollar amount. If you’re new to the loan game, this is a good strategy to start with as you’ll reap the immediate satisfaction of accomplishment.
The second is the finance geek (logical way) — attack your highest interest rate loans first (again with any available funds leftover). This will save you the most money in the long-run, guaranteed, but won’t provide those short-term “wins” that everyone loves (in the form of actually knocking out individual loans quickly).
There are many apps out there that help with this, although it is a relatively simple process of you taking the extra two minutes to pay a bit more on your loans, but I’d recommend ChangED (gochanged.com), as their co-founder, Nick, has a great vision for the company.
5. Learn what an “anti-budget” is, then implement it!
In essence, an anti-budget is a culmination of many of the tasks above.
You take care of what “motivated you” knows needs to get done with regards to your money — save a little in a separate account, attack the student loans, don’t waste money on nonsense — FIRST and then have fun/piece of mind with whatever remains.
Honestly, after you start crushing loans and saving money (and then getting rewards for saving money) you will start to see yourself morph into someone who doesn’t waste money, but with the anti-budget, you won’t have to stress about treating yo’ self.
Paula Pant takes everything I said above and adds more color here: https://affordanything.com/anti-budget-or-80-20-budge/
Hope this all helps and please comment on your journey below.