M.O.N.E.Y / April is Financial Literacy Month

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pril has been Financial Literacy Month, which is great timing as I’ve been focusing this month on “spring cleaning” my finances and getting my money back in order (and spending under control.) I’ve definitely been guilty of lifestyle inflation lately and it’s a habit I want to get out of. Especially since I’m traveling so much this year, I’d much rather save up cash to be able to have great experiences rather than impulse shopping because I’m bored at home alone.

Obviously, the most important thing is to budget your money and track your spending so you know where it’s going. Every dollar has a job, and you are your own CFO – it’s on you to make sure those “jobs” are getting done. I won’t pretend to have the best budgeting spreadsheet or system, but I really like the tools on Learnvest and Mint. They connect with all your financial accounts and do the hard work for you, so you can log in to one place to see all your money matters.

This year, I have worked hard to get comfortable being uncomfortable. When I moved, my living expenses more than doubled, so I’ve had to cut out and cut back some of my favorite treats like daily Starbucks or weekly mall trips. Things that were by no means necessary, but little things that I enjoyed that made me happy. Cutting these and making coffee at home and having clothing swaps with friends have taken the place now, and while it’s a little out of my comfort zone, it’s definitely been worth it.

Another good way to keep an eye on your money is to track your income. For people who have just one salaried job where the paycheck doesn’t change each week, this is probably not imperative or even helpful – in my old job, I was salaried, and didn’t have any side hustles, so I always knew every month precisely what I was going to take home. Now that I have multiple income streams, my income varies. I always budget based on the bare minimum I know I’ll be making from my full time job, and track everything that is extra in order to see what I have left to play with (aka save for travel or pay down student loans.)

trim the fat – Going along with spring cleaning, this is a good time to look through your credit card or bank statements and see what you can cut back on or eliminate totally. If there’s a recurring subscription you haven’t used in months, get it out of there. If there’s a credit card with a low outstanding balance you can comfortably knock out, do it. It might also be a good yearly reminder to get on the phone to your cell phone and internet providers to remind them what a great customer you are and see if there might be a reduction they can offer you or a new discount you can take advantage of.

SAVE YOUR MONEY. Do whatever it takes, set up your budget in whatever way you’re most likely to a) stick to it and b) save money and spend purposely. I have to trick myself into pretending it’s a game. (Because I’m an adult.) I track the number of no-spend days I have in a row and celebrate if I break a streak. Things like that really help me want to be mindful of my money and concentrate on the ins and outs of it.

The most important thing in my financial journey has been reading personal finance bloggers. Some of my favorites are Budgets are Sexy, According to Athena, Money After Graduation, brokegirlrichVanessa’s Money, and Blonde on a Budget. The Billfold is one of my favorite reads as well. They all have fantastic resources and advice, whether you’re a finance all-star or just starting your budget for the first time, and sometimes it’s just nice to read through other people’s successes and failures as well.

How do you “do” money? Do you keep to a strict budget and track your spending, or do you just hope to break even at the end of the month?