Keep your mind on the money and the money on your mind.
By Anna Davies
1. Buying coffee every day does legit add up over the year, so maybe dial it back with the lattes.
A $5 coffee a day is $1,200 a year. Love your pumpkin spice? Then look for places where you can cut back without feeling the pain, suggests Joe Duran, author of The Money Code. For example, keep the AM coffee, ditch the random Saturday night takeout order.
2. Try to put something in savings every week, even if it’s just $5.
“I hear so many people say it’s not worth it to just save $20 from a paycheck. What people don’t get is it’s not just the money you save, it’s the habit you’re getting yourself into,” says Kathleen Hastings, CFP, a portfolio manager in Bethesda, MD.
3. Keep track of your credit score.
Find yours at AnnualCreditReport.com. Not only do you know where you stand, but it keeps you on guard for unusual activity that could signify identity theft.
4. Put a 401(k) and a Roth IRA to work.
A 401(k) is work-sponsored with pre-tax dollars, a Roth is an individual retirement account set up with an investment firm.
If your work offers it, you should absolutely contribute to your 401(k) no matter what. A Roth IRA can be a smart choice if you want to diversify. Unlike a 401(k), a Roth IRA allows able to withdraw funds penalty-free for certain things, like a down payment on your first house.
5. Don’t assume that just because you’re making more money now, you need to upgrade everything in your life.
As your income rises, so do your expectations, explains Manisha Thakor, financial advisor and co-author of Get Financially Naked. Were you fine with DIY manicures in college but now find yourself going to the salon a few times a month? That’s lifestyle creep. If it was good enough for you in college, it’s good enough for you now.
6. Understand what your dollar is worth.
Take a look at this map from the Tax Foundation. There are low price states and high price states, and knowing where you live will give you a real idea of the relative value of your paycheck.
7. Make a budget and try to stick to it!
Financial experts often recommend beginning with the 50-30-20 rule: 50 percent toward expenses, 30 percent to discretionary spending, and 20 percent to savings, says Duran.
8. Add up what you’re really spending on food. Because it’s probably a lot more than you think.
This is one super-sneaky expense that can add up. “So many people think they’re spending $100 a week on food, when they could easily be spending five times that amount,” says Duran.
For a week, write down exactly how much you’re spending on Seamless, snacks, or juice runs and add it up. Then try cutting back—ideally, you should only be spending 10 percent of your paycheck on food, including restaurant meals.
9. Use credit cards, but in a smart way.
Financial experts agree: Used right, plastic is a tool. So learn how to use it to your advantage, including how to pick the one that’ll give you the biggest perks (cardratings.com can help you begin to suss out the differences between offers).
10. Work on your fierce negotiating skills.
The more you practice, the better you’ll be at talking the talk in your boss’s office. Nervous? Experts suggest beginning small and outside work: Asking for a discount on the slightly misshapen muffin at the corner café in the AM will give you that much more confidence to talk money with a hiring manager.
11. Get all your money into one central location.
Have a few forgotten 401(k)s in your past? Bad move, say experts. Instead, roll them over to an IRA. Same with any lingering bank accounts. Close them out and make sure your money is in one central location.
12. Make sure you’ve got all the necessary insurance coverage.
Health insurance, renter’s insurance, and disability insurance are musts, says Duran. And consider life insurance as well: Even if you’re single without dependents, buying a life insurance plan now is far less expensive than it would be down the road.
13. Actually do some research about this stuff, because it’s not something you should just ignore and hope it goes away.
Head to a financial planning workshop (often run by local banks), read a book, or listen to a podcast, but learning the language of investing—index funds, mutual funds, portfolios, etc—can help make things seem less overwhelming.
14. Be honest and up front with your partner about money, and expect the same in return.
Money-related disagreements are the leading cause of stress in relationships, according to a study from Kansas State University. Regardless of whether or not you’re pooling your cash or keeping it separate, you’ve got to be able to talk debts, goals, and paychecks with your partner.
15. Know what you want from your money.
“At the end of the day, I ask clients to think about how they want to use their money,” says Gretchen Cliburn, CFP, a senior wealth manager in Springfield, MO. "When we know that, not only do we have more incentive to save, but we also know what we’re working toward.”
Yes, it sounds New-Agey, but write down what you want to use your money for—whether it’s your dream home, exotic travel, or making sure you never have to stress again, it’ll help keep you on track.
This article was originally published at SELF. Reprinted with permission from the author.