Remember the adage everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten? Well, I don’t know about you, but I know that Mrs. Ruffer never taught me about APR, compound interest, or how to ask a customer service rep to allow me to speak to his manager. When it comes to personal finance, there’s a lot that we aren’t taught. We either pick up tips on our own, learn the hard way, or end up losing our hard-earned cash simply because we don’t know any better.
Here, some personal finance tips that may never be taught in a seminar but can save you time, aggravation, and, oh yeah, even money.
Those points may be too good to be true
Oh, if you sign up for this card or service, you’ll get free cash or points toward a vacation? Well, it’s probably not that simple. Unless it’s your grandma offering you a free trip or a free check, remember that a lot of things in life come with strings. Read the fine print and make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
If you don’t have money in your account, you don’t “have the money”
Yes, you might be getting paid on Friday. Yes, you have that outstanding check. But things can always shift. Plus, if you buy on credit with the plan to pay it back when the cash comes in, there’s a chance you’ll need the money for something else. In general, it’s smart to wait until you actually have the money to buy something.
A budget doesn’t need to be fancy
A budget is simply ensuring you have enough cash to cover your monthly expenses. Sure, apps work well. But so does a sticky note. Find a method that works and stick with it.
No one is “bad with money”
People can make bad decisions surrounding money. People can ignore money. But “bad with money” is not a diagnosis like astigmatism or allergies. If you think you’re bad with money, get deeper. Does money make you anxious? Does money make you feel uninformed? Digging to the root of why you feel “bad” with money can help you find ways to address it.
Customer service reps can help
Missed a payment? Call customer service. They can sometimes help if you’ve made a mistake.
Autopay makes it easy to make sure bills are paid on time, every time.
Check your credit score
Checking your credit score can help see where you are, financially. Credit scores can be important for renting an apartment or buying a car, and employers may even check your credit score prior to hiring. Seeing where you stand eliminates surprises.
Learn along the way
Ask questions, read articles, attend webinars and ask people for advice. You may make mistakes along the way, but you’ll also learn. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand what a bank or customer service rep is telling you, ask until you’re completely clear. You’re not wasting their time; they are doing their job!
Remember: Money is a tool
At the end of the day, money is a tool to help you achieve the life you want. Thinking about what you want out of life can help you assess whether a purchase is the right choice for you. For example, want a life filled with laughter and friends? How will that new phone you’ve been eyeing help or hinder that goal?
There is no way to get rich quick
In general, if something sounds too good to be true, it is. There are a lot of avenues to becoming wealthy, but if, say, your cousin is pressuring you to put up cash for his new startup venture, only do so if you can truly afford to give away the money — and won’t mind if you never see it again.
Nope, your lunch isn’t making you poor
Yes, packing your food and cutting car share services can save you a ton — but the occasional lunch with friends may be worth more than the veggie burger and fries. It may be that the lunch represents an investment in ongoing friendships. Keeping track of the big picture can give you some wiggle room to enjoy spending money on things you like.
Money isn’t taboo
Sure, maybe you don’t want to share the actual dollar amount in your bank account with friends, but discussing money issues — what’s tricky, what keeps you up at night, how you plan to pay back your student loans — can be a great resource to help think of solutions and have new ideas.
Money is with you for life — get comfortable with it
There is no full “mastery” of money. You’re always learning. By becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable — there’s always room to learn, so may as well get started now — you can feel more at ease with your money situation now.