If you watched my last YouTube video, then you know this isn’t just a quick fix. Finance is just like fitness, you need to work on it every single day, and let’s be honest, some days you want to hide out under a blanket with a chocolate bar and avoid that ish all together. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that if you know what you’re up against, you can make a better plan to tackle the problem. If I paid off $70,000 of debt within five years of graduating from college, from a job I created traveling the world, anything is possible.
Where do you begin?
GET YOUR CREDIT REPORT: You should always start your financial clean-up by getting a copy of your credit report. You’re entitled to one every year, and check to see if you still have that Victoria’s Secret credit card you opened when you were 18. PS: Worst cards to get. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get your deets.
GET YOUR CREDIT SCORE: This shouldn’t be confused with your credit report – your credit score is a number that reflects your total credit health ranging from 300 to 900. You want to aim for the high 700’s, because when it’s time to do any kind of serious adulting, buy a car, a house, get a loan, or open a credit card, you’ll need to show lenders you’re good for your money. You can find your magic number by going through Equifax (one of the three major credit bureaus) or by signing up for something like Credit Karma (it’s user friendly and gives you alerts that makes you feel good for paying your bills on time). Your credit score changes anytime you apply for more credit, forget to pay your bills, or max out cards. Don’t stress, you can always revive it over time.
MAKE A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU OWE: This is something I’ve done since I started owing money. It’s important to confront your own truth, running away from it will only make it worse. So grab a beverage of your choice, put on some Lo-Fi hip hop, and look at your credit report to see everything you have in your name. Make sure you put the dollar amounts next to each account, and the APR (annual percentage rate), so you can weigh which debt is costing you the most. Here’s something to keep in mind: high APR is not good news.
YOU SHOULD START BUILDING CREDIT THOUGH: The system isn’t designed for the average Jo(e) to win. That’s why you’re on this site educating yourself. Here’s what you need to know about credit: you can only have good credit if you pay your bills on time and if you have credit history. In other words, you need to master the art of only borrowing money that you owe. If you’re new to credit, check this out.
PUT EVERYTHING ON AUTOPAY: Let’s be real, there’s no way we’re capable of remembering to pay every single bill we have manually. You want to avoid those sneaky little late fees by putting all of your payments on autopay. You can always adjust payments if you’re unable to pay that month, but committing to consistently paying your bills will reward you. The highest impacting factor in your credit score is payment history at 35%. And bad credit ain’t cute boo boo.
ALWAYS PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM: Ideally, you want to pay all of your bills in full. What that means is that you’ll rarely ever borrow more money than what you have in your bank account. The only exceptions should be for huge, life-changing purchases like a car, college (questionable), and a house. But you should not open up a new credit card to buy a lip kit you can’t afford. It’ll bite you in the booty when you end up paying more than it’s worth because of high APR fees (AKA interest rate you’ll be cursing out). Get this: average APR rates in the USA are around 16%. That means you’re paying almost 20% more for whatever you don’t pay in full. Bish. No. If you can’t pay in full, always pay more than the minimum.
GO PAPERLESS: Save the planet, click “go paperless” in the back-end of all your accounts.
STOP UNNECESSARY RECURRING PAYMENTS: Since I was a kid, I realized that it took pennies to become a millionaire. Maybe because all I could get a hold of were pennies in couch cushions while cleaning homes. Been financially savvy from the start. The concept of small amounts of money adding up has always been real to me. As we’re approaching these economically uncertain times, it’s important to check in with any recurring payments that might not be adding much value to your life. And yes, you can go without your 10 streaming subscriptions.
Gotta act broke to stay rich.
DON’T FORGET YOUR USERNAMES AND PASSWORDS: Nothing makes me want to pull out my hair more than trying to remember my 7000 usernames and passwords. Use a secure password manager like 1Password, RoboForm, or NordPass.
FIGURE OUT YOUR MONTHLY SURVIVAL NUMBER: I’ve been doing this ever since I started making money. Do the math on how much money you need each month to survive. Put all of your bills, rent, credit card payments, loan payments, etc. in one column. On the next column, do the math to see how much money you make a month. You’ll be able to see how much money you have leftover to save. And if you don’t have any money left over, it’s time to find a remote job boo boo.
OPEN A HIGH YIELD SAVINGS ACCOUNT: Even with the fed cutting interest rates, it’s still a good idea to look into opening a high yield savings account with an online bank. Big banks give us pathetic APY rates (annual percentage yield, AKA how much money you make by leaving your money in their savings accounts). I checked my APY from my old savings account, and I was receiving .01% on all the money sitting in my account for years. PATHETIC. High yield savings accounts are safe and conveniently online. If you need to physically deposit checks, this isn’t for you. But if you’re living in modern times, put your money in a modern bank account. Here’s a HYSA to consider with 1.55% APY *compared to the average .09% from standard banks).
OPEN A CD IF YOU WANT TO GET AN A+: I’ve always heard of a CD and thought they were just as out of style as an actual CD – dad joke. Turns out, they’re still poppin’ and they’ve become less limiting. Here’s what you need to know: banks will incentivize you for committing your money in an “off limit” bank account. The longer you lock up your money, the better your APY will be and the interest is compounded daily. But since uncertain times means we can’t be putting money away without being able to access it, there are now no penalty CDs that give you the best of both worlds. Keep in mind that CDs often require a minimum deposit – the more money you put in, the more that APY will work in your favor.
AUTOMIZE YOUR SAVINGS: The same way your bills should be paid with autopay, so should your savings. Set up a recurring transfer from your checking account to your high yield savings account so you’re saving money without even noticing it.
CONSOLIDATE YOUR CREDIT CARDS: Having too many credit cards is a recipe for disaster. Your best strategy is to either get a balance transfer credit card or apply for a 0% APR card that will give you peace of mind when paying off your debt. Read the fine print to see how long you get that 0% APR – it won’t last forever. Here’s something else to know: credit cards offer a lot of rewards, but some come with a high annual fee. Here are some cards with no annual fees.
GET CASHBACK REWARDS: We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and spending is happening for essential things like groceries, booze, and exercise bands on Amazon. So while normally, I’d recommend a travel credit card, right now, it’s all about cashback credit cards that will give you cash back for every purchase you make. Here are some cashback cards to consider.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT CREDIT CARD TO GET: You might be in the market for a new credit card, and with so many options and spammy snailmail coming to your mailbox, here’s a tool that can help:
CONSIDER STARTING INVESTING: If you really want to get an A++ on your financial spring cleaning, start dabbling in investing. I’ve read dozens of finance books and they all say the same thing:
The earlier you invest, the better
That’s because of compounded interest, time grows your money while you sleep. If you don’t know where to get started, I recommend signing up for Acorns. It’s an app that rounds up all of your purchases to the nearest dollar amount and automatically invests it for you in a risk portfolio of your choosing. This is the gateway drug to investing, like a that milky drink you thought was coffee that got you to drinking a nitro brew with a splash of oat milk. (And unfortunately only available in the USA, but google “Robo Investing” in your country). Here’s my referral code to give you $5 to get started.
Investing is like a dance, you have to see how your money moves. Once you notice trends, you’ll be ready to go the more manual route and pick your own stocks. Robinhood is my favorite robo investment app right now. It’s sleek, has news, and you can buy cryptocurrency as well as traditional stocks and ETFs (index funds – more on that soon). Here’s a free stock to get you started. They also have an amazing podcast and newsletter that I fangirl over called Snacks Daily.
Editorial Disclosure: opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.