The following is a guest post from The Savvy Couple.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, money is a very important tool that can be used to better our lives.
So why don’t we take better care of managing it?
Luckily, there are some savvy money moves that you can make this year to improve your finances and feel more financial peace. This year can be a great one, and you can use your money to help make it happen.
We have narrowed down our top five money moves that you can make this year that will have a huge impact on your overall finance. The best part is they are not complicated and they won’t take a lot of time to implement. In fact, you can start to put them in place right after reading to the end of this article.
1. Create a Money Plan and Stick to it
It’s really important to create a plan, or budget, for your money. If you don’t, then you could find your money just escaping and not having a clue where it’s gone.
A lot of people think that a budget is strict, and something that you use for just your bills. But a good budget will be a plan for your money for the month and how it is going to be spent. Your budget should reflect the direction that you want your life to take.
It should enable you to spend more money on the things you love and cut wasteful spending on the things you don’t.
It doesn’t have to be super strict either—we advise “paying yourself first.” Meaning put your money where it’s most important first (investing, savings, fun money), and then using the rest of the money to pay your bills.
Think about what your goals are for your life and base your budget around that. You have a set amount of income, and you can decide where you want that money to go.
2. Cut Your Monthly Expenses
One step toward creating the money plan that you want can be cutting your monthly expenses. This doesn’t mean that you need to be drastic with the expenses that you are cutting out.
When it comes to creating your money plan, it’s important to look at what you are currently spending money on.
If you have never tracked your expenses before, you will likely be surprised to see where your money is going. We like to think that we have a good idea of what we are spending, but if you are not tracking your spending then you are most likely vastly underestimating your spending.
Go back through your spending and highlight any problem areas. The important thing here is to not beat yourself up for anything that you’ve spent.
When you have created the plan for your money, you may find that you have been spending on things that don’t fit in with that plan. These could be the ones that you choose to cut down on.
Cut down on your expenses slowly. Otherwise, you could find that it’s too much of a change and you want to go back to how you were spending before. Try picking one thing to cut down on, and do a bit of trial and error.
3. Stay Away from Debt
We’ve been talking about creating a money plan for your life, but there are some things that can throw your plan off track—debt being one of them.
Sometimes, debt is unavoidable. There are situations that we find ourselves in such as medical emergencies, car repairs, or any kind of emergency really!
The best thing to do is to prepare for these kinds of situations. We can’t fully plan, of course, but we can set aside some money to prepare. These are usually referred to as emergency funds. We recommend saving a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible, then slowing building that up to 3–6 months of living expenses after your debt is paid off.
Debt is so normalized in society, but debt doesn’t have to be! Making savvy money moves and trying to prepare for future emergencies will help tremendously in the long run.
4. Understand How Your Credit Score Works
Let’s be honest—a lot of us don’t pay much attention to our credit score. It’s one of those boring things that we don’t think about until we need it.
The last thing that you want to happen is to find that you need to take out credit but you can’t because of your credit score. Therefore, it’s a savvy money move to understand how your credit score works.
Credit scores are generally used by lenders when you want to take out a line of credit with them—for example, when you are getting a mortgage or car loan. If you have a high credit score then you will have access to better rates and terms for your loans.
Your credit score is largely determined by whether you pay your bills on time, as any missed payments will go against you. Your score is also determined by how much credit you have used compared to the amount that you have been lent.
It’s essential that you check your credit report as there can be errors on there which you can rectify—the sooner the better. The longer you wait to repair your credit, the harder it can become.
You can get your Experian VantageScore 3.0 for free from Credit.com when you sign up for the free Credit Report Card. And if you want more details on your credit score, sign up for ExtraCredit. You’ll get 28 FICO® scores and your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.
5. Start an Online Side Hustle
We are huge fans of starting side hustles because at the end of the day you can only cut your expenses so much. But your income has unlimited potential.
Side hustles are great because you can create an income stream for your goals, or even use it to leave your day job.
The benefit of starting an online side hustle is that there are so many possibilities, you pretty much only need to have access to the internet.
It’s worth brainstorming some side hustle ideas that you have an interest in doing. It’s also worth thinking about ideas that will be free or have a very low cost to start up. The last thing that you want to do is spend a lot of money on something that’s not going to take off.
You can determine how much time and effort you want to put into your side hustle—it doesn’t have to be a brand-new business, but can be getting an extra job or something small.
Some of our favorite side hustle ideas include:
- Starting a blog
- Facebook advertising for businesses
- Teaching English online
- Freelance writing
Savvy Money Moves throughout the Year
If you want to make some good money moves this year, this is a good place to start. These are some simple things that anyone can do to improve their finances greatly.
What are your best savvy money moves? Let us know in the comments!
Kelan and Brittany Kline are the creators and co-founders of The Savvy Couple. They write about personal finance, budgeting, making money online, entrepreneurship, and more.