Have you ever looked at your finances and thought, “I wish somebody had taught me this in high school?” Unfortunately, the longer you wait to get a hold on managing your money, the worse things will be due to lost opportunities, accumulating interest and other budget busters.
We put together this resource guide to help you learn the basics of personal finances, savings, debt reduction, investing and more.
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- How to Create a Budget: This is a basic introduction on how to categorize and track your budget.
- Budgeting Ideas and Tips: These creative tips, like shopping for groceries online, were written for medical students who are incurring tens of thousands in debt, but they’re good for anyone looking to save.
- Glossary of Money Terms: Learn the basic words and definitions that you’ll encounter when trying to get your finances on track.
- Mint: Link your accounts to Mint and receive alerts and guidance on your spending and saving.
- 10 Tips for Budget Success: From accurately calculating your take-home pay to setting short-term goals, use these tips to make sure you have a successful budget.
- 7 Personal Finance Basics: This article is geared toward new college grads, but anyone can get a good start on the right financial path with these guidelines.
- Your Annual Financial To Do List: Check off each step on this list every year to make sure you stay on track.
Different Ways To Save
- 100 Great Tips for Saving: Little steps can add up to big savings. Here are 100 ways to save money here and there.
- 8 Money Saving Tips for 2014: US News came up with these money saving tips that are especially useful this year.
- 7 Easy to Forget Tips: You’ve probably heard a lot of these ideas, but most people tend to forego the potential savings when they forget to follow through.
- Saving Money on Gas: Read several articles from Gas Buddy on how to find the best price on gas, take advantage of discounts, and find a more fuel efficient vehicle.
- Saving for College: These easy saving tips are designed to help you save for your children’s college fund or to help work your way through college.
- America Saves: Get savings tips for clothing, entertainment, prescription drugs, banking and insurance.
Paying Off Your Debt
- 9 Ways to Pay Off Debt: Use these tips to pay off your debt faster with proper prioritizing and saving.
- Debt Payoff Calculator: Input all of your loan information and find out how long it could take to pay off your debt, and find out how much in interest you can save.
- How One Family Paid Off $118,000: This couple explains how they paid off all of their debt in less than 4 years.
- How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt: You can save some money by shifting around debt, but knowing how to do it without damaging your credit is the key.
- Paying Off Debt with the Stack Method: By acting strategically, you can pay off debt in the correct order and lower your interest rates.
- 5 Strategies to Pay Massive Debt: Read some personal stories from 5 people who managed to pay off all of their debt in just a few years.
Basics of Investing
- Start Investing with $1000: You don’t have to have a lot to start investing in the stock market. This column from NASDAQ has advice on how to get started.
- Investing Calculator: Calculate how much you can earn each year and over time with different investment return rates.
- Investing 101: This beginner’s guide outlines where to begin investing money and how to choose a broker, if you need one.
- Ultimate Guide to Retirement: When do you need to start saving for retirement? Most experts agree you should start as early as possible.
- Start Investing with $1 a Day: By setting aside only one dollar a day, you can start a pool of funds to contribute to your choice of investment strategies.
- Investing in Real Estate: Starting young can allow you to save enough to begin a real estate investment portfolio that can provide a great return.
Some Essential Tips for Personal Finance and Savings
Your chance of succeeding with a budget is predicated on your ability to plan ahead, sacrifice and stay motivated.
First, you need to take a hard, honest look at your current situation. Tally up all of your debt between student loans, car loans, credit cards, mortgage and other money owed. Then calculate your monthly expenses (what you actually spend) on food, rent, electricity and other similar categories. Add up all of your savings in various bank accounts, investments and other assets. Finally, determine conservatively how much you earn. Remember to take taxes into account.
Once you know where you stand, start cutting away the expenses as much as you can. Pinpoint where you can save by eating more at home, carpooling, lowering your energy usage, etc.
Consider switching to a cash system. You’re more likely to stop yourself from overspending when you can physically see the money you have. However, don’t keep all of your money in cash. Put some of it to work with some low-cost investments.
When you’re paying off debt, focus on the debts with the higher interest rates. Call the creditors and loan servicers to see if you can have your interest rates lowered. This may also lower your monthly payment, but you’ll want to pay more than the minimum each month.
Be careful with companies that promise to consolidate your debt in one lower lump sum. While consolidation is not in and of itself a bad thing, not all of these companies are on the up-and-up. You’ll often end up paying more in hidden fees and interest.
Keep track of your progress. This is important for two reasons. One, you’ll want to make sure your strategy is effective. If your debt is not going down and/or your savings are not going up, it’s time to rethink your plan. Secondly, you want to feel the inspiration and motivation if your personal finance plan is going well.
Once you’re ready to start investing, make sure you know your risk tolerance level. You can make more with certain investment strategies, but the higher the pay-off, generally, the higher the risk. If you’ll be laying awake at night worried about your investments, it’s not going to be worth it.
You’ll also want to make sure your investments are diversified. Some investments, like CDs, may charge you an early cash-out penalty, so know how much cash flow you really have at any given time. Then determine how to spread your risk in some low, medium and potentially high risk areas.
When it comes to saving, you should aim to have a 6 month emergency fund. This should hold you over in case your income ever dips for any reason. First, you’ll need to determine your bare bones spending for a 6 month period. Then set aside enough each month to build this up as quickly as possible.