We’ve certainly amassed a wealth of knowledge over the years covering the money beat—be it the dozens of “I got out of debt” success stories we’ve featured to the scores of psychological studies we’ve covered linking better financial decision-making to behavior change.
So given that it’s Financial Literacy Month, we’ve decided that there is no better time than now to round up our 50 top money tips into one juicy, super-helpful read. From the best ways to budget to how to boost your earning potential like a pro, these nuggets of financial wisdom are as fresh as the day they were published.
First Things First: A Few Financial Basics
1. Create a Financial Calendar
If you don’t trust yourself to remember to pay your quarterly taxes or periodically pull a credit report, think about setting appointment reminders for these important money to-dos in the same way that you would an annual doctor’s visit or car tune-up. A good place to start? Our ultimate financial calendar.
2. Check Your Interest Rate
Q: Which loan should you pay off first? A: The one with the highest interest rate. Q: Which savings account should you open? A: The one with the best interest rate. Q: Why does credit card debt give us such a headache? A: Blame it on the compound interest rate. Bottom line here: Paying attention to interest rates will help inform which debt or savings commitments you should focus on.
3. Track Your Net Worth
Your net worth—the difference between your assets and debt—is the big-picture number that can tell you where you stand financially. Keep an eye on it, and it can help keep you apprised of the progress you’re making toward your financial goals—or warn you if you’re backsliding.
How to Budget Like a Pro
4. Set a Budget, Period
5. Consider an All-Cash Diet
If you’re consistently overspending, this will break you out of that rut. Don’t believe us? The cash diet changed the lives of these three people. And when this woman went all cash, she realized that it wasn’t as scary as she thought. Really.
6. Take a Daily Money Minute
This one comes straight from LearnVest Founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel, who swears by setting aside one minute each day to check on her financial transactions. This 60-second act helps identify problems immediately, keep track of goal progress—and set your spending tone for the rest of the day!
7. Allocate at Least 20% of Your Income Toward Financial Priorities
By priorities, we mean building up emergency savings, paying off debt, and padding your retirement nest egg. Seem like a big percentage? Here’s why we love this number.
8. Budget About 30% of Your Income for Lifestyle Spending
This includes movies, restaurants, and happy hours—basically, anything that doesn’t cover basic necessities. By abiding by the 30% rule, you can save and splurge at the same time.
How to Get Money Motivated
9. Draft a Financial Vision Board
You need motivation to start adopting better money habits, and if you craft a vision board, it can help remind you to stay on track with your financial goals.
10. Set Specific Financial Goals
Use numbers and dates, not just words, to describe what you want to accomplish with your money. How much debt do you want to pay off—and when? How much do you want saved, and by what date?
11. Adopt a Spending Mantra
Pick out a positive phrase that acts like a mini rule of thumb for how you spend. For example, ask yourself, “Is this [fill in purchase here] better than Bali next year?” or “I only charge items that are $30 or more.”
12. Love Yourself
Sure, it may sound corny, but it works. Just ask this author, who paid off $20,000 of debt after realizing that taking control of her finances was a way to value herself.
13. Make Bite-Size Money Goals
One study showed that the farther away a goal seems, and the less sure we are about when it will happen, the more likely we are to give up. So in addition to focusing on big goals (say, buying a home), aim to also set smaller, short-term goals along the way that will reap quicker results—like saving some money each week in order to take a trip in six months.
14. Banish Toxic Money Thoughts
Hello, self-fulfilling prophecy! If you psych yourself out before you even get started (“I’ll never pay off debt!”), then you’re setting yourself up to fail. So don’t be a fatalist, and switch to more positive mantras.
15. Get Your Finances–and Body—in Shape
One study showed that more exercise leads to higher pay because you tend to be more productive after you’ve worked up a sweat. So taking up running may help amp up your financial game. Plus, all the habits and discipline associated with, say, running marathons are also associated with managing your money well.
16. Learn How to Savor
Savoring means appreciating what you have now, instead of trying to get happy by acquiring more things.