12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order

 
 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Understand Needs vs. Wants

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Understand Needs vs. Wants

  1. Understand Needs vs. Wants

The world is constantly telling us to get the latest, shiny thing. Upgrade to this, upgrade to that. If we are not careful, we will always be chasing the next best thing and each time we do so, it will cost us a little bit of our future Financial Independence.

Review your expenses one at a time, determine if they are a need or a want. You can do this by tracking your daily expenses for a week. What’s important? What can you do without? What can you get cheaper? What can you share with peers?

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Get Comfortable with a Budget

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Get Comfortable with a Budget

2. Get Comfortable with a Budget

Budgeting is all about knowing where your money is going. You control your money, not the other way around. Each dollar should have an assignment. Budgeting allows you to see how much things truly cost. Budgeting allows you to see how much of your money is going to certain things. Budgeting allows you to recognize duplicate expenses.

Money is fungible, meaning it can be moved from one place to another. Budgeting may show overspend in one category, but not another and this is OK. Budget adjustments are perfectly OK.

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Automate Your Planned Savings Accounts

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Automate Your Planned Savings Accounts

3. Automate Your Planned Savings Accounts

Planned Savings Accounts are a way to distribute your savings so you know exactly how much is in each bucket. These are for things that have a high likelihood of happening in the future. We recommend using Capital One or Ally or any other bank that allows you to setup an account online easily, has higher than average interest rates and supports the creation of multiple savings accounts without extra fees. Automate contributions as often as needed.

An example setup may include a separate planned savings account for:

  • Emergency Fund

  • Wedding Season Fun (for when all of your friends start getting married)

  • Yearly Travel (get specific when you name your savings account)

  • House Down Payment

  • Car Maintenance

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Know and Have a Plan of Action for Your Debt

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Know and Have a Plan of Action for Your Debt

4. Know and Have a Plan of Action for Your Debt

It’s important to know what kind of debts you owe. List student loans, car loans, private loans (anything owed to parents or family members), etc. along with their interest rates, minimum payments and repayment windows. Tackle the debt with the highest interest rate first. Pay the minimum on all other debts. Put any additional money towards reducing your debt.

Articles to read on debt:

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Contribute to Your Retirement Savings Today

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Contribute to Your Retirement Savings Today

5. Contribute to Your Retirement Savings Today

I know retirement seems so far away, but we will need a lot of money to retire comfortably. Instead of thinking about retirement in your old age, think financial independence while you are young and able.

Order of Operations for Retirements Savings:

  • Contribute up to the company match in your 401Kor 403B. Here’s why.

  • Max out a ROTH IRA

  • Max out 401K or 403B

 
 
 
 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Review Your Credit Score & History Yearly

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Review Your Credit Score & History Yearly

6. Review Your Credit Score & History Yearly

Your credit score and credit history will determine how lenders see you. It can determine how much extra you have to pay to borrow money. Yes it costs money to borrow money. Head to annualcreditreport.com to pull a FREE credit history once a hear (this website is government mandated). A high credit score can be used as negotiating leverage.

Articles to read on debt:

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Know and Track Your Net Worth Over Time

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Know and Track Your Net Worth Over Time

7. Know and Track Your Net Worth Over Time

Your net worth is a good indication of your financial status. As you start, your net worth may be negative, but as you save, invest and make smart choices, your net worth should increase over time. You can use a tool like Personal Capital (which is FREE) to track your net worth. It allows you to pull all of your other accounts into one place so you can see all of your Assets and Liabilities. The more assets, the better the net worth. Assets also work for you which means your money is making you money.

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Learn to Negotiate Salary, Bills and Everything Else

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Learn to Negotiate Salary, Bills and Everything Else

8. Learn to Negotiate Salary, Bills and Everything Else

It’s OK to negotiate. Negotiating can be a powerful tool to get what you want. Negotiation is all about presenting the right information at the right time so it’s good to be informed and to use that information wisely. Spend some time reviewing your expenses. Negotiating is about give and take so you have to be willing to compromise.

Examples of things that you can negotiate on:

  • Rent (ask for a discount if you can pay a few months ahead)

  • Cable, internet, phone bills

  • Salary and benefits88

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Review Your Employee Benefits In-Depth

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Review Your Employee Benefits In-Depth

9. Review Your Employee Benefits In-Depth

Schedule a weekend where you review employee benefits in depth. Grab your Employee Handbook (get it from HR or print it from your intranet). Take a look at the many benefits your employer provides and figure out which one you can take advantage of. There’s a lot of hidden areas where you can get more money without needing to do a lot of extra work. If you don’t see a benefit, it doesn’t hurt to ask HR about offering it.

Examples of uncommon employee benefits:

  • Tuition, certification or continuous learning reimbursment

  • Bike sharing reimbursement (popular in big cities)

  • Health and Wellness reimbursement (gym, classes, equipment)

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Reduce Transportation Costs

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Reduce Transportation Costs

10. Reduce Transportation Costs

Transportation is one of the top three expenses for many people.

Car Insurance: Shop around for new insurance. Bundle it with renter’s insurance. Ask for any discounts that can be applied. Pre-pay your insurance for 6 months instead of monthly.

Public Transportation: Get your passes pre-tax. Calculate if a monthly pass vs. a daily pass is more efficient. Consider getting off a stop or one zone away and see how much that changes your expenses.

Ride Sharing: Consider if a car is really necessary. Ride sharing may be a good option if you don’t need it full-time. Barter to see if a friend can drive you somewhere in exchange for another favor.

Walk or Bike: In warmer weather, walking or biking may be a better option to get some exercise and eliminate heavy expenses. See #8 and ask if bike sharing memberships can be reimbursed by your company.

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Establish a Positive Support System

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Establish a Positive Support System

11. Establish a Positive Support System

Hang out with people that have the same goals as you. Get honest with your friends about your financial goals. Speak with your partner early about money so there are no surprises later on.

 
12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Invest in Your Financial Education

12 Step Guide to Getting Your Finances in Order: Invest in Your Financial Education

12. Invest in Your Financial Education

Learning should never stop once you are out of school. Continue to invest in your financial education. Over time, your financial needs will change and with it the things you want to do with your money. Invest in your financial education over time. Whether it’s through books, groups or seminars, learn new ways to make your money go farther. The more you learn about money, the more confident you will be with asking the right questions and taking action.

 

Want More Tips, Download These Guides

15 Hack to Reach Financial Independence

15 Hack to Reach Financial Independence

Get the FI/RE Hacks eBook

New Grad’s Guide to Financial Independence

New Grad’s Guide to Financial Independence

Get the Grad's Guide to FI