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Personal Finance: Sound Money Habits To Start Now
“I just got my tax refund, it’s time to go on vacation!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this growing up and now seeing it daily on social media. I realized very early in life that the way I handled money was very different from most people I knew. It always intrigued me because I never really understood how people could spend money without ever worrying about saving or retirement. Here are some basic habits you can adopt now to ensure your financial security in the future:
1. Saving for retirement as soon as possible is the best thing you can do. Even if it’s only $50 a month, which is the minimum for most plans, you could end up with thousands and thousands of dollars in retirement. The sooner the better. For example, a 25-year-old who saves $200 per month until age 65 and earns exactly 6% of the funds saved annually would have accumulated approximately $400,000. But a 40-year-old contributing the same amount each month at the same rate of pay would have accumulated only $139,600 by age 65.
2. Never carry a balance on a credit card with an interest rate. It’s one of the fastest ways to rack up debt that could weigh you down for the rest of your life. When you need to use credit and aren’t able to pay in full each month, look for a 0% interest card. Many promotions range from six months to a year or more. If used responsibly, they are essentially a free loan. Just be sure to pay off their entire balance before the end of the term or you’ll end up with retroactive interest that could add hundreds of dollars (if not more) to your obligation.
3. Instead of buying a new car or a lease, try to save up and buy a good used car for cash. What you save between interest, depreciation, taxes, plates and insurance will save you thousands of dollars. According to Edmunds.com, buying a two-year-old car is your best bet because you avoid the biggest drop in depreciation. Owning it for three years and then reselling it will also benefit you, as you will see another big drop after the fifth year due to the long-term maintenance that is usually required at this point. If you can’t afford a two-year-old car without having to borrow, then getting one a bit older with long-term maintenance repairs done (and low miles if possible) is your best bet.
4. Avoid eating out if you can. The average American eats out 4-5 times a week, spending an average of $232 per month or about $2,700 per year. If you hadn’t eaten out for two years, you would actually have saved enough to buy a good used car like point three above.
5. The last and arguably most important thing is to think long term. The worst way to justify spending is to do so on an individual basis against the monthly or annual aggregate. Take dining out, for example: although it only costs you $10 per meal, remember that if you did this three times a week for a year, you would have spent over $1,400. This same logic can be applied to virtually anything – clothing, vacations, furniture, coffee, expedited shipping, etc. Every time you’re about to spend money, do you think, okay, how much will it end up costing me every year.
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