Personal finances is always tricky, and for a lot of us right now, it’s in trouble. I am not about to tell you how to pay off debt in 30 days. I haven’t done that. I feel like I fit in with a majority of millennials (no, we are not still going on Spring Break. We’re like 25-30 years old right now. Stop confusing us with Gen Z just to make headlines flashier): a lot of student debt, high cost of living. But I am also lucky to be married to a man with a pretty good job and we were able to save up to buy a house. This post is for those wanting a starting point in personal finance as I am just going to talk about the things I do.
The biggest thing is having and tracking a budget. If you can stick to it, then kudos, cause that’s where I struggle (especially in the grocery department). I use an excel document on One Drive online so I can update it on my phone if I need to. I have multiple tabs in this excel: Bank Account (used as a transaction register so I know how much cash I have and need for bills), House Budget (bills, food, income, etc), Personal Budget (any extra spending on things that do not fit into the House Budget categories. This includes books, clothing, hobby things, movies, all the fun stuff), Savings (keep track of the three savings accounts I have), Master Budget updated every 6 months, Vacation planning as needed, Loans to keep track of balances, and Christmas budget to keep track of how much I am spending on who. I try to keep this excel as up to date as possible to see where we need to work on. It’s helpful to see what you are using your money on to highlight patterns that may be problematic.
To help keep track of transactions, I use the Mint app by Intuit. You link your accounts to the app, and it will update and list all transactions. There is a budget aspect built into the app, but I found that it was not too user friendly as a lot of things are auto-categorized incorrectly. But, that may just be me. I mainly use this as a transaction checklist when updating my budget. It’s also nice to see all your balances in one place if you link everything.
I mentioned earlier I have three savings accounts. This is a personal choice, but I do recommend having more than one. We have an account for the following three areas: emergency, house, and vacation. I regularly contribute to the emergency and vacation funds, but when we decide on projects or moving, I will restart monthly contributions to the house account as well. Having separate accounts for each area may not be necessary, but I like having designated things for the money there, especially the vacation fund.
Most recently, my husband and I have started investing in stocks. If you have some extra disposable income, but not enough for most broker companies ($1K seems to be the most popular initial investment), use RobinHood. There is not a minimum investment, the app is user friendly, and you get a free stock when you sign up. And, if you can, right now is great to start as most companies are “discounted”. Even if it’s not much, it’s a start. Just don’t check it every day- things are roller coaster-y right now.
If you have any tips or tricks to create better personal finances, let me know in the comments!