In 2022, 87% of surveyed Americans said that the rising cost of day-to-day items was their top source of stress. If you’re like many Americans who are watching their groceries and utility bills creep up, these numbers don’t just sound familiar — they consume your everyday reality.
As gas prices continue to go up along with everything else, it’s not enough to cover your expenses and hope for the best. You need a financial strategy. And you need one now.
Fortunately, financial security is more accessible than you might think. All you need is a few key pointers to send you in the right direction. Keep reading to see our top tips for creating a rock-solid financial strategy.
1. Build Fun Money Into Your Budget
Think about the last time you went on an extreme diet.
You couldn’t eat chocolate cake. Your grandmother’s apple crisp was a non-starter. Even your coffee creamer had to be dropped the cold turkey.
Most folks can make this type of thing work for a couple of weeks. But after a few months, you were likely resisting the urge to polish off the cake at your cousin’s wedding.
When creating financial strategies, people often think that financial discipline looks like keeping their expenses as low as possible. But between hobbies, shopping trips, and tech upgrades, your non-essential purchases could put an unaccounted-for dent in your budget.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to put aside a certain amount of discretionary money that you can spend on personal items and entertainment. You’ll be happier. And your savings will benefit directly from it as well.
2. Do a Subscription Service Audit
Netflix. HBO. Amazon.
Right now, even as you’re sitting down somewhere and reading this, you’re probably paying for multiple monthly subscriptions that you don’t use.
Sure, $10 here and $5 there might not feel like they’re breaking the bank. But over the course of 12 months, that’s over $60 that could have gone into savings.
Fortunately, this is a problem with a simple solution.
Go through your monthly credit card statement and look for charges that make you say, “Oh yeah! I signed up with those guys a few months ago!”. Then, once you’ve made a list, you’ll want to go through each subscription and ask yourself if you need the service you’re paying for. If the answer is no, you know what to do next.
3. Become Your Own Bank
A major contributor to people’s stress is the question of what happens when the bottom falls out. After all, banks and credit card companies are often reluctant to extend credit to someone who’s already struggling to pay their bills.
How would your financial outlook change if you could just give yourself a loan?
With infinite banking, you’re not only able to lend yourself money – you can use dividends to increase your wealth. If you’ve got cash flow issues and you’re often struggling to secure loans and the like, this is one of the most powerful yet underutilized financial strategies out there.
4. Make Easy Lifestyle Changes
Have you ever wondered why pro athletes often struggle to survive after retirement? It turns out that you can earn an extremely good living. But if you don’t lower your expenses, you can quickly find yourself living paycheck to paycheck.
Although getting a grip on costs is Personal Finance 101, drastic and sudden changes can be extremely difficult to maintain over the long haul. Fortunately, there’s a happy medium between living an uber-minimalist lifestyle and living high on the hog — you can make small and easy changes that trim expenses without compromising your quality of life.
Here’s what we mean:
Say you’re used to buying a $5 latte every morning before work. Instead of spending $100 a month on takeout coffee, you can buy a coffee maker, learn to use a milk frother, and make your lattes at home for a much lower price.
While changing up your coffee or dusting off your bike in the summer might shave a few bucks off here and there, these little, painless changes can add up big.
5. Pay Above the Minimum
If you’ve ever gotten your bill back from a credit card company, you’ve likely seen a “minimum payment” or “payment due” section that charges you a relatively small amount for a fairly significant debt.
When money’s tight, it can be tempting to fork over your $50 and think you’ve done enough with the credit card. But when monthly interest rates get factored in, the debt may be slower to disappear than you’d otherwise expect.
If you can, you’ll want to pay a little more than the minimum. Even an extra $20 a month can cover a significant amount of ground.
6. Create a Debt Repayment Plan
Even when you’re doing a fantastic job of building up your savings and reducing your month-to-month spending, there’s a financial hurdle that can put a serious damper on your progress:
From limiting your borrowing abilities to lowering your credit score, debt doesn’t just eat away at your present-day circumstances. It can have a serious effect on your financial future.
In the personal finance world, the two most common financial strategies for debt repayment are the avalanche and snowball methods.
With both strategies, you’ll be hitting your minimum payments. But while the avalanche method will require you to put extra funds on your highest-interest debts, the snowball strategy will see you pay off your smallest debts before tackling your biggest ones.
The best strategy for your circumstances will come down to personal preference. If you don’t mind waiting to pay off your first debt, the avalanche method will save you money in the long run. But if you’re the type of person who gets a dopamine hit from hitting your milestones, the snowball method could be your ticket to becoming debt-free.
Regardless of the exact approach you use, there’s one fact that you can’t escape — a debt repayment strategy can only strengthen your finances.
7. Make Savings Goals
Depending on who you ask, a 25-year-old individual who’s making an average income should have $20,000 saved up in the bank.
For many people, this number is completely unrealistic. After all, many are paying student loans, making below-average wages, or dealing with medical issues or old credit card debts.
And that’s okay.
The important thing here is that you have a savings goal that you can work towards. For example, let’s say you’ve got about two hundred dollars saved up and you’re looking to grow your emergency fund.
Instead of starting with a lofty six-figure savings goal, you could aim to set aside $500. Then, once you’ve reached that goal, you could set a new savings goal of $1,000. As your savings grow, you’ll be able to save without feeling overwhelmed.
8. Lower Your Interest Rates Where Possible
We’ve already talked about how paying off debt and paying over the minimum can go a long way toward reducing interest payments. But did you know that it’s possible to lower, or even eliminate, interest on your existing debts?
That’s right. You can make your money go further with debt consolidation.
Here’s an example of how this works:
Let’s say you’re paying off two credit cards. Credit Card A is charging you 17% a month in interest. And meanwhile, Credit Card B’s got an annual interest rate of 20%.
Your bank offers you a consolidation loan at an interest rate of 5%. So naturally, you take it.
Suddenly you’ve gone from two monthly payments to one. And if you keep paying the same amount as before, more of those funds will be going toward paying down the principal. In addition, if you decide to transfer your balance to a card with a zero-interest promotional period, you might even be able to reduce your debt without spending another penny on interest.
As you look for ways to ease the financial burden of paying off debts, this can be an extremely effective way to get more bang for your buck.
9. Have a Plan for Retirement
When you’re working a 9 to 5 and you’ve got a regular paycheck coming in, it’s easy to make financial plans. When you’re no longer in the workplace and you’re getting by on a fixed income, however, you might not have the same ability to top up your earnings.
The solution? You need to factor retirement savings into your long-term financial goals.
Maybe you’ll start forgoing some vacations. Perhaps you’ll start making plans to live in a cheaper state or country during your golden years.
Regardless, however, there’s one essential fact to remember:
No one ever leaves the workforce and says, “I saved too much for my retirement!”. In addition, nobody wants to spend the last part of their lives working out of necessity if they can help it. The more you can contribute to your retirement, the better off you’ll be.
Create a Winning Financial Strategy the Easy Way
The difference between financially secure people and folks who are constantly scraping by often comes down to creating sustainable financial strategies.
Whether you’re choosing to avalanche, snowball, or trim your expenses, it’s not enough to have a general financial strategy — you need a plan that you can execute for years to come. This way, you can maximize the benefits of long-term financial planning.
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