The Secret to Achieving Financial Wellness
April 22, 2019 | By Louis Tully
To be successful in anything, you need to have a plan in place. After all, success doesn’t come by chance. You have to know what you want, plan on how you will achieve it, and then execute that plan. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is on paper, but putting it into practice is a completely different story.
But one thing we all have to keep in mind when facing life’s harshest struggles (especially when it comes to money) is that nothing worthwhile comes easy. If you want something, you have to put the work into it, and usually, that often requires some sacrifices too.
But not to worry! Just because there’s work involved; doesn’t mean you have to suffer every step of the way. We’re all capable of adapting to change. Hence, if you stay on the right path long enough, eventually, it becomes easier to walk on. So, when it comes to proper budgeting, saving money, paying down debt, and achieving financial wellness overall, your success is solely measured on your ability to stay on the right path. Don’t get what I mean by ‘right path’? Keep reading and find out:
Making good choices
To put it simply, the right path is made up of the good choices you make. Every time you decide to eat a healthy, home-cooked meal instead of eating out, you’re on the right path. Every time you decide to save money rather than spend it on something you don’t need, you’re on the right path. Likewise, the wrong path consists of all the wrong choices you could make. The key to staying on the right path is to consistently make good choices, which will ultimately navigate you to where you want to be.
See, it’s not about the economy, the higher costs of living, or even how much money you make. Sure, they may factor into the obstacles along the way, but they have little to do with your ability to achieve financial success. Let’s take a look at some of the good choices you can make that will not only help you achieve financial wellness but make you a happier person too!
Budgeting your income
Budgeting is by far the most critical thing you can do when it comes to money. Budgeting is managing money and managing money is how you save money. It’s that simple. But how does budgeting work? It’s a matter of simple math; your income minus your expenses. But there’s a little more to it than that. Here’s an example of what a common monthly budget looks like:
- Rent - $1,200
- Utilities - $230
- Internet - $45
- Cell phone - $85
- Gas - $60
- Car insurance - $95
- Car payment - $330
- Groceries - $150
- Savings - $250
- Entertainment - $400
This is what a common budget would look like for somebody whose monthly take-home pay is $2,845. Budgets allow us to clearly see where every dollar needs to go. Even entertainment is accounted for here. Having a budget in place not only makes it easy to know where your money is going, but it also helps you to stay on track. Likewise, not having a budget is a slippery slope, leading to tough circumstances like running out of cash before your next payday, draining your savings, and even failing to pay bills on time. If you don’t have a budget set up, here’s a free online budget calculator to help you get started!
Saving money is important, so important in fact that your future depends on your ability to start stashing away now. If you want to retire, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got plenty to live off of when that time comes.
Not only that, but you never know when that money in savings will come in handy. Financial emergencies happen all the time and without savings, it can quickly turn into a horrifying experience. Losing your job, your car breaking down, an unexpected trip to the ER are just some of the most common types of financial emergencies people go through.
If you’re not sure how to go about this whole saving money thing, here’s a quick guide get you started:
- Know how much to save Not sure how much to save? Experts recommend aiming for 10 percent minimum up to 20 percent maximum of your income. Why such a small portion? Look at it this way; saving money is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t save too much, too quick or you’ll be sure to crash and burn. So when it comes to saving money, slow and steady wins every time.
- Pay your debts first If you’re in debt, work to pay off your debts first before you begin saving. A good rule of thumb is to save up at least $1,000 emergency fund. Once you’ve achieved this, go ahead and start paying down your debt. The faster you pay off your debts, the more you’ll save in interest.
- Take advantage of CDs If you have a decent amount saved up already, you could grow that money a lot faster in a CD (certificate of deposit) than you could in a standard savings account. A CD allows you to lock a specified amount of your savings into an account that remains locked anywhere from 3 months to five years. During this time, the deposited cash accumulates interest. At the end of your CD’s term, you will end up with much more than what you initially put in. For example, if you placed $5,000 in a 5-year CD with an APY of 2.7 percent, your new balance at the end of the term would amount to $5,712.45. And so, your earnings would be $712.45. Not bad, right?
- 401(k) For retirement savings, talk to your employer’s HR department. Most employers will offer full-time employees with a 401(k). Whatever you deposit into this account, your employer will match up to a certain percentage; usually about 2.7 to 3 percent.
Learning to go without
This may be one of the biggest challenges to staying on the right path, but here it goes; learn to go without. In other words, allow yourself to be broke every once in a while. It doesn’t pay to keep pulling from your savings every time you run out of cash (which should never happen if you’re sticking to your budget).
Instead of refilling your pockets, let yourself be broke for a few days. Surely, you can stick it out ‘til payday, right? Can you sit tight and live off grilled cheese sandwiches for a day or two? If being broke is too painful, let it be a lesson for next time. The next time you’re tempted to buy something you don’t need, remember what being broke until payday felt like. Suddenly, that thing you were so anxious to buy doesn’t seem so important anymore. This might be the toughest habit to break, but once you’ve done so, it’s an absolute game changer!
Think before you act
Perhaps the best way to avoid going broke in the first place is to think before you act. Whenever you’re about to make a purchase, ask yourself “Is my money worth this?”, “Do I really need this item to get through the week?” If the answer is “no”, put it back and walk away. Only the wise use this technique. If you want to experience real change in your life, make this habit one that truly sticks.
Let’s face it, if you thought with your head instead of your stomach, you might be a healthier person. If you thought before speaking, you might have saved yourself from some really embarrassing moments in the past. If you thought before rushing into the college testing center, you might have gotten better scores. Likewise, to able to stop and think before spending money could ultimately help you achieve financial wellness. Never underestimate the power of thought before action. It could change the whole trajectory of your life.
So there you have it! These are some of the basic choices you can make, habits you can form, and things you can do that will help keep you going on the right path where you may find yourself in a financial position you never thought possible for yourself. Take it one step at a time and remember to keep trying. Even if things look hopeless, never give up. Keep going and eventually, you’ll find financial wellness, but more importantly, you’ll find happiness, too.