It’s no secret that poor financial health can keep you up at night. If your monthly paycheck seems to disappear between rent, loans, and credit card payments, you’re not alone. Under these conditions, saving for a major upcoming purchase—whether a new laptop or a new home—can feel overwhelming.
If even planning for the next six months is a struggle, you can forget about saving for retirement! To get ahead of the curb, you first have to catch up.
To improve your financial health, you don’t have to start trading bitcoin or flipping houses. In fact, when finances are stressful, it’s better not to make these kinds of risky decisions. Instead, you can make some small adjustments to your lifestyle to handle your debt, boost your savings, and get on the right track.
Ready to get started? Below are our top four tips for financial health, so you can put an end to your monetary worries and start dreaming about the future.
#1: Make Your Budget Sustainable
The key to good financial health is assembling a monthly budget (one that you can actually stick to).
Your monthly budget should include all outgoing payments:
- Loan payments
- Credit card payments
- Car payments and gas
- Healthcare costs and prescription medication
These expenses are, unfortunately, fixed. Once you’ve subtracted this money, what’s left from your monthly pay? Consider how much of your budget you should spend in more flexible categories like:
It can be helpful to keep track of your expenses for a couple of months. You may be surprised at how much you spend in some of these categories!
Tip: Spending more than you’d like? One great way to save is to follow the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Second-hand clothing can be just as stylish as new items. The same goes for used furniture and decor. You can even apply this principle while grocery shopping by purchasing reusable bags and containers to fill with items from the bulk section.
#2: Freelance on the Side
Can’t live without your luxury moisturizer? The key to financial health is spending less than you make. Sometimes, though, the only solution is to make a little bit more.
If you work a regular part-time or full-time job, adding a little freelance work on the side can help you take in more income. This could be seasonal work during the summer or the holiday season, or a regular gig with a low or remote commitment.
Consider opportunities in the top freelancing industries, which include:
- Writing & Editing
- Finance & Bookkeeping
Tip: Create a business website and share the address with friends and family who can promote it to their social networks. This will also help you look more professional to prospective clients.
#3: Look for Tax Breaks
Many people pay too much in taxes. If you’ve ever looked at a headline and realized that Amazon pays fewer taxes than you do, take a closer look at your tax situation.
You don’t necessarily need to work with a tax professional or throw a bunch of tea in a harbor. With tax software hosting available right on your desktop, it’s easier than ever to do a deep-dive into your potential savings.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve started freelancing, you can write off expenses, including your home office, your cell phone, and your new business website.
#4: Make a Plan to Address Debt
Once you’ve gotten on the right track with your budget, it’s time to tackle your debt.
If you’re only paying off the interest on your student loan or credit card debt, you’re not really making a dent in the bigger issue, and your monthly payment won’t go down until you start a more aggressive payment plan.
Start to eliminate debt by:
- Consolidating or refinancing
- Making larger monthly payments
- Shifting some of your debt to zero-interest credit cards and then paying them off ASAP
Pro Tip: Is some of your debt in collection? Call the organization you owe (not the debt collector) and ask to settle for a lower amount than you owe.
Taking Your Financial Vitamins
The first steps to improving your financial health can feel like a drag. Saying goodbye to some creature comforts to make bigger payments on your debt feels difficult and, at first, fruitless.
Just like any lifestyle change, your new healthy financial choices take dedication. After a few months, you’ll notice that you have more money in savings, fewer letters from creditors, and less overall stress
Over time, your new financial freedom can even improve your overall health. Your bank account balance (or lack thereof) will no longer keep you up at night, and you’ll be ready for any curveball life throws at you.