Category Archives: Money Management

Financial Literacy & Wigs for Cancer Patients

pink boxing gloves. black text on white field reading "donating financial literacy to help cancer patients. femmefrugality.com"

This weekend in Pittsburgh, there’s going to be this great event. It’s Hair Peace‘s annual Recipe for Hope, where local celebs and chefs will be serving up food and raffling off prizes to a sold-out audience to benefit the charity.

Hair Peace helps women and girls here in Southwestern PA buy wigs after they’ve been treated for cancer. The organization started after local radio personality and founder, Bonny Diver, sought treatment for breast cancer and found out that most insurance companies will not cover a wig, even though you can lose your hair after the first treatment.

For over fourteen years, this event has been raising money to give girls and women battling cancer the confidence they deserve.

PF Community Giving Back

Several books and a mounted $2 bill in a white basked with a grey background. Titles are: "The Feminist Financial Handbook" by Brynne Conroy, Money Letters 2 My Daughter by Jackie Cummings Koski, Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry, Get Money by Kristin Wong, Her Money Matters by Jen Hemphill and End Financial Stress Now by Emily Guy Birken.

At the Recipe for Hope event this weekend, they’ll also be doing silent and live raffles for various items. You know, gift baskets, gift certificates, etc.

My friend sits on the board and asked if there was anything I’d like to provide. My primary output of benefit to the public at large is personal finance content, so I thought that while my services might not be valuable to everyone, something like my book could definitely help out.

And I just happen to know some other awesome people who have written crazy helpful and transformative money books, too. So I sent out an email and got together a gift basket.

Guys, I was shocked by the response. I was expecting maybe a 50% response rate, and then I’d get together some potential names for email round 2. People are busy. Getting to the post office to mail a book is kind of a pain. I care about girls in SWPA, but maybe they preferred to focus their charitable efforts elsewhere–maybe somewhere closer to their own homes.

Instead, within 48 hours 100% of the women I reached out to responded, wanting to participate and asking me for the best address to send the book. I am so incredibly appreciative not just for their generosity, but also for their excitement.

We’ve got a great lineup of personal finance books going to one lucky winner at the Recipe for Hope event tomorrow evening. If you’re looking for a good read and won’t be able to make it to the event, I recommend reading not one, but all of the following:

The Feminist Financial Handbook: A Modern Woman's Guide to a Wealthy Life
black and white text on blue background reading "get it here."
Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford
black and white text on blue background reading "get it here."
Her Money Matters: The Missing Truths From Traditional Money Advice
black and white text on blue background reading "get it here."
Money Letters 2 My Daughter
black and white text on blue background reading "get it here."
End Financial Stress Now: Immediate Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook
black and white text on blue background reading "get it here."
Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together
black and white text on blue background reading "get it here."

Jackie was awesome and sent along her signature $2 bill for the basket, too. And Jen included not only her book, but also the workbook that goes along with it.

Kristin and Emily were amazing with their responses, and Erin has a sequel to Broke Millennial coming out in April that covers investing!

Want to give back, too?

The money this basket brings in will allow more girls and women to buy the hair pieces they need.

But you don’t have to donate a book to help out. You don’t have to be local, and even if you are, you don’t have to go to Recipe for Hope to lend a hand.

If you’d like to help Hair Peace reach even more cancer patients, you can donate here (or click the purple button in the top lefthand corner of their home page.)

Don’t Let Millennial Anxiety Ruin Your Money

African-American woman with dreads dyed green and pulled up in a pony tail on top of her head sitting on a chair in front of a Home Depot or like store. She is wearing a white shirt, silver necklace and yellow and black patterned pants as she sits in a chair, holding her head in concern. Below this is white space and then bold black lettering reading, "don't let millennial anxiety ruin your money femmefrugality.com"

Millennial anxiety.

It’s a real thing. If you were given participation trophies and told you could do anything you wanted when you grew up if you just worked hard enough, your parents’ self-confidence-inducing plans may have backfired.

It has been well established that millennials are the most anxious generation, especially in the realms of health, safety and personal finances. This is a PF site, so we’re going to focus on the latter today.

But before we delve into all this, let’s talk about who you’ll actually find in the millennial generation.

Who are millennials?

The millennial generation spans births from the years 1981-1996. The oldest of us grew up with Saturday morning cartoons back when you couldn’t watch whatever you wanted whenever you wanted, before the internet was a big thing, before most people had PCs, even before AOL and Juno.

We remember these things because they unfolded before us in our conscious lives. We grew up knocking on our neighborhood friends’ doors to see if they could come out to play, but by the time we graduated high school a lot of us had cell phones or used AIM on our PCs to get in touch with our friends. That PC was too heavy for one person to pick up safely, and was usually kept in the basement or guest room next to the only dial-up line in the house.

But we’d still pick up and call each other for the most part.

Facetime wasn’t a thing for most of us in high school, though the younger portion of the generation may disagree on that point. Neither were smartphones until the vast majority of us had already entered our 20s.

Millennial Young Adulthood

My middle-of-the-Millennial-pack class in particular was slated to graduate college at the height of the Great Recession.

When we entered college and picked our majors, we assumed the world would go on just the way it had been as our parents raised us: With jobs that paid us enough to comfortably pay back our student loans, a country that raised us in apparent peace during the 90s–though there was a lot going on behind the scenes–and with strong military force after we saw the Twin Towers fall in college, high school or even middle or elementary school for some of the younger amongst us, and with a relatively stable economy which was largely able to bounce back from what we previously viewed as disasters–examples include the crash after 9/11 and the dot com boom and subsequent bust.

So while some of us are younger, really we’re the last generation to remember a time before the tech boom. Before we socialized digitally. And before there was such uncertainty about America’s future.

Why do millennials have anxiety?

Science isn’t 100% on this yet, though UC Berkley is currently conducting a study looking into it. I do want to get into some of the potential reasons, though, noting that without data, it’s all speculation.

Career-induced anxiety

First, let’s look at the big thing we touched on in the last section: The Recession.

It came at a real bad time for us Millennials. Just as we were starting out our careers, jobs were scarce and experience was valued. Without experience, it was hard to hop on the employment train.

When people started hiring again, they didn’t want people in their mid to late twenties with no experience as their new hires. They wanted college students. While some of the younger millennials may have been spared the worst of this, for many, that jolt at the beginning of our careers would leave its mark. Our career paths were uncertain, and that was something our parents hadn’t readily prepared us for as a whole.

Recession-induced anxiety

We also got scared off from the stock market. It seemed like a risky thing to young people. We watched it go down as our parents’ generation freaked out over their retirement savings or even just keeping their home. We watched jobs dry up. We watched opportunities shrink and doors shut. Our childhood was based upon a relative stability that was irrevocably breached. And we remember.

Student Loan-induced anxiety

We also have taken on a massive amount of student loans. This is in part due to the rising cost of college, which was only accelerated through state budget austerity policies after the Recession. Those of us who were lucky enough to dodge the student loan bullet often do so at the expense of our own education and often our salaries–especially if you never returned to school.

Of course, there were some mommies and daddies paying for college, but far less than you may assume.

Millennials don’t feel secure. And maybe they shouldn’t.

Because loyalty isn’t as imperative of a quality in employees anymore, nor can it be expected from employers, we job hop more than any other generation. We’re also starting out or hitting the highest earning points in our careers with the growing gig economy, which is really just a way for companies to get around workers rights and sometimes even paying a fair wage.

No wonder we have a lot of financial anxiety. With rising prices, stagnant wages and a disappearing middle class, our worries are well justified.

Other sources of anxiety.

A lot of us grew up in religious households, but abandoned those religions as we grew up. Millennials are still into community; just not dogma. Ironically enough, we struggle to find that community as adults, even when it was the part of the religious experience we valued.

Instead, we put a lot of faith in our public institutions. Then things like 9/11 happen and the world changes. The economy crashes. We have a president who fixes it. And then he leaves because we used to have presidents who followed decorum, and then Trump is elected president.

The very things we tend to put our faith in have been shaking under our feet since adolescence.

Another problem is that when you’re told you can grow up to do anything you want, you feel like a letdown if you don’t reach your goals. With a lot of barriers placed in our paths early on in our careers, some realized they couldn’t achieve their potential.

Many more continue fighting a battle which feels like it’s in vain. We have more aspirations towards individual success than any other generation, and the fact that we can’t always achieve makes us feel like failures. Like we’re not working hard enough. Even though wages have stayed relatively stagnant while workforce productivity has gone up since we joined in the game.

The ironic thing is that when anxiety gets bad enough, it can affect how much you can work or the efficiency of that work. So let’s look at some solutions to common millennial anxiety problems.

Financial solutions to millennial anxiety.

NUMBER ONE: Seek mental health care. If you can get your brain worked out everything–including money–will be so much easier.

Career

Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself a break. You don’t have to have a job you love that fulfills your soul. Your parents likely didn’t. Their generation was largely able to expect steady work at one or two companies over the course of their career, and that was a good thing. Meaning be damned.

If you can find a position you love, awesome. But if you can’t, know that there are many other ways to find meaning in life as we talk about in The Feminist Financial Handbook. Your work can be something you do to pay the bills and save for retirement. You can find meaning outside the realm of dollars and cents.

Also, try to get comfortable with freelancing. Overall, the rise of freelancing is a negative cultural trend for American workers, but if you can run your business right, it can supply a varied source of income so that if one stream of revenue dries up, you’ve still got other clients to rely on. Having a thick emergency fund can be a huge sanity saver when you’re freelancing, too.

Invest

The stock market can be a scary thing, until you read JL Collins’ stock series.

If you get all TLDR on me, let me give you the main take away: Invest in index funds as preached by Bogle. Collins also wrote a book on getting started with investing which I highly recommend: The Simple Path to Wealth.

If you think investing is just for rich people, allow me to prove you wrong in a happy-for-all-of-us way:

With the advent of FinTech, or financial technology, you don’t need a big chunk of change to get invested in the market anymore. There are tons of roboadvisors out there who allow you to get started with $20-$25 minimums, and do all the asset allocation for you. Make sure you find one who is charging low fees by doing comparison shopping before committing to any one robo advisor.

You might not be able to do the index fund thing right off the bat if you use some of these roboadvisors. But it will get you started with the habit of investing, as you build up your nest egg until you meet that minimum opening balance requirement on a Vanguard or like account.

If you like the idea of investing, but are broke af and kind of need to know the money will be accessible if you need it, look into Roth IRAs as a potentially viable option outside of those traditionally offered by employers. You can’t withdraw interest you earn without incurring fees and tax penalties, but you can withdraw the money you contributed.

Take time off work

You know those vacation days you’ve been piling up in an effort to look like a dedicated employee?

Stop that. First of all, even if you have an employer who pays you to cash in days at the end of the year or end of your tenure, the payout pales in comparison to the value you gave to the company for free.

Secondly, taking breaks isn’t just good for you as a human being. It also makes you a more creative, focused and efficient employee.

Remember that this is true even if you’re a freelancer or business owner. That time that you invest in yourself, away from work and email and everything, is time you’re really investing in the efficiency of your business.

If you don’t have vacation days and you want them, you can try to negotiate them into your compensation package, or you can find ways to go back to school for cheap or even free so that you are able to find a job with benefits or gain the connections you’ll need to build your business.

Make sure you’re on the right student loan plan

Several years ago, we had a reader and fellow blogger contribute a piece on the proper way to pay off your loans if you wanted to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Essentially, if you want the government to actually forgive your loans because you entered the field of public service like they promised to in 2007, you had to make sure you had the right type of loans AND that you were on right type of repayment plan.

Most people weren’t familiar with the intricacies of the rules, and the government for its part did not make the process easy to navigate.

This resulted in suspiciously low forgiveness numbers in 2017–the first year the first applicants qualified for forgiveness. Many were turned away because they did not have the right loan or repayment plan for either a portion or the entirety of their loan.

Talk about questioning your career choices.

Budget for Convenience Spending

This is a tip I’m taking from Abigail Perry, who wrote the great book Frugality for Depressives. She recommends this method for those suffering from depression because some days you just can’t.

And to ignore that fact is to fail your budget from Day 1.

If you’re highly anxious or stressed out, odds are you’re going to have those “just can’t” days, too. Pretending it won’t happen is fiscal folly.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago via Hasan Minhaj, millennials will pay for convenience, many times even if it means compromising on their values.

Automate your bills

When you can’t even, you’re probably going to have a hard time remembering to pay the bills. Automate them as much as possible so things will be taken care of even if you forget. You can do this with many bills, like utilities, health insurance, credit card bills, retirement savings and more.

Separately, you can set up an automatic transfer from your checking to savings account every payday to make sure you’re saving as much as you’d like to be for your emergency fund, vacation or whatever other goal you may have on the horizon. This makes the savings process a whole lot less painful and your goals more likely to become a reality.

Redefine Success

Millennials are very concerned with individualistic over familial success. This is often reflected via our careers or our perception of how much money we make or save as individuals.

If you can manage your money, great. It’ll help you achieve your goals that much easier.

But money is just a tool. It is not the end in and of itself. Your money story is not likely to be a straight line. Learn to embrace failure, and to recognize each step as a journey unto itself. When you start defining life more by the things that are important to you and your values rather than using monetary measurements, you’ll gain more peace than dollars and cents could alone confer.

Know you’re not alone.

We are Generation Anxiety. There are a lot of other people out there going through the same thing as you, wondering why it’s so hard to make plans when you have a rolodex of thousands of “friends” on social media. Wondering why despite all your hard work, you’re reaching a mental breaking point without achieving the success you had been aspiring towards.

Reach out. Budget for reality without scolding yourself for your lack of discipline. And know that we’re all messed up. You are not alone.

 

My Financial Muse is a Razor

Trigger warning: This post discusses feminine hygiene products.

This is such an interesting read. Marketing to you based on your values is huge now, but I didn't realize it was because of Gen Z. Definitely going to be thinking about new ways to be a conscious consumer.

While I was in Florida, I made many Walmart trips. Because you always forget something.

On one of these trips I was picking up razors. I was about to buy my regular brand when I thought I’d check out the guys’ razors. My finances could use some shoring up, so I’ve tried to be conscious about exercising a bit more frugality. And the guys’ razors are always cheaper.

Except this time, they weren’t!

isolated incident of womens razors being cheaper than mens razors

My jaw hit the floor. The Pink Tax in reverse! Two similar products, same brand. One clearly marketed to women, the other to men. I’ve tried both, and they both successfully get the hair off my legs. It’s the packaging you’re paying for.

Normally, the women’s razors would be more expensive than the men’s, but for whatever reason, on this day in this particular location men’s razors were more expensive.

So this anomaly was exciting.

But then I came home and found that the Pink Tax has been working its regular magic at all the area suburban stores I’ve shopped at since.

In fact, Friday night I was shopping in preparation for Snowmaggedon. I was buying razors, and went through a similar thought process to the one I experienced at that Floridian Walmart.

*reaches for women’s razors*

Wait! Bad! Buy the cheaper men’s razors!

*reaches for Bic’s men’s razors*

Wait, wait, wait. Remember that commercial that made you feel like maybe there are some good people in the world after all? And how at least some Twitter bots are protesting because apparently they don’t want a society that’s safe for women and children? Because that’s a platform now?

Buy the Gillette razors. They used their platform for good. And, yes, to appeal to Gen Z for advertising purposes. But you know what?

Good job, Gillette.

*grabs Gillette’s men’s razors*

*eyes Gillettte’s women’s razors. realizes that means you’re looking at Venuses.*

Nope, that ish is still expensive as hell.

*walks away, Nike sneakers squeaking on the freshly mopped floor*

The Pink Tax

So obviously I’ve had a lot of deep thoughts about razors lately. I’d like to look at the financial issues and psychological economics behind these thoughts I experienced.

First there’s the Pink Tax. It’s this thing where women’s products cost more than men’s, even when they’re identical products only differing in presentation, which is gender-binary-oriented.

Razors are obviously an example. So is shampoo. The list goes on. If it’s marketed to men, it’s cheaper. Perhaps the logic behind it is that women are more eager to be beautiful because that’s how society values them so they’re willing to invest more money into “beauty” products which are really just a part of basic hygiene.

But that logic makes me want to throw up in my mouth.

The Pink Tax is also a problem when it comes to feminine hygiene particularly. I live in the great state of Pennsylvania, where we’re not taxed on things like food and other necessary items like basic clothing.

You know what else we don’t pay tax on?

Tampons.

Pads.

Also known as feminine hygiene products.

H-Y-G-I-E-N-E.

No one buys tampons because they like the way they feel. These products are not luxuries. We buy them because they are necessary to function in the day-to-day world. They’re necessities. Just like food. Just like basic clothing. Yet many states still tax them.

I’m kind of crazy and think that not only should they not be taxed, but they should be a fully-covered benefit of any ACA-compliant plan. And that same coverage should be mandated as a contingency of granting states Medicaid funding.

But that’s just me.

Am I a sucker for advertisers?


Yes, I did exactly what these advertisers hoped their commercials would influence me to do. I bought their product because of their moral stance. Gen Z is coming of age.

You can officially stop calling 18-year-olds millennials. I’m in my 30s now, and I’m pretty close to the middle of the pack.

Gen Z is the hottest new target audience, and they lean liberal. They take note of things like social positions of companies, and they truly do vote with their dollars.

Millennials do this to some extent. Obviously. I bought into the razor ad. But I think Hasan Minhaj does a good job of exemplifying the effects of millennial anxiety on our final spending decisions. I’d recommend watching the whole thing, but you’ll pretty much get the point I’m trying to make if you watch to 1:40.

Note: We’ll be talking more about millennial anxiety and its effect on our personal economies in coming weeks. You can subscribe here to get a notification when the post goes live.

So I bought a product because the people in their marketing department were smart enough to prey on my sense of morality.

Does that mean I’ve been duped?

I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t. Now, it may have been a bit irresponsible of me to not research if Gillette as a company has any skeletons in their closet before I made the purchase. But given the information I had at the time, I’m happy with the decision.

Conversations for Informed Consumers

Really I think we just need to talk about these things and accept that sometimes our individual actions or opinions may be wrong. For example, with retrospect I can see that I should have researched the company via actual news sources to see if my values aligned with theirs or not. This rather than relying on an advertisement put together by marketing professionals. They hit my values on the nose in that ad. But do they exemplify those values after I give them my money?

They very may well. The marketing department may have had only the greatest of intentions as they crafted this ad that made me cry. The company may very well live up to these values. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary. I couldn’t immediately find anything disturbing about the ad like I experienced with that terrible Pepsi commercial a year or two back, either.

But because it is coming from an advertising department, it’s not necessarily a reliable source to represent the actual company culture.

If we don’t openly talk about our values and the way we digest media when those are the very things advertisers are targeting, we will cease to be informed consumers.

In the meantime, if anyone has an inside scoop on the work and company culture at Gillette, lemme know. Until I have information that changes my mind, I’m going to consciously allow myself to be swayed by this brilliant marketing campaign.

10 Car Insurance Discounts You Should Ask For

Truly psyched for this. Going to be calling up my insurance agent to talk about the marital, good student and my car is awesome discounts.

Car insurance is such a pain in the butt. I’m glad it’s required if you have a car. Otherwise we’d probably have Oedipal temper tantrums a lot more often–and we all know how that ended.

If you don’t know how that ended, no worries. It’s a reference to Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. The main character, Oedipus, did lots of really bad things unwittingly. The first was killing his father in a fit of road rage. Maybe if he had been able to call his agent they would have been able to assess and fix the damages without anyone dying, and the fulfillment of the grim prophecy could have been avoided.

The point is, there’s only so much you can do to lower your rates without forfeiting coverage. So I’ve compiled a list of discounts your insurance company may or may not be letting you in on.

Next time you talk to them, ask.

Keep in mind that discounts vary from state-to-state as well as from company-to-company.

Good Student Discount

Your agent may not know to offer you this one. Especially if you’re not of traditional college age. But it’s really simple: Meet certain GPA requirements, get your premiums lowered.

Bundle to Get Discounts

Carrying policies with four different agencies?  Bundling them with one may save you a bunch of money.  Renters, valuable personal property, homeowners, etc.

On top of carrying multiple insurance policies with one insurer, your insurance company may be linked with a bank. Holding a financial account with them may lower your premiums or up your interest rates on your growth accounts.

Go Green

Many companies are now offering a discount on your premium if you elect to receive all of your bills, statements, and other paperwork electronically.  Not only are you saving the planet, but it’s a lot less of a hassle than shredding and recycling.

Age

Usually this discount is applied every renewal period where it is applicable.  Some states and companies give you discounts for getting older and more experienced every time your policy renews–especially if you’re a young man or have a young man on your policy. Talk to your agent to make sure you understand how this is calculated on your specific policy.

Marital Discount

Some states and companies lower premiums if you get married.  Take special care to mention this fact to your agent if you and your spouse aren’t on the same policy.

Though you really should be. Being on the same policy is almost guaranteed to save you some cash.

Vanishing Deductible?

Vanishing Deductible plans sound A-MAZING, right?

The idea is that for every premium period you go without getting into an accident or anything like that, your deductible goes down by some amount–say $100. Over a 5 year period for a pretend policy that renews every 12 months, your $500 deductible can decrease to $0.

This would be really great, if the insurance company didn’t charge you more on your premium to carry the benefit. If you have vanishing deductible, check and see how much you are being charged for it. You may find that it’s better to pay the lower premium and keep the higher deductible.

Low-Risk Occupation

Tell your insurance carrier what you do for work. Your job can say a lot about you, and for people in meticulous fields, that means lower rates.

Why?

The carrier figures if you’re meticulous at work, you’re probably meticulous behind the wheel, too. Some of these occupations include pilots, artists, scientists, actors, engineers, and teachers.

Some companies even offer lower premiums if you work at home and therefore don’t use your car as often.

If you’re not in the list above, still talk to your agent. It’s by no means all-inclusive.

Oh, but you might not want to tell them what you do if you fall into this list:  doctor, lawyer, judge, real estate broker, business owner, architect, or social worker.

These have all been pinned as professions that have their professionals work unreasonable hours in high stress positions. Not so great for safety behind the wheel.

Defensive Driver

Complete a course in defensive driving, and you could save a good bit of money on your premium. It’s applicable in Pennsylvania, and courses around here are generally around $30. Some can even be taken in your home.

Make sure to talk to your agent first. For oh, so many reasons. First of all, the discount may not apply to you even if you complete the course. Each state and company is different, but in some states there are age restrictions to the discount.

The second reason is that you could get a double discount. Your insurance company will lower your premium if you take and pass the course, and some insurance companies can even help you lower the price of the course.  So you get to take the class you’re taking to get a discount at a discount.

Genius.

Do you belong to any groups?

So many groups have discounts with so many insurance providers. If you have ever been in a fraternity, sorority, professional organization, the military, a member of a credit union, or a federal employee, odds are there’s a discount for you.

Oh, and you work for someone, too?  You may even be able to get a discount just for working with your employer.

Exercise your brain on this one. Any organization you belong to could be saving you  money every month.

Your Car is Awesome Discount

Give your agent a call and review with them all the nifty safety features that your car has.  They should have done this with you when you signed up for the policy, but checking up never hurts.

Have airbags? There’s a discount for that.

How about anti-lock brakes? There’s a discount for that, too.

And those are just the first two common features that came to mind.

What other discounts can my awesome readers tell me about?

5 Financial Tips for Your 30s

So technically only five things, but so much information in here. Debt, savings, retirement...good read.

Meet Clint. Clint is the CFP behind NextGen Wealth. I’m in my 30s, so I was anticipating reading this article myself. Give it a good read–there’s a lot of information to think on in here!

Many consider your 30s to be the “real” adulting stage. It’s when you really start to develop a sense of responsibility and strategy on how you will live your life in the next couple of decades. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you identify and apply solid money-management principles during this time. Here are five ways you can secure better financial health for today and in the future.

Improve your earning capacity

Acquire the necessary skills

What’s the best way to hit your financial goals faster? Earn more. And to earn more, you have to be the best guy for the job.

How to do this? By continuously learning. Develop your skills and add new ones. Volunteer or sign up for training and seminars. Get certified, expand your skill set and branch out to other related disciplines.

Companies reward people who are great at what they do. And, even if you don’t get promoted during your stay there, you’ve increased your market value and will now be in a position to demand better pay on your next job.

Get a side hustle

If you can’t get promoted or get a pay raise, why not get a side hustle? For a few hours a week, you can earn some extra money and build up your assets faster. Job marketplaces like UpWork and Fiverr are quick ways to get started.

And, there are specialized talent marketplaces to discover that can pay better depending on your specialization. The lesson? Make better use of your time. Not only do you earn extra, but you also develop your freelancing skills.

Stay clear of debt

Live below your means

How do you avoid debt? Simple: Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. You’ll be surprised to learn that many of the things you own are spur-of-the-moment purchases triggered by dopamine.

Let’s face it, there’s always that “shiny new thing”. Apple will never stop selling new iPhones every year. Amazon is a rabbit hole that will take away precious money and hours of your day if you let it.

Automate your payments for credit cards and bills. Prioritize high-interest debt and set aside a fixed amount for payment on a regular basis. Why do this? Setting up an automatic system reduces friction in terms of paying debt on time.

This mindset applies to the opposite end of the spectrum. If you want to purchase something (discretionary expense), use cash. Using cash increases the friction of parting with your money, simply because the very act of handing over physical bills make us “feel” the loss more.

Think about it, why do you think Apple Pay and Amazon One-click were implemented? Efficiency and convenience? Sure. But it also reduces the effect of what psychologists call “coupling”, which states that the value of experience from a product/service is tied to the act of paying for it.

So if you opt to pay with cash for the latest iPhone, you’ll feel the crunch more because you part with your money right away. The experience brought about by owning a new phone is directly linked to how you pay for it. Used strategically, you can discipline yourself to avoid unnecessary purchases which lead to debt.

Start preparing for retirement

Nail down the essentials

It would be unwise not to take advantage of your employer’s 401k plan. Tax benefits, employer matching, access to loans, and protection of funds from creditors are just some of the benefits of having a 401k.

If you can, set up a Roth IRA too. You’ll have tax-free income during retirement and also have the option to withdraw funds during times of need.

You should also consider getting a health savings account when possible. Here are some of its benefits: Pre-tax contributions, tax-free withdrawals and earnings, portable, and provides you with funds for medical purposes.

What’s the point of utilizing these investing tools? As you reach your 30s, your income will generally be higher than when you were starting. New skills, promotions, and accumulated job experience should have increased your market value and your potential income along with it.

It’s the best time to start saving for the future. Don’t spend it on stuff that doesn’t provide value in the long run. Instead, invest it and let it grow to build yourself enough assets for the future so you can achieve your goal of financial freedom.

Build better money habits

Think before you spend

Start by making a weekly/monthly budget. Identify your discretionary and non-discretionary expenses. Track your spending. You’ll be surprised how much you spend on things when you start to track them.

Set budget goals and reward yourself when you hit them. For example, you can treat yourself to a movie if you were able to skip Starbucks for a week. This way you won’t feel deprived and actually look forward to saving since there’s a reward when you accomplish it.

By being conscious about our spending, we stop acting on emotions alone which is the number one reason why people spend too much.

Automate your savings and payments. Use cash for discretionary expenses. Always be conscious when it comes to spending. Make sure that it fits your budget and aligns with your goals.

Consider getting outside help

The right person can help you reach your goals faster

Picture this: You realize you want to take better care of your health and decided to sign up for a gym. The first time you enter, you see all sorts of equipment. Barbells, elliptical machines, treadmills, kettlebells—Where to start?

If I wanted to build the muscles on my upper body, which type of training should I focus on? What if I wanted to focus on losing weight? Which machine and exercise are perfect for achieving that goal faster?

What do most people do when faced with this dilemma? That’s right—approach and seek help from a personal trainer. When it comes to building your financial muscles, the same principle applies.

Deciding to be financially-fit is the first step. You’ll improve a lot simply by applying the tips we mentioned above. But what if you want to take it to the next level? What if you want to reach your goals faster, make sure you’re doing the right things and moving in the right direction?

Like gym instructors, financial planners help you pick the right tools and advise you on the strategy to take for a specific financial goal. Instead of trial and error, you get to start on the right path immediately.

Like a gym coach, a financial planner is someone who gets you on the right program so you maximize the use of your time and energy (in this case, your money) and reach your targets faster.