In ancient times, great rulers didn’t just want to rule over their 40 acres; they wanted an empire that they could point to as their finest accomplishment. Today we use the word empire in much the same way, minus triumvirates, long ass walks to Persia and marrying our cousins to keep power in the family.
However, in all our day-to-day worries, it seems we are so worried about getting everything done in the short-term that we lose sight of our long-term goals, including how our finances affect them. If you need a nudge in the right direction, grab your laurel wreath and let’s go for a little word walk, shall we?
Relive the past…and then reaffirm your life goals
Think of this as a postmortem for your finances; you are the coroner, and your account statements are the mangled body. This is where your empire begins. Pull the last year’s (or even last few month’s) expenses and see where you are spending money that you can quickly reduce. How much money are you bringing in after taxes? Create categories like Rent/Living Expenses for things like rent, electric, phone, and the like. Then another for Transportation, another for Entertainment, and so on. Now take all those line items from your statements and pop them into the appropriate categories (don’t skip any, I know you want to).
Now observe the results (you may need a few fingers of bourbon for this part). Yes, you spent 13% of your total annual income on shoes, 29% on rent, and you saved only 1.5% of it. Yes, you paid over $2,500 on interest and late charges in the last year. Cry a little, have another drink, and resolve to do better this year. Finally, make a goal, a big goal that you are working toward in your mind. A life changing goal, if you will. Money doesn’t buy happiness, of course, but it does go a long way to giving us the freedom to pursue our dreams or at least removes a few obstacles.
Find joy in creative budgeting (I promise…it’s there)
Now that you know how you spend money, find the places you can change easily. There are a million ways to budget, but the most important part is that you do it and stick to it. Use your library card or Google your favorite financial maven and try out one of their systems. The important part is building a practice of thinking about how you spend your money (and save it!) rather than just going all willy-nilly with it. Also, rather than think about what you can’t do (“No Starbucks again, ever”), engage your creative side and find ways to stay on budget so you can live a blissful existence (“Now I can try out my own fun coffee concoctions at home like choco-banana-buttercream”).
Need a shock to your system? Do a financial cleanse. Take 14 days to only buy complete and total necessities. This means no convenience coffee or food, no “must have” beauty products, use up what’s in your kitchen, and find social events that are free or you have a gift card to cover. After 14 days, reflect on how it went and create goals from there. You will be surprised at just how creative you get. For instance, every Saturday I make a “garbage frittata” for breakfast which are the bits of many leftovers from the week recreated into the best damn frittata I’ve ever had (until the next week). No waste and no trips to Panera; everyone wins.
Diversify your talents
What’s better than one revenue stream? Three revenue streams, of course! Not only does this insulate you against putting all your financial eggs in one basket, but it also builds your finances fast. Everything from starting a money-generating blog, to building a low-key dog walking business, to catering your finest vegan sweets on the weekends will bring you real income and if you are so inclined, morph into your real business one day if you have a bit of the entrepreneurial bug. Sites like UpWork are a great place to find freelance gigs for every skill set or talk to the peeps who swoon for your vegan brownies. Network, baby, network.
Repeat after me, “I can save.” Put the money in the account and forget about it if you’ll be tempted. Make your own little fundraiser thermometer to track your savings if you need a daily reminder to stay on course. Use an app like Acorns which takes your daily spending and rounds it to the nearest dollar, depositing those extra cents in an investment account. Do something, even if its small, and build momentum. Be sure to take advantage of company 401K, coupon with all the new great apps our there, and when you buy do it through Ebates or to get airline miles. Make every transaction count! Also, make a date with yourself once per month to review your finances and make adjustments if needed.
I hated saving money; I said it didn’t go with my champagne personality. Here’s the thing, it goes with everyone’s personality. Only when I needed to save up $5,000 in two months to do something that is sure to totally change my life (traveling around the world and working for myself for a year – yee-haw!) did I get serious about saving. I didn’t have a six-figure job, I still had to pay all my regular bills, and I couldn’t do anything illegal (I seriously considered selling a kidney, but I have zero cred on the dark web). How did I do it? By doing everything I told you here. I already had two additional revenue streams (multiple clients, two different services). I pulled my last three months of expenses. I reviewed my cash-in, cash-out. I cried and had a nervous breakdown when I realized just how well I did not manage my money. Then I made huge cuts on anything convenience related and went out and found additional clients for my other revenue streams. And I worked my tail off (and that’s a lotta tail). I made my goal in seven weeks.
If I can do it, anyone can.