You know what we all need sometimes? A good pep talk! And while I usually rely on the pre-game speech from Miracle (“This your time! Now go out there and take it.”) to motivate me, Herb Brooks’s advice is applicable more to times when I need to convince myself that going to the gym is worth it than to times when I want to cry about the size of my student loan payments.
But where are all the inspirational money speeches? If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started working in the financial industry, it is that there’s an endless list of “mistakes” to be made when it comes to money. I read a lot of articles, blogs, and tweets about financial literacy during my day at work and a solid 90% of them tell me about things I’m doing wrong. The general theme seems to be that there are a million better things I should do with my money rather than spending it on going-out tops at Forever 21. Needless to say, it’s easy to come away from those reading sessions feeling discouraged about my financial situation.
So, I did a little research and am happy to say that I can provide some financial encouragement to you today! Chances are, if you’re doing any of the following three things, you’re on the right track. You might not be a millionaire. You probably still make a financial mistake here and there. But you’re doing the best you can. And you should feel good about that! Money is difficult to manage. So give yourself credit for the things you’re doing well.
Here are 3 signs that you’re better with your money than your think you are:
- You Pay All of Your Bills On Time, Every Month - I was catching up with a friend from college the other day and we were talking about my blog when she said, “I don’t have a budget. I’m too poor to have a budget. I pay all of my bills and student loans and rent and then I have no money so there’s nothing to budget.” I think we all know how she feels. Salaries in your early 20’s are the reason the phrase “living paycheck-to-paycheck” exists. But I would like to point out that, if you are successfully paying all of your bills on time each month, you actually do have a budget. And even more impressive, you follow it. A budget is just a plan for how you will spend the money you earn. Not having a budget would mean spending your money impulsively on whatever you want at the moment, disregarding necessities you know you will need to pay for later. And although my friend’s budget doesn’t include a lot of wiggle room for fun stuff like buying new clothes or having a social life, the fact that she manages to pay her bills means she’s doing something right. If you’re paying all your bills on time, you are too!
- You Know Your Checking Account Balance - What’s your checking account balance right now? If you could answer that a fair amount of accuracy (let’s say within $5-$10 of the actual balance) you’re doing something right. Even if the answer is that you have $0 in your account, knowing your approximate balance means that you regularly check your account activity. You have an idea of how much you’re spending and where. It also means you would notice if there was fraudulent activity on your account. If you have no idea what your account balance is, you’re in trouble. Avoiding your balance doesn’t make it grow; if anything ignorance about your financial situation just makes it worse. So don’t feel guilty about checking your mobile banking app religiously. Who cares if it’s because you’re worried you don’t have enough money for coffee? At least you’re checking your balance before you spend!
- Your Savings Account Has More than the Minimum Balance - Have you put money into your savings account since you opened it? Then you’re doing better than a lot of other adults out there. Studies show that about 75% of Americans do not save money on a regular basis. Even if you’re just taking your spare change jar into your bank every month and depositing the money into savings, that’s better than nothing! Fifty cents here, three dollars there . . . it can start to add up. And at the very least, you are consciously making an effort to save. This means that you value money and aren’t apt to spend it willy-nilly. So keep rolling up those nickels and bringing ‘em in to deposit in savings! Don’t let the haters get you down.
I hope this helps you feel a little better about your financial skills. You might not be doing everything right (like maybe you don’t have a 401K or you’re still not really sure what a 401K is . . .) but having a few of the basics down means that you’re successfully managing the day-to-day aspects of your money well. Go you!