If managing money was so easy, more people would be doing it. But managing your finances is an art – a balanced blend of self-discipline and self-awareness.

It wasn’t until I was 24 that I started to seriously sit down and evaluate my finances. That meant not only looking at how I was spending my money, but why.

And the problem was, I had no why. Outside of paying bills, my money went out as quickly as it came in. I had no habits. 

Why People Fail to Implement Financial Habits

I asked Michela, a wealth-building coach who helps women and millennials take control of their finances through her coaching programs at Break Your Budget, what she sees as the reason why most people fail to implement sound financial habits.

“A lot of people struggle with knowing how to build a budget or financial plan for their own personal life. My most asked question is, ‘How much should I allocate to x?’ There is no specific answer to that question; everyone is different! [It’s] really hard to know how much you need for a certain area if you have never taken a real look at your finances, which a lot of people avoid or lie to themselves about.”

And when you go from no financial foundation, to starting to pave your way, it’s easy to make mistakes.

“The biggest mistake I see is trying to do too much at once,” continued Michela. “Getting your finances in order is like losing weight; it’s a process that involves changing a lot of habits you have now and sometimes even unlearning old habits to build new ones. It doesn’t happen overnight and if it does then it isn’t long lasting! It’s super important to start with one area, like fixing your spending and tracking expenses. Then move on to building a budget. Then open a high yield savings account…[etcetera].”

So when you’re ready to take control of your finances, where is the best place to begin? For me, it was creating the habits that would allow me to be successful in this journey. 

If you’re looking to get started, here are four simple, yet impactful, money habits you can get started with today.

Habit #1: Track Your Spending

How could you possibly get a grip on your finances, if you have no idea what you’re spending? If you’re going to start with any habit, it’s crucial to start with this one.

“I used to go weeks without looking at my bank account statements because I was fearful [of] what it may reveal,” says Kristy from Debt Free at Twenty Three

“This is so irresponsible because it gave me a false sense of financial security and could have resulted in several fees. When I started tracking every dollar I spent by looking at my account statements, my eyes were really opened to how I was wasting my hard earned money and why I needed to create a financial plan.”

Not tracking your spending can lead to reckless spending. You may think you have an idea what’s in your account, but you can easily exhaust your funds when you don’t know where every dollar is going. 

Wealth-building coach Michela encourages tracking as well, “…whether through an app, a spreadsheet or even just on the notes app on your phone.”

There’s plenty of money trackers, both digitally and paper trackers you can print out, that’s available to get started with (some of which are free)! While it may not be efficient for some, I actually use my personal planner as a way to track my spending. 

Every time I get paid, I write down my bills for the next two weeks. Then, I write down how much post-tax savings I’m allocating and to which accounts. Other expenses I account for are groceries, gas, and any other variable expenses that come up for that period.

As I make purchases, I write down how much I spent and for what. It can be a labor of love, but it helps me feel in control of my finances. 

Habit #2: Create a Budget

Creating a budget is personal finance advice as old as time, but for good reason. It works. While everyone has a different philosophy on how to budget, the principle of a budget is crucial to helping you fast-track your way to financial freedom. 

Spending recklessly is just that – reckless. With a budget, you’re prioritizing where every dollar should go.

There’s options when it comes to creating your budget. Some people opt to go all digital and will create different accounts for different expenses. I use Ally and they allow you to create multiple savings accounts. Other apps like SoFi allow you to as well.

I’ve seen people opt to use cash envelopes. The cash envelope method involves having different envelopes for different expenses (think groceries, gas, takeout, etc). What you allocate your cash for, outside of recurring expenses, really comes down to what you want to prioritize your spending on. I tried to do this for groceries and gas, but I struggled with making the trip to the ATM every time I got paid. It really comes down to nailing a system that works for you.

Kristy says, “I plan my budget each month and withdraw cash for all of my spending budgets, such as groceries, eating out, entertainment, gas and separate the cash out accordingly. This gives you a quick glimpse at how much money you have left in your budget and helps me stay on track.”

Half the battle with setting a budget, is sticking to your budget. 

“It’s very important to create a budget at the beginning of the month, do a mid-month check-in, and review variances at the end of the month.” says My Wealth Diary.

Doing check-ins allows you to get a sense of what’s working and what’s not, and knowing where you may need to increase your funds.

Habit #3: Tackle Your Debt

Tackling your debt can be scary, overwhelming, and quite frankly something you’d rather just avoid. I get it. That’s how I felt when I started my own debt payoff journey.

But tackling debt is the key to building a future of financial freedom and will help accelerate your wealth-building. 

“It’s harder to start building wealth when you owe money to others. Make a list of your debt, along with their corresponding interest rates, and start paying off the high-interest debt one-by-one,” suggests My Wealth Diary.

There’s plenty of free apps out there such as Mint or Wealthfront that lets you sync your accounts (such as credit cards, student loans, mortgages, etc), and will show you what your current totals are.

From there, you can determine what loans you want to tackle first. 

Many people follow the philosophy of the “debt snowball” which is the process of paying off the smallest balance first, regardless of the interest rate. Once that bill is paid off, you would use what would have been the minimum payment for the bill you just paid off, and put it towards the next smallest loan. The idea here is that you’re building the momentum to keep paying off debts.

If you prioritize the debts based on their interest rates, you’re taking the approach of the “debt avalanche.”

Regardless of what approach you take, you should make it a habit to review your debts, determine a payoff date, and work to knock those out.

Habit #4: Setting Financial Goals

Goals are important in all aspects of our lives. From fitness goals, to professional goals, your finances should receive sgthe same treatment.

Setting financial goals allow you to not only have something to work towards, but lets you benchmark your success along the way. Making more money, paying down debt – those are things that don’t always happen overnight, and can get discouraging quick if you don’t see progress. But having a goal in mind can help keep your focus on what’s important.

To me, there’s no right or wrong goal to set financially. Maybe it’s to save so much money for a down payment on a house, or maybe it’s paying off a debt. Either way, the more actionable and specific you can get, the better.

For me, I have a little over $13k on my car loan. My goal is to throw an additional $200 towards it a month. Rather than saying I want to pay down my car, I’ve put a number and a timeline on it.

And remember, financial goals can be as big or as little as you’re comfortable! As long as you’re making the effort to set yourself up for success, you’re on the right track.

The Success of Setting Money Habits

I get it. It can feel discouraging to put so much effort into something new, just to feel like you’re not seeing results.

But all good things in life take a little patience, and a lot of hard work. Starting your own money habits will have a huge payoff in the end. Just check out the success these three had:

“I implemented all of these habits to pay off $62,000 of student loans, build a net worth over $100,000 by age 26, and continue [to build] wealth. It was difficult at first, but I stuck to them, and eventually, they became second-nature. To this day, I swear by these three habits [paying off debt, tracking your spending, and creating a budget] because they provide the foundation for a strong financial life.”

My Wealth Diary

“I was so afraid to make a budget because the word seemed to have such a negative connotation around it. However, everyone’s money is doing one of two things – telling them what to do or being told what to do. By making a budget, you are taking [control] of where your money goes and not allowing your spending to run wild with no purpose. Budgeting also helps me focus on my long term goals, which are to invest and travel. By making wise money decisions now, I am setting up future me for success.”

Kristy, Debt Free at Twenty-Three

“In my own life, I focus on spending in alignment with my priorities and planning for my future. This means that I don’t spend money on things that are not important to me and I use that money to make progress on my goals. I also have a financial plan in place so I know if I am reaching my goals and if not, I can adjust to reach them. The biggest thing here is spending habits, they really are the cornerstone to financial success.”

Michela, Break Your Budget

Financial Resources to Help you Get Started

Starting your financial journey should feel exciting! You’re taking the fundamental steps towards creating the future you want, one dollar at a time.

There’s plenty of resources available to help provide tips, guidance, support, and more. Here are some to start with:

Books

  • You Are a Badass at Making Money, by Jen Sincero ($15.40, Amazon)
  • The Latte Factor, by David Bach ($13.39, Amazon)
  • The Simple Path to Wealth, by J.L. Collins ($14.39, Amazon)

Budget Trackers/Templates

  • Wealth Building Dashboard, by MyWealthDiary ($25, Etsy) – I personally have this and it’s great! My Wealth Diary built this herself, and she did an awesome job as making finances much more visual and easy to digest.
  • How to Make Your First Budget – Guide, by DebtFreeAt23 ($0.50, Etsy)
  • Getting Started Guide – Debt Payoff, by DebtFreeAt23 ($0.50, Etsy)

Social Media

I follow all of these ladies on social media. You should, too! Social media can be a great way to stay motivated and follow people who share tons of knowledge you can implement.

@mywealthdiary

I have been following My Wealth Diary’s journey from debt-free to over a $100k networth and it’s been incredible! You’ll never not be inspired when you’re following her.

@debtfreeattwentythree

If becoming debt-free at 23 isn’t inspiring enough, Kristy gives her followers the honest truth when it comes to getting your finances right. Her Aldi hauls are probably my favorite!

@breakyourbudget

From investing and saving, to everything in between, Michela educates her followers on the importance of smart spending, habits, and more.

Jamie Lynn

I'm the founder of Blonde and Change and on a personal quest to get my money right to live my best life. When I'm not trying a new side hustle or posting new content, you can catch me curled up with a new personal finance book.

Leave a Reply