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30 And Thriving: Everything I’ve Learned About Money So Far

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The sooner you start thinking clearly and honestly about money, the sooner you can start feeling great about your financial situation. This article will shed some light on what it’s like to be a 30-something who’s learned how to make smart choices with their hard-earned money.

It’s never too late to start being smart about money.

Maybe you’ve never been all that great about saving, or you’re a seize-the-day (translation: live-beyond-your-means) type of person, or you were raised in an environment of abundance so you’re accustomed to spending a lot. Whatever the case, it’s never too late to take a hard look at your finances and make some real changes. The sooner you do this—the sooner you accept your financial situation and acknowledge that money actually matters—the easier it will be to get your finances in order, which feels really great.

Managing your personal finances requires brutal honesty.

When it comes to getting your fiscal life in order, you can’t just peek at your checking-account balance once in a while and be done with it. You have to dig into every little nook and cranny of your financial existence—consider every necessary expenditure, every bill, every credit card statement, and every possible source of income. Only by analyzing the entire picture of your financial life can you get serious about planning for your future. And guess who benefits most from a living a more mindful, fiscally responsible life? You do!

Being fiscally responsible is a practice—like playing a musical instrument or doing yoga (sort of).

You can’t just be responsible one day and throw caution to the wind the next. If you want to lead a healthy life from a financial standpoint, you have to work hard at it day in and day out. With continued practice, making good decisions for your wallet becomes easier and easier until it’s second nature, just like those musical scales you learned long ago or the downward dog position you mastered a decade past. Yay!

There are plenty of ways to have fun without spending money.

Too often, we equate a good time with spending loads of money. Of course, certain activities do have a cost. But there are always zero-dollar alternatives out there. So get creative! Do some research and find some free events nearby, or simply locate a park, a museum, or a gallery to visit. If all else fails, don’t underestimate the simple joy of taking a walk with a friend! There are so many ways to entertain yourself that require spending no money. It might take a little discipline to forgo a night at the movies or an expensive meal, but your bank account will thank you later.

Small changes can make a big difference.

Don’t forget that making tiny changes to your daily life can add up fast. For instance, consider bringing your lunch to work three out of five days a week instead of buying something, or brewing your morning coffee at home instead of purchasing a cup on your way in. Maybe you’re only saving a buck or two in each instance, but as the weeks and months go by, single-digit savings transform into hundreds of dollars tucked safely away.

Economizing can be extremely rewarding.

There’s another way to save that has less to do with forgoing purchases and more to do with how you use what you already have. There’s a cost to almost everything, and that’s worth remembering as you squeeze toothpaste onto your toothbrush, add sugar to your coffee, or serve yourself some ice cream. If you remain mindful at all times that there’s a price tag associated with almost every human behavior, you can make smarter choices. For instance, don’t forget to turn the lights off before you leave the house, and wait until there’s a full load of laundry before running the wash. These small ways of economizing will help you save, one little bit at a time.

Before buying something, ask yourself: Do I really need this?

It’s easy to get swept up in the moment while shopping. Those amazing sneakers! That adorable dress! Those perfect jeans! They’re all kind of calling your name, whispering in your ear that if you buy them, they’ll return the favor by making you happy. But if you pause for a minute and think really hard instead of scratching the must-have itch to spend, you’ll find yourself remembering two things: 1) you probably don’t really need whatever item caught your attention; and 2) the joy of “retail therapy” is super short-lived.

Always keep labels intact and store receipts.

When you do bite the bullet and buy something, do NOT remove the labels or throw out the receipt until you actually wear or use whatever you’ve spent your hard-earned money on. The thing is, we’re all capable of changing our minds. By the time you get home, that perfect outfit that totally seemed worth the investment at the cash register might very well lack the luster with which it first struck you. Give yourself the option to return something, even when you’re absolutely positive that you needed it in-store or while browsing the Web.

It’s okay to splurge (within reason).

It’s impossible to be disciplined all the time. Plus, special occasions practically demand treating yourself, which almost always means deviating from good spending habits. Just keep in mind that there’s always a way to do things at least somewhat responsibly. Hit up the town for a night out, but avoid the most expensive bars and restaurants. Instead of buying the earrings and necklace you’ve been dying for, commit to one piece of jewelry. Instead of taking both vacations you’ve been fantasizing about, pick one for this year and plan to take the other next time around.

Financial independence equals freedom.

It’s extremely liberating to take control of your personal finances. It might take time and patience, but once you have a financial cushion to lean on, you automatically have more options in life. Saving money provides a very distinct sense of security and well-being, a license to make choices and to lead the life you’ve always dreamed of. TC mark

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