We’ve certainly amassed a wealth of knowledge over the years covering the money beat—be it the dozens of “I got out of debt” success stories we’ve featured to the scores of psychological studies we’ve covered linking better financial decision-making to behavior change.
So given that it’s Financial Literacy Month, we’ve decided that there is no better time than now to round up our 50 top money tips into one juicy, super-helpful read. From the best ways to budget to how to boost your earning potential like a pro, these nuggets of financial wisdom are as fresh as the day they were published.
First Things First: A Few Financial Basics
1. Create a financial calendar. If you don’t trust yourself to remember to pay your quarterly taxes or periodically pull a credit report, think about setting appointment reminders for these important money to-dos in the same way that you would an annual doctor’s visit or car tune-up. A good place to start? Our ultimate financial calendar.
2. Check your interest rate. Q: Which loan should you pay off first? A: The one with the highest interest rate. Q: Which savings account should you open? A: The one with the best interest rate. Q: Why does credit card debt give us such a headache? A: Blame it on the compound interest rate. Bottom line here: Paying attention to interest rates will help inform which debt or savings commitments you should focus on.
3. Track your net worth. Your net worth—the difference between your assets and debt—is the big-picture number that can tell you where you stand financially. Keep an eye on it, and it can help keep you apprised of the progress you’re making toward your financial goals—or warn you if you’re backsliding. We explain more here.
How to … Budget Like a Pro
4. Set a budget. Period. This is the starting point for every other goal in your life. Here’s a checklist for building a knockout personal budget.
5. Consider an all-cash diet. If you’re consistently overspending, this will break you out of that rut. Don’t believe us? The cash diet changed the lives of these three people. And when this woman went all cash, she realized that it wasn’t as scary as she thought. Really.
6. Take a daily Money Minute. This one comes straight from LearnVest Founder and C.E.O. Alexa von Tobel, who swears by setting aside one minute each day to check on her financial transactions. This 60-second act helps identify problems immediately, keep track of goal progress—and set your spending tone for the rest of the day!
7. Allocate at least 20% of your income toward financial priorities. By priorities, we mean building up emergency savings, paying off debt and padding your retirement nest egg. Seem like a big percentage? Here’s why we love this number.
8. Budget about 30% of your income for lifestyle spending. This includes movies, restaurants and happy hours—basically, anything that doesn’t cover basic necessities. By abiding by the 30% rule, you can save and splurge at the same time.