In honor of Money Smart Week, I thought it would be appropriate to write a brief post on everyone’s favorite topic - money! Of course by “favorite,” I also mean “most avoided,” since many people rate thinking and talking about money on the same level as undergoing a root canal or colonoscopy --- necessary, unpleasant, and likely to be delayed as long as possible.
Even if you feel you have enough of it, many people don’t realize the daily choices they make that impact their financial future. You might balk at purchasing that $500 pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos (good luck with that here), but happily drop $5 or more on a triple venti iced caramel macchiato every morning. Now let’s assume that you’re a good person and you drop a few coins in the tip jar every now and then. Math isn’t my strong suit, but I bet you see where I’m going here... with tax and the occasional biscotti, it probably takes well under 100 days to spend $500 on a deliciously overpriced cup of caffeinated sugar. What I’m saying is, even if you think you can’t afford them, by slightly adjusting your daily habits, in under 3 months, those Manolos could have been yours.
In regards to money, most people I know are primarily interested in acquiring more of it, but unfortunately, I am not qualified to dispense advice of that nature. If your prime motivation is money or the acquisition thereof, you’re not likely to end up in Library-land! However, a couple of New Years ago, I decided to pick a theme for my upcoming year instead of an overly ambitious resolution likely to be forgotten by the time my tenth triple venti rolled around (you do the math). I’ve admitted to my alliterative obsession in the past, and this year was no exception, as I chose to focus on “physical and financial fitness.” Not long after admitting this lofty goal to my friends, one of them mentioned that her mother-in-law was teaching a weekly class called.. guess what? “Financial Fitness” - and she needed students. Kismet! With the universe helping me along so conveniently, how could I refuse? I am so happy I took the class since the structure and accountability were just what I needed, but one could easily read a few good books and gather the same information.
Fair warning - I am far from being a financial advisor or even being particularly good at achieving my money goals, but from that class and a handful of books I’ve read over the past couple of years, here are some tips I’ve picked up:
- TRACK YOUR SPENDING
Yes, that's right, ALL your spending, even the coins you drop into the tip jar. Ideally, do it for at least a month, but if that is too much, start with a week. You’ll be amazed at how much you’re frittering away on incidentals.
- PAY YOURSELF FIRST
Immediately put a percentage of your paycheck (or wad of cash, or gold coins, or… you get the picture) into a savings account of your choice. 10% is the number usually mentioned, but if that is not possible, try 5%, or a fixed amount, like $100. Do this forever, and watch your savings grow.
- HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND
Not an “emergency Hawaii fund” but a true emergency fund, for when your car breaks down, your pipes burst, or your child develops an incurable addiction to obscure Japanese manga figurines. Just kidding on that last one - that’s what lemonade stands are for. It’s never too early to be an entrepreneur!
Note: this is separate from the “pay yourself” account. At first, add to the emergency fund until the number makes you feel secure. Then start putting some $ away for yourself and your goals.
- MAKE A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT
There are plenty of books and websites to break this down for you, so I’ll leave this one to the professionals. I found this kind of fun, but that’s because I’m a nerd. Just do it, and reward yourself afterwards.
- DON'T ROB YOUR FUTURE TO PAY FOR YOUR PRESENT
Saving up for something? Don’t spend money on things you don’t need now. Easier said than done, but it really is that simple. Most people aren’t good at this, so don’t feel bad when you slip up. If you are good at this, thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post, which you obviously didn’t need, and please leave ideas for the rest of us in the comments below!
- USE THE LIBRARY!
Seriously, we have a lot of books. And they’re free. Here are some I’ve found useful:
- The index card: why personal finance doesn't have to be complicated / by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack
- The one-page financial plan: a simple way to be smart about your money / by Carl Richards
- The richest man in Babylon / by George S. Clason
- Anything by Tony Robbins or Suze Orman
- Go to 332.024 in the stacks, or search “personal finance” in our catalog, OverDrive, or Hoopla.
When you invest in yourself, everybody wins!
Vanessa Velez, Collection Development Librarian