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It’s no secret that the cost of living is constantly increasing, and that means it can be challenging to keep up with expenses, especially if you are starting in your career or don’t have a lot of savings to work with. However, some financial planning advice and tips for beginners will help even those on a tight budget, and we’ll cover them all here.
Financial Planning Tips
- Consider a debt consolidation loan to pay off all your credit cards. This doesn’t reduce the amount you owe, but it can significantly reduce your APR, which results in a much lower amount owed over the life of the loan compared to paying off a high-interest credit card. Learn more.
- If you work in public service, look into student loan forgiveness. This is available for those in a wide range of positions, from police officers to teachers and more. If you have been working for at least ten years in public service, forgiveness is automatic.
- Having trouble making ends meet? Look for ways to earn extra money. This is the easiest way to manage your budget—increase your income. In fact, it contributes to The Great Layoff; people are finding they make much more in a gig economy than they do trading dollars for hours at a corporate job with terrible benefits and micromanagers.
- You can also invest money to boost your financial future. Even if you have a low budget, there are plenty of investment opportunities out there that require very little investment. Dividend-paying stocks can automatically reinvest for you. See my article on how to get free stocks, and this article I wrote for The Balance about the best stock screeners.
- If you don’t have a financial advisor, consider finding one. Financial advisors can offer financial planning advice that works for just about any budget and over the long term can save thousands of dollars in fees or other costs by being proactive with your financial health.
- Are you a small business owner? Take every single tax deduction you can get with the help of tax apps. Check out this article I wrote for Investopedia about the best tax apps.
- Put together an emergency fund so there is always money set aside to handle financial emergencies. Even if this fund is small, it will still provide you with a little more security and peace of mind while saving money.
- Save on everyday things so you can put extra money towards financial goals (whether it be a vacation or saving for a home purchase). For example, consider using a credit card that pays cashback for your everyday purchases. This is actually how I get free travel—I put all my purchases on my credit card (even things like property taxes!). I’m already paying for these things anyway, and now I earn travel rewards on top of it! This tip is not suitable for people who cannot pay back their credit cards in full every month.
- Cut financial fat, not financial muscle. Everyone has room to cut back on their budget without losing the quality of life or making themselves too uncomfortable. For example, if you’re still paying for cable but you only watch one channel, that’s an easy $100 savings per month.
- Pay bills on time. This seems simple, but there are people out there paying their financial advisor $100 per month just for bill pay services. It’s a small price to pay if you’re constantly racking up late fees because you forget to pay a bill.
- Try using budget envelopes (I have free budget envelope templates here). The idea is to use cash for almost all of your purchases. You have an envelope for each category, and once the envelope is empty, you can stop spending in that category or “borrow” from discretionary envelopes like entertainment or food.
This advice is what I practice with my own personal and business budgets. Any financial decision should be made after speaking with a financial adviser or trusted professional who can give you personalized advice specific to your financial situation before making any decisions. Be smart, do your research, and ask plenty of questions.