What Having a Relationship With My Money Has Taught Me
If I'm like every other Millennial out there, it's a constant struggle trying to understand your cash flow. Life is just so expensive yet income sometimes don't match our expenses. With student loans, rent, savings, and somehow living a fulfilling life, it’s easy to lose touch with your money.
I read an article on Fortune that had a quote that really hit home:
“A GoBankingRates survey, which asked people how much money they had in their savings accounts in August 2017, showed that 57% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.”
Less than $1,000. Wow. Imagine if you had an emergency, like denting your car and you had to pay for it out of pocket, with $1,000 that wouldn’t even cover it. This was my life prior to understanding my cash flow.
For the longest while, I would just spend blindly. I never really took the time to understand my money and where it was coming from and where it was going. I have a habit of never checking my bank balance - this isn't because I'm so rich or anything, but more due to laziness and fear of what I would find. My principle was, I knew what my salary was, I knew how much my bills were, I knew I wanted to save x amount of dollars a month and everything else outside of that could be spent. Boy, was that the wrong way to look at things.
The random day I would check my account, I was always confused as to why my bank account looked the way it did. Based on my mental calculations, I was supposed to have a certain amount but it was usually less. As adulthood crept up and I suddenly had more responsibilities, I knew I had to make a change. It was imperative I knew where my hard-earned dollars were going. The following steps not only helped me understand where my money was going but also helped me 10x my savings.
I took a pen and paper and wrote down every single penny that left my account within a month. Yes, this included the bank fees and the odd itunes charges that I don’t recall signing up for.
Based on the information I found, I started calling the guilty parties.
First, seeing the bank fees I was paying, I called by bank at the time, to understand why I was being charged the fees and what they actually meant. By calling the bank and understanding the fees, I was able to realize I could live without the services they were offering and saved over $250 a year instantly.
Second, I noticed I was paying for subscriptions that I never actually used and can live without. At that moment, I canceled them and was able to save an additional $180 per year.
Based on the conversation I had with my bank, I started shopping around for a different bank. You don’t realize all the services a bank charges you for until you ask. This was the first time I realized my fees included visiting the branch and the up-keep. I rarely go into a branch and I certainly don’t go as frequent as I was being charged for it. I found a bank that I really loved and made the switch. For years, I thought the bank fees were a non-issue until I realized that’s money that can be going towards my savings goals. I switched to Tangerine Bank and I’ve been loving it ever since. I can see a clear picture of the money I have and never have to worry about bank fees that I never understood.
Get a finance app. I recently downloaded an app called Mint and I'm absolutely obsessed! One of the biggest problems I had was spending using my credit card and debit card. I would spend on my credit card and totally forget about the money I spent there and assume I had money in my account (based on my checking account balance). This app really gives me the run-down of how much cash I actually have and I never have to overspend ever again.
Savings. Open different savings accounts, based on the goal. I currently have 4 savings accounts. 1 is for Travel and Rainy day spending. I travel quite often so this is so needed, or else I would be in debt. It's a great relief knowing I don't have to "wait to get paid" before I take a trip. 2 is what I call "future savings". This savings is for anything future related, as in 12 months+ down the line type of future. I have this in a different bank with high interest so I never touch it. 3. Investments. I recently got into investments and I have money set aside for this on a monthly basis. This is what I use for my TFSA and I never touch this money either. All this is on auto-deposit so the money leaves my account as soon as I get paid so by the time I check my account, the money is gone and it's like I never earned it. 4 is for bills. So money spent on my credit card, phone bill, internet, etc. I ensure I set the money aside so I can understand my true cash flow. Overspending is sometimes what leads to living paycheque to paycheque and this is not how you build wealth.
Discipline. This is probably the most important step. As soon as I spend money on my credit card, I transfer it to my bills savings account and keep it for when my statement is due. This ensures I don’t overspend and continue to keep track of the money I actually have.
These are the steps I took to turn my relationship with money around and it has served to ensure I am always confident in my cash flow. I never have to question if I can afford something because I know what I have.
Written by Victory Omotayo