Financial situation got you down? Ready to get your finances under control?
I’m no personal finance expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two over my short 36 years. I’ve been a broke (working) student, a laid-off employee, and a homeschooling mom of 3. I’ve worked 3 jobs and I’ve worked no paid jobs. I’ve written articles for pennies (or for nothing at all), and I’ve secured big clients on retainer.
The times I was broke and the times I was doing well have one thing in common: no credit card debt. Make no mistake, I’ve had debt. I graduated with $35,000 of it. But I worked my rear end off, paid it all off within two years, and moved on. Currently, my only debt is the mortgage, and I feel good about where my family is financially. We’re not rich by any means, but we have everything we need. So I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
First, some quick personal finance tips:
1. Make debt repayment a priority
If you have debt, adjust your budget to have a large portion of your income going to debt repayment. Make a commitment to living debt-free, and get to work on paying your debt off as quickly as possible.
If you’re living from paycheque to paycheque and can barely pay your bills, it may seem impossible to repay your debt. But there are temporary measures that can help you conquer that mountain—although it’ll make you uncomfortable for a time.
Consider taking on a second job temporarily, starting a side hustle, and looking for coins under your couch. If you have a vehicle, price out what public transportation would cost and see if selling the vehicle would help (and make sure you buy a used car next time). Go around your house and find things to sell. Find a way.
2. Don’t buy anything unless you have the money in hand
One of the reasons so many people fall prey to the debt mountain is that they have a hard time saying no when the money’s not there. You must learn the difference between needs and wants, and between having money and not having it. A credit card is not money. You need to actually have cash in hand or money sitting in your bank account before you buy something.
If it helps, use a jar or envelope system. I personally don’t do well with cash—I lose it and I’m not great at recording expenses. Plus, I live in a country where there are no $1 bills (but there are $2 coins), which means you end up with a lot of coins—super easy to lose and a pain in the behind.
This is why I use YNAB. It connects to my bank accounts, so that anything I spend automatically comes out of my budget. At any given time, I know exactly how much money I have available for different things, and when someone asks me to do something impossibly expensive, I’m confident in saying, “it’s not in my budget.“
3. Use credit cards for convenience and points, not credit.
I use my credit cards all the time, but I’ve never carried credit car debt. I use my credit cards for convenience (and because I get something out of it!), and pay them in full at the end of each month. So I get a convenient way to pay, and because I use a Costco MasterCard, I get money back each year without any effort. The key here though, is that I’m not buying more stuff to get points, which a lot of people fall prey to. I buy things I was already going to buy (like groceries), but get a check out of it.
4. Read up on others who are financially stable, and follow in their smart footsteps.
I’m no personal finance expert, so these are just my tips for living debt-free. There are thousands of others online who know a lot more about finances than I do (particulary if you’re interested in investing).
Here are some of my favourite personal finance blogs. Reading these folks’ suggestions may mean the difference between getting crushed under that mountain of debt, or living a truly free financial life.
Personal Finance Blogs
Paula Pant’s Afford Anything
I don’t even recall how I ran across Paula Pant’s Afford Anything blog, to be honest. But I remember being fascinated by it the minute I started reading it. I love Paula’s tagline: “you can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything.”
It’s such a simple sentence, but it sums up what a lot of people have trouble accepting: you have to make sacrifices in some areas to be able to afford what you really want.
For my family, that means driving crappy cars so we can travel with our kids. Maybe you want to have a house in a super nice neighbourhood, so you’ll need to cut down on the Saturday night outings for a while. And so forth. Paula Pant shows you these simple financial truths and has a tonne of useful information on her blog, Afford Anything.
Paula is a personal finance blogger that created a freelance writing side hustle while working a newspaper job. She saved 100% of her side hustle money and went travelling abroad for 3 years. She also owns 7 rental properties, which currently fuel her passion projects. She’s got a tonne of great resources on her site—it’s worth checking out.
You Need a Budget’s (YNAB’s) Blog
I am a gigantic fan of the YNAB software. It has completely changed our finances for the better, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
In addition to awesome software that automates your budgeting and recording of expenses and income, YNAB also has a great blog chock-full of information about personal finance, budgeting, and debt repayment. Check out all kinds of awesome personal finance content here.
Not everyone is a big fan of apps and software, and prefer the more “old-fashioned” spreadsheets and/or handwritten tracking. If that’s the case, Gail Vox-Oxlade’s website will help you manage your money.
Gail Vox-Oxlade’s webiste
She is also a prolific author and has a website to help people understand debt, budgeting and money management. Signing up to receive her updates will score you her budget planning, spending analysis worksheets, and more.
Dave Ramsey’s Blog
Dave Ramsey is a personal finance expert based in the U.S. The blog on his website has several contributors who write about all kinds of personal finance topics, from how to deal with receiving an inheritance to real estate investing and more.
Dave also has several courses and digital products available on his website, one of the most popular of which is Financial Peace University. At $129, it’s not bottom of the barrel pricing, but I personally know people who have taken the course and swear by it. After all, if a $129 investment is going to help you pay off thousands of debt, it’s money well spent.
Mr. Money Mustache
Mr. Money Mustache is one of my husband’s favourite personal finance bloggers. He saved his money, retired in his 30s, and now enjoys the company of his wife and kiddo without the restraints of a 9-5 job. He has a tonne of great information and advice on his bog, so check it out.
J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy
If you’re interested in things like net worth, saving, early retirement, budgeting, and other personal finance topics, J. Money’s blog, Budgets are Sexy may interest you. He’s also collaborated with Paula Pant on the first 26 episodes of M.O.N.E.Y/Afford Anything podcast, so if you’re into podcasts, you can get both J. Money’s as well as Paula Pant’s awesome content in one straight go.
These are only some of the many great personal finance blogs around. Do you have a favourite that’s not listed here? Let me know in the comments!