Sometimes dealing with finances can seem overwhelming. It seems like too big a task, too much to do. So we don’t even start. Or we aren’t sure we want to invest the time just to realize there’s not enough money there. So we get in a cycle of financial denial and hoping things will turn around. But this can push us further into debt or create bad habits with our finances. There is a better way, and it’s much easier than you think.
For many of us, July marks the start of a new-new (new-new-new!) normal. And when change happens around us, it’s a great time to use that inertia to change ourselves. As a good southern woman, my family has always called these hindrances the “hitch in the giddy-up.” Below, I want to address three of the most common “hitches” and super easy first steps so you can go from financial denial to engaging with your finances. I find that once you take that first step, you can see that the path ahead is just a series of small, manageable steps. I’m breaking it down like this:
👉 Click Now – something that will literally take you less than 5 minutes. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes to improve their finances?
⚒ Digging Deeper – This is a step that lets you go a bit further, helping the first step become ingrained. It still shouldn’t take you more than 30-60 minutes. Put on your favorite show on Netflix in the background and you’re done between one and two episodes.
👟 Ready to Run – If you’re getting energized for more, here’s how to turn your little steps into a jog and then a run.
Personal Finance Hitch #1
“I have no idea what my credit report looks like, and I might be afraid to know.”
- 👉 Click now: AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site established to let you see your report at least once a year from each credit bureau. From now through the end of April 2021, they are letting you pull a report from each one WEEKLY. It’s a great start to seeing what’s there and moving beyond financial denial.
- ⚒ Digging deeper: Want to know your score for free? Many people use apps like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame for getting a free simulated score. It’s not exactly what your bank or lender might use if you want to open an account, but it can give you a good idea of what your score is and what you might need to work on.
- 👟 Ready to run: Once you look at your reports and scores, you might be motivated to improve what’s there. If you’re not sure where to start, or wonder how to make the most impact, talk with a trusted professional about it. Apprisen is happy to be one option to help you know how to keep your inertia going and make strides on building your credit.
Personal Finance Hitch #2
“I kinda think I know what I spend, but I’d really be guessing on things like food and entertainment.”
- 👉 Click now: There are apps that can sync your bank and credit card info to show you what you’ve spent in different categories. Mint was the trend-setter in this area, and they’re still an all-star for being a free app. If you’re OK with spending a little (and research says we’re more likely to stay committed to something we put a little money toward), Wally and You Need a Budget (YNAB) are also strong options and come with a free trial period.
- 🔓 Extra tip: Put the icon on your home page rather than stuck deep into a folder where you won’t see it. That way you’re visually prompted to spend a few minutes to review the numbers once it syncs.
- ⚒ Digging deeper: In my experience, these apps/sites are usually good at sorting the expenses automatically (grocery store = food costs, gas station = transportation, etc) but it never hurts to spend a little time to review and double-check. It gives you the bonus of remembering what you’ve spent and how your week is going financially.
- 👟 Ready to run: This is a great one even for folks who don’t like online or apps. Pull about 3 months of bank statements and sit down with highlighters (or if you’re me and have a five -year old daughter, crayons and colored pencils) and categorize that way. One color for food, one for entertainment, etc. But what you’re also looking for are the irregular costs – clothing, car repairs, home furnishings, etc. Ideally we want to set aside for these, but rarely think about a realistic amount. The best way to know what you’ll likely need to spend is by looking at what you’ve done in the past.
Personal Finance Hitch #3
“So I have a budget and I know what I should spend, but I never stick to it.”
- 👉 Click now: Different budgeting apps excel at different aspects of tracking. The single most frequent question I get from folks new to budgeting is “So how much do I have left for food and gas?” My favorite app for this type of tracking is PocketGuard . The set-up for it is super easy and once done, it will let you know how much is left for unplanned costs until your next paycheck.
- ⚒ Digging deeper: Knowledge is power. The goal with this type of tracking is to find your patterns so that you can understand your spending and put measures in place for better choices. Do you tend to use online shopping as an evening fun activity? Do you eat out to celebrate (or get over a bad day? Or both?) Do you come home from the grocery store with 18 items you didn’t really need? Look through your spending log for patterns and think through what happens as you shop. What are your personal triggers to spend?
- 👟 Ready to run: Nobody likes to hear the word “no” – much less tell it to themselves. So when we really get ready to swap out an old bad habit, the best way is to have something new to take its place. If you shop from boredom, what is a new (cheap!) hobby that can fill your time? If you are a drive-through devotee, what can you do to help make meal prep or eating at home easier? And be kind to yourself. Remember that creating a new pattern of behavior takes time. But the more enjoyable and fulfilling the new behavior is, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Join the discussion with us! What is your “hitch?” Have you tried (successfully or not) to address it? Share the blog and your hitch with others, you may be shocked how many others can relate. Sharing with others can also be a way to break the cycle of financial denial.
Need a Little Extra Help?
Need a little extra support moving beyond financial denial to taking control of your finances? Connect with us for a free comprehensive financial review, securely and all online. It’s a great first step towards taking control of your finances.