By Dawna Matthews:
We all have our own story with money. My money story has gone from freewheeling good times and spending, to ignoring it,
to having to deal with identity theft and repairing the damage, to ignoring it again, to now fostering a mature loving relationship with money. Like any relationship, it takes attention and communication and gratitude.
Depending on our individual stories,the way we treat money varies and evolves through the years. Through our twenties, generally we are starting careers, living on our own for the first time, and spending money on entertainment and more carefree indulgences. As we transition into our thirties, we begin looking at different life changes. Maybe we are buying a home, or moving in with someone, or wanting to invest and save for retirement. Whatever the individual situation may be, there are some guidelines to help us and our relationship with money in our 30s.
1- Create Awareness
This is the first step to changing your attitude toward money in your thirties. It’s time to get real with where you are financially. Begin by determining your fixed expenses (such as rent/mortgage, car payments, other fixed monthly payments) and your flexible expenses (costs that change every month – food, entertainment). Some of this information you can get from your monthly statements and some requires you to estimate.
Truth is paramount in this step – if you spend $40 a week on lunch, you need to write that down rather than a lesser amount because it “looks better.” There is no need to feel guilty about these expenses; this is just a gathering of information. Try to track every purchase for about a month; all those little purchases can add up. Once you have all the numbers, you can develop a realistic plan for your monthly budget and how much you can put towards savings.
2- Establish Positive Habits
With an assessment of your expenses, deduct them from take home income. This is an excellent time to set aside as much as possible for emergencies and savings. One easy way to do this is to set up an automatic deposit to a savings account. A good goal is to have six months of living expenses in savings. Also try to curb impulse buys; set limits on things such as saying “yes” to spending every night out with friends; and assign spending money to matters you value. These can be experiences and moments such as community, relaxation, health, etc., which resonate uniquely with you. When spending money on your values, there is a sense of satisfaction, as compared to simply buying random commodities that could be thought of as “fluff.”
Invest in a 401K and be aggressive about putting money into stocks. Fund retirement accounts to the maximum. If you want to buy a home, don’t buy the one you can afford: purchase the one for about half that price so you can keep your payments low and own it outright sooner. If you have kids, start setting goals for your children’s college educations. All of these undertakings help you transition to true financial freedom.
4- Be Comfortable with Your Money Story
Being honest with yourself about money, your feelings around money, and your financial situation can be scary and painful. I know this because I’ve felt it. I have discovered so much about myself. Even though there were some scary elements, I know it is better for me to know my story instead of pretending my situation is okay or procrastinating about looking at. Know what your story is and be able to talk about it, especially to your partner. In order to have a balanced, happy relationship, you must be willing to talk about your financial goals and strategies, and work together. Most importantly, be gentle and loving with yourself. Take everything one step at a time and go at your pace.
Money is one of those things that people worry about – whether it’s feeling they don’t have enough or don’t know how to spend it, how to save it, or how to enjoy it – now and in the future. As we get older, the ways we manage money changes because our lives change. In our thirties we start to come into our own stride and feel confident about who we are and what is important to us. We start to build families or companies and think about what our retired life may look like. When we use these guidelines, it’s like a map which leads us through our journey, and we can experience financial freedom.
For a look at budgets and other money interests: