If you’re trying to get your finances in shape, you’re not alone. It's tough to save money, budget and keep everything organized in your bank account.
Whether you’re saving for a new laptop, working to pay your credit cards on time or navigating the world of bank accounts and paychecks for the first time, there are a few tips to help you get started on the right foot.
To get the scoop, FIU News spoke with Kimberly Noy, manager of FIU’s Financial Wellness Program, part of the Division of Academic & Student Affairs.
Check out her tips to get your financial health in top shape:
1. Get comfortable with your finances – and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Financial wellness means just that: your financial health. It’s not about how much money you’re making. It’s about how you’re managing your money. It includes knowing your income; understanding how to build credit; monitoring your bank accounts; and being confident that you can manage your budget and set realistic financial goals for yourself.
It also means you can comfortably reflect on your own perceptions of finances – and that you can talk about your questions.
“Self-awareness is me asking myself, ‘What is my current financial situation? What does my income look like? What are my expenses?’” Noy explains. “A lot of the time people look at finances not in terms of money but in emotional terms. For example, someone might spend too much or too little money based on guilt or they may avoid utilizing financial services because maybe they don’t know about the benefits of those services.”
Folks often feel embarrassed to bring up questions to family and friends about finances, but it’s an important part of the learning process, Noy says.
“You’ve got to start talking about finances,” she explains. “The more you talk, the more you realize we’re all on the same page, trying to learn together and support each other.”
2. Set financial goals and create a budget.
Noy says it’s a good idea to come up with a couple of short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals could be anything from buying a new pair of shoes or a video game to purchasing a new couch or home appliance. Examples of long-term goals could include upgrading to a new car or renting an apartment.
Then prioritize your goals and create your budget.
“Budgeting is the cornerstone of financial wellness,” Noy says. “There’s no way you can manage your financial goals without having a clear idea of what your income looks like and what your expenses look like. Once you prioritize, that’s when you work in saving for your goals toward that budget.”
If you’re wondering how to keep motivated and stay on top of your goals, especially those longer-term ones, Noy suggests setting milestones for each goal and then allowing yourself to celebrate your success when you meet them.
If your goal is to pay off a credit card that you owe $500 on, when you get to the $250 mark, treat yourself. The reward doesn't have to involve buying something or increasing debt. The treat can be your doing something you simply enjoy. You can watch your favorite movie, catch up with a friend or take a stroll through your favorite part of town.
As part of your budgeting, Noy adds, set aside some savings. “Even if you’re setting aside $10 a month, you’re setting aside money for something, it’s a savings fund,” she explains. “You’re building it. You’re starting now even when you’re in college.”
3. Find your own balance.
So how do you stick to your budget?
Remember your goal when you're about to buy something. “Slow it down, take a few minutes and reflect why you’re thinking of purchasing that item,” Noy says. “You may realize you’re making a purchase you don’t necessarily need.”
But at the same time, Noy explains, work to find a balance where you can spend (even if it’s just a little) on something you like. “You can work into your budget the things you want to enjoy,” Noy says. “You just need to do it with intention.”
At the end of the day, financial wellness is a part of your overall wellness, Noy says.
“The way you’d work out and exercise for your health, that’s the way you’d put some TLC into your finances,” Noy says. “Being involved with your accounts, assessing if you’re on track with them, it’s part of it. It’s never going to go perfect. But, it’s about being aware of your progress and your finances.”
The Financial Wellness Program at FIU aims to help students better understand what it means to live a financially healthy life. By connecting students to resources and having conversations about financial wellness, the program’s goal is to help students build the foundational skills they need to be successful.
To learn more about the program, visit its website.