Why is it that most people are « bad with money »?
Even if their salary goes up, they never manage to save money.
I think I have the answer: systems. And you’re in luck if that’s your case and you keep on reading. I’ll be sharing personal finance systems that I’ve been using for years and that allows me to automagically pay my bills, save money and invest.
Did your parents teach you how to manage money?
If they tried, but you didn’t assimilate them, or if they didn’t, it’s not too late! I believe finance management has a lot to do with how we are raised.You can organize, optimize and systematize how you handle your money. Once you get the principles behind how to manage your money, you will be managing your money like a pro on autopilot.
Life hacking starts with hacking your finances! Because money buys independence, freedom and peace of mind. Heck, money even buys happiness up to a point.
Even more than that, with what we’ll see in this post, you’ll only need to « take care » of your money for 15 minutes every week. And it won’t be energy consuming, just making sure everything is all right and make a few adjustments.
Intrigued? You will like what’s coming!
“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” — Woody Allen
Personal Finance Gold Principles
As for almost everything, there are some gold principles to managing money. If you must only keep 3 concepts from reading this article, make them the next 3 principles.
And if you don’t already know them or learn them right now, you will learn them the hard way. If I were you, I’d take the easy way!
Isn’t that what this blog is about anyway ??
1. Earn more than you spend
It may sound stupid but with credit cards, loans and such it’s easy to mix things up.
Don’t buy something you can’t afford and don’t take risks you can’t take.
And if you have credit card debt, you should start with that and remember: always pay the highest interest rate debt first.
If you’re not earning more than you spend, you have 2 choices. Either earn more, spend less (or both).
Earn More Money
Earning more money may sound impossible at first, but it isn’t.
- Increase your job salary if you have a job. You could do so by asking for a raise, working overtime or obtaining bonuses.
- Find a side-job or side-business. Whether it’s’ doing some consulting, starting a blog, creating online courses or a startup (as we discuss in my newsletter).
- Take advantage of reward credit cards. This can be huge. If making more money is your goal, your default payment mode should be your credit card. Use cash or debit as a last resort.
- Sell your stuff. Everyone has things they don’t use. Come on, go on Craigslist or Kijiji and sell your old clothes, furniture or you cat’s necklace.
See? It wasn’t that hard 🙂
Spend Less Money
The second obvious option is to spend less money. It’s not only a tool but a lifestyle and a minimalist one.
The tips I give here will also help you save money before going on a trip abroad.
Over the years, thanks to the fact that I’ve been travelling a lot and living out of a backpack, I’ve become more and more minimalistic.
Picasso puts it perfectly:
“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.” – Pablo Picasso
If you’re interested in that, I recommend you learn more about Stoïcism and Seneca.
Here are some best practices you can apply to spend less money:
- Get a good accountant. If your accountant is good, it will pay for itself.
- Make it a personal principle to negotiate everything. You can start by negotiating a discount somewhere you have to go often. Here is a great book about how to approach negotiations.
- Do the suitcase experiment. Go to your closet and separate the clothes you’ve worn during that week from the rest. Put “the rest” away and sell it (see what I did here?). You can apply this exercise to other areas as well.
- Repair broken things instead of buying new ones. You’d be surprised what one can do with the right tools!
- When you need something, ask yourself whether you need to own it or if you can simply borrow it.
- When you have to buy things, buy 2nd hand on websites like Craigslist or you can even thrift shop! It’s eco- and wallet-friendly.
- If you have to buy things online, always look for coupons. The honey chrome extension is your friend as it will do most of the job for you.
- Prepare food and drinks at home.
- For utilities and food, buy in bulk when you can.
- Get a roommate. Not only will it allow you to have a lower rent but you will also save on bills and possibly food.
- Sublet your place when you’re away.
- Get rid of your car. It’s cheaper and more eco-friendly. Or if you have to have one, sublet it when you don’t need it.
- Track your expenses. We’ll talk about it later, but a great way to spend less is being aware of where you spend and manage it.
If with those tips you don’t save at least a few bucks per week, it’s on you.
2. Invest: make future money with money
There is a reason rich people get richer: they have their money “work” for them.
If you invest well, money begets money. It can take multiple forms with different levels of risks like investing in the stock market, in real estate or even starting a business.
And in finance, the riskiest investments are those that can be the most profitable.
Later in this article, we’ll see ways to systematize your investments.
3. Plan the future
No one knows what the future will be made of… Better safe than sorry…
We could go on like that for a while.
Even if those sayings are cheesy, they hold some truth.
Make sure to save some money for your future. Whether it’s an emergency fund or to buy something big you’ll really need in a few months or years.
But don’t worry, we’ll see how to build systems that do that for you automatically later.
Those systems helped save some money that now allows me to travel and build a startup.
As a rule of thumb, I like to have 1 year of life expenses at disposal. It provides a nice safety net and peace of mind.
Automating your Finances
Now you know the basic principles of personal finance, you can start incorporating them into your everyday life.
And I want to suggest you put automations in place and create systems to make you manage your money properly.
Because it’s easy to go overboard and spend more than you should, forget to pay a bill and so on. For certain things, we’re just less reliable than machines!
Some of the ideas behind that part of the article where inspired by I Will Teach You to be Rich, a boot by Ramit Sethi. Even though I don’t like its title, it is a great introduction to personal finance that has greatly helped me.
For this part of the article, I will suppose you have a checking account, a savings account, a credit card and an investment account.
1. Linking your Assets Together
For this system to work, you have to be able to transfer money between your accounts. For instance, pay your credit card, rent or invoices with your check account.
You will also have to be able to schedule transactions between those accounts.
2. Put Money in your Savings or Investment without even Thinking about it
If you have a job, you know pretty much when you will get paid. The trick here is to have the portion of your salary you want to/should save taken out of your check account as soon as it arrives.
Let’s say you earn 1000$ every 2 weeks on the 1st and 15th of each month and want to save 50% of your salary. You should then schedule automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings or investment account on the 2nd and 16th of each month.
With this technique, you won’t even perceive that money as money you couldn’t spend. It will belong to your future self aka your savings or investments.
A quick note about investments: if you don’t know anything about the stock market or don’t have time to actively follow it and invest, don’t. You’ll be better off with a robot-investor or invest in indexes.
3. Have your Rent, Credit card & Bills on Autopay
So now that you’re saving the amount of money that makes sense for you, you can focus on the money you make available to you.
I like to think of this part of your money in 2 parts:
- “Boring” money
- “Fun” money
Boring money goes into paying things you have to pay. Fun money goes into things you can buy if you want.
As often, I recommend getting rid of boring things first. In that case, it means paying your bills first, automatically. Here is how:
- Put all your invoices on autopay. Don’t worry, in the last part of the article, we’ll see how to make sure everything goes smoothly. Usually, you can set up most of your bills payments on autopay. For your rent, you might have to schedule a monthly wire transfer to your landlord.
- Try to make the bill’s date as close to your salary date as possible. You can usually ask companies to change your billing cycle to adapt it to your needs. In our example, you would have the pay date on the 3rd of 17th of the month.
The same credit card principle from above also applies here: it you can pay invoices by credit card, do so!
By the way, do the same with your credit card and never pay “late fees” ever again! Set up auto-payments every 2 weeks or month that match your spending level (you’ll know it after a few months of tracking your expenses).
There you go, all your payments are automated!
Then, the “fun” money is what’s left to pay for your restaurants, concerts, ski trips and any gadgets you can think of!
A System for Keeping an Eye on your Finances in 15 minutes per Week
Automation is cool. It really is. But we’re still talking about your money, and every system needs adjustment.
To keep an eye on everything, I’ve come up with a daily ritual or system.
Each Sunday at 11, I spend 15 minutes worrying about money. Yes, I only spend 15 minutes per week thinking about my money.
What do I do in those 15 minutes:
- I log into my Mint account which is linked to all my check, investment accounts and credit cards.
- I go to the “transaction” tab where I scan my expenses and recategorize them as needed
- I go to my “budget” tab and check if I’m doing OK.
- If needed, I log into my bank accounts and make the necessary transfers and adjustments.
- I put my bills of the week in my physical and virtual folder.
I know, I know. That’s a lot to take in.
And I mean it seriously when I say these principles, automations and systems are life-changing.
It’s those principles that make you go from “bad with money” to “good with money”.
The best about that? Everything still works when on the road. You can even have fun travel hacking with credit card bonus points (more on that soon in my upcoming blog posts and newsletter)!
Here is what we’ve seen:
- Personal Finance Gold Principles
- 1. Earn more than you spend
- Earn More Money
- Spend Less Money
- 2. Invest: make future money with money
- 3. Plan the future
- 1. Earn more than you spend
- Automating your Finances
- 1. Linking your Assets Together
- 2. Put Money in your Savings or Investment without even Thinking about it
- 3. Have your Rent, Credit card & Bills on Autopay
- A System for Keeping an Eye on your Finances in 15 minutes per Week