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It’s still January so you have some time to make (no more than one or two!) resolutions that may make your life at least a little bit easier and more satisfying. Let’s start with the hard one first – money issues (at least the ones you can control!). 

Bank Accounts

Life can be harder and more expensive than it should be without a bank account. Today, there are options for online bank accounts that are easy to sign up for and easy to use. For instance, Chime (https://www.chime.com/) is an online banking system that does not use the Chex system to qualify applicants. With a Chime account, you can do everything you would with a traditional bank account including receiving direct deposits form employers and government agencies. Check it out. 

Student Loans

 It can sometimes be a struggle trying to stay afloat financially while you are getting your degree. But you also want to graduate with the least amount of debt possible. And you want financial aid dollars to see you through that bachelor’s degree! So, while it may be tempting to take out the maximum student loan you can get, DON’T DO IT. Use it for necessary expenses, of course.  But if you can come out the other end with your degree and only a few thousand dollars of debt, you will feel so successful. With your degree, you are going to get a better, more satisfying job that pays you a good salary and you won’t have to use that great new salary, or raise, to pay off student loans. 

Budgets — a dirty word but a great idea!

You’ve probably heard this advice hundreds of times but life really is easier if you have a budget. The truth is, the lower your income, the more important a budget becomes. And it’s hard. We get it. But if you keep track of how you spend your money, you’ll probably see ways that you can better manage what you have coming in. Mint (https://mint.intuit.com/) is a free app that gives you insights about your spending, helps you create a custom budget, and tracks your spending. It links all of your bank accounts and credit cards and automatically puts each transaction in different categories. Review your transactions periodically and identify possible cuts to make. see what you can cut. Be Ruthless!

Recurring Transactions

You know those subscriptions with recurring monthly fees? Each one is such a “reasonable” amount of money…$5.99 here, $7.99 there, but they start to add up. And sometimes you might sign up for something, never use it, and completely forget about it. TRIM (https://www.asktrim.com/) to the rescue. Trim keeps track of those monthly transactions and tells you how much you spend on subscriptions each month. It will let you know if you have two subscriptions to the same service and will ask you each month if you want to cancel particular subscriptions. And the really good news? If you say “yes,” the app will take over and cancel the subscription for you — you don’t have to do a thing! 

Can We Talk About Credit Cards?

It’s so easy to get into trouble with credit cards. Sometimes we use them to make ends meet at the end of the month and make minimum monthly payments and then get slammed with high interest charges on the remaining balance. STOP THE MADNESS. 

This is another piece of advice you’ve heard at least a hundred times, but if you do it, you will have greater peace of mind. Pay down your debt with a method called “snowballing.” 

Snowballing means listing all of your debts in order from smallest to highest dollar amount and focus on paying off the smallest balance while only paying the minimums on the others. If you have a $5,000 student loan at 4% interest, a credit card balance of $6,000 with 17% interest, and a $10,000 car loan with 9% interest, you pay off the student loan first, followed by the credit card and finally the car. Once the smallest debt is paid, you move to the next smallest using the same strategy and include the amount you were paying on the first debt into your monthly payment on the next. You continue to do this until all of the debts are paid, the largest being the last one to go.

A big pro for this method is the psychological win it provides. It’s so satisfying to cross a debt off your list. That boost can also give you momentum; you killed that one, you can kill all of these debts! This kind of boost is no small thing.

Ok. Enough money management advice for now. If you only act on one or two of these suggestions, you’ll feel at least a little bit better about your financial situation. Promise.