The Financial Bootcamp You Need to Start Building Your Nest Egg
According to a Millennial Mindset on Money survey, more than a quarter (27%) of millennials say that establishing a solid nest egg would give them the biggest feeling of financial accomplishment. And in order to get that nest egg growing, you've got to have your finances in order, right?
With that said, are you ready to tackle my New Year, New You Bootcamp? This three-week program will help you get into financial shape to start the year off right. Because here's the thing: budgeting sucks. But so does being broke. So instead of being freaked out by getting your financial you-know-what together, let's make a plan. Do you have three weeks? That's not even a full month!
Well, good. Welcome to financial bootcamp. We're going to get your finances in order so you can take control of your financial destiny this year. Don't try to do it all at once — you'll get overwhelmed and give up. Instead, tackle just one step per day, and then walk away from it. Baby steps. Before you know it, your three weeks will be up, and you'll have a New Year's resolution you can actually stick to. Let's do this!
Day 1: Admit you have a problem
As a first daily challenge to kick off the New Year, New You Bootcamp, we ask that you first admit you need to get your finances in order. We've all been there (I was once $5,000 in credit card debt!) but before you can expect to make major changes you need to admit there are things about your life and spending behavior that need changing. So, repeat after me: ADMIT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Now make it your business to solve that problem this year.
Day 2: Write down your 1, 3, 5, and 10-year goals for the Three F's (Finance, Fun, and Family)
Goals are important, but they come with price tags and we need to make sure you have enough money (or a plan to make enough money) to make those dreams a reality. Let's make sure your goals are in sync with your bank account!
Day 3: Gather up your receipts
Gather the receipts from the bottom of your purse or briefcase and the shoebox on your desk, or print them from your emailed receipts. Uncrinkle them. If you haven't been saving your receipts on a regular basis, try to gather or print out your most recent bank and credit card account statements and lay them out next to the receipts.
Also get in the habit of regularly reviewing your credit card and bank statements carefully for unwanted or duplicate charges. You can either just keep an eye on your statements online, or download your bank or credit card provider's app so you can check your spending activity on the go. Also, look out for tools that help you spot potential mistakes.
Day 4: Organize your receipts
Organize your receipts and/or statements into categories: Essentials (Housing, Food, Gas, Transportation — 70% of your budget should be going to this); Extras (the fun stuff like your mani/pedi or yoga class — 15% of your overall monthly budget); and Endgame (savings — 15% of your monthly budget). Think of it as a Spending Plan to care for present and future You, and allow you to live a "rich" life in every sense of the word.
Day 5: Treat yourself to your morning latte
It will get you to work on time, if not early, and make for a more productive day, which might just lead to a bonus at the end of the year! Week one is DONE. You're well on your way to a more money-savvy life!
Day 6: Create your LBD: Little Budget Diary
Assets (e.g., money you make, money you have, etc.) on the left, liabilities (e.g., debts, loans, etc.) on the right. We need to get an accurate picture of everything you're spending so we can see where you can cut back (and, hopefully, where you have a little wiggle room for FUN!).
Day 7: Check your credit score
Order your credit report and check your credit score. 720 and higher = A+! Keep up the good work. Any lower than that and we should spend a little time on rehab (more to come on how to get that started). Your credit report is like your financial report card, and you need a pretty solid one to apply for a loan or take out a mortgage. Make this the year you get the grade you deserve.
Day 8: Switch one bill to autopay
Switch one monthly bill, like cable or utilities, to your credit card and set it to autopay each month to rehab your credit score. This will show creditors that you are consistent and reliable with paying your bills on time, and increase your score. Also be sure to make a note to yourself that these funds will automatically be deducted from your account so that you're not overspending (or over-saving!).
Day 9: Calculate your net income
Revisit your LBD to calculate your net income. You need to know your worth so we can grow your worth. Simply calculate assets – liabilities = net worth. Fun fact: two-thirds of the millennials surveyed recently said they would rather have a steady job with a modest income than become a millionaire with a chance of going broke within a few years. Know your worth, and budget to get there!
Day 10: Invest in yo'self
Invest in yourself as a reward for kicking week two's butt. Subscribe to a trade magazine or sign up for a class in order to get ahead at work and expand your horizons. It's a small investment in yourself that will pay dividends down the road.
Day 11: Revisit your 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10-year goals for the Three F's (Finance, Fun, and Family)
How's everything looking? Are your goals and finances more aligned than they were when we first started? Make any necessary adjustments now that you are back in control.
Day 12: Ask for a better rate
Call your main service providers (cable, cell phone, etc.) to negotiate a better rate. It's the most satisfying way to start the new year. Make sure you are using the services you're paying for (goodbye, bundle programs!) and threaten to leave for a competitor. Most providers will throw you a bone versus losing you as a customer.
Day 13: Audit yourself
Look at your monthly payments like gym membership, TV streaming membership, and magazine subscriptions. Cancel any that you're not using or look for cheaper alternatives, like a 10-pack of gym passes so you're only paying for the days you actually go to the gym. Give yourself this audit not just at the beginning of the year, but at the start of each quarter as well!
Day 14: Surplus funds? Put 'em in savings
Take a look at your budget and see if you now have any surplus funds that could be reallocated into savings. No longer driving to work? Done away with that costly monthly gym membership? Got a cash gift or bonus? Put that extra cash into savings. When asked what they would do with a $100 cash gift, 40 percent of millennials said they would use the cash to increase their savings balance. Follow suit!
Day 15: Celebrate!
Last day — you made it! CONGRATS! Celebrate with a dinner out, a trip to the movies or something special just for you (within reason, of course!). Remember: a financial diet is like a regular diet. You have to allow yourself to splurge every now and then to stay on track, so you don't binge on a larger purchase later on. It's official: you made it through bootcamp, and your finances are certainly in better shape for a successful financial 2021. Keep it up and remember – just like any diet, taking care of your finances takes consistent work and attention. Now go get it together – and get it all!