We’re heading to the 3rd week of the new year. Have you started working on your 2022 goals and dreams yet? Perhaps, my previous blog post can help you as I shared there 3 strategies I use to reach mine —> How to Get Anything You Want – 3 Strategies to Help You Achieve Your Goals in 2022
If your 2022 goal has something to do with finances like mine, then stick around because I’ll be sharing with you some basic tools and tips I’ve used and continue to use to keep my finances in check, stay out of debt, thereby helping me save more, invest more, retain a good cash flow, and let my money grow.
I think even before one thinks about the more complicated nature of finance, it is best to tackle the basics first which is HOW TO BUDGET RIGHT. I believe this is an area where many of us fail from time to time, if not every single time! I’ve been there in my 30’s. I’ve always wanted to budget well but I’ve always ended up in debt… huge debts to the point that my precious house – the product of my own blood, sweat, and tears — almost got repossessed by the bank!
Good thing I was able to start getting out of that rabbit hole and just before I hit my 40’s, I was finally debt-free! I even managed to finish my home mortgage payments back in 2017 making me a proud home owner of a two-story townhouse in one of our capital’s central business districts where real estate prices go high! I’m about to turn 44 next month and I’m happy to say that I’ve maintained my debt-free status ever since. Perhaps you might think it was wisdom that comes with getting older coupled with discipline. It’s both, but it’s also more than that too. I’ll share with you the basics below.
The financial tools and tips I’ve used to help me budget well and which can help you stick to your budget too are as follow:
1. Pay off all debts first.
Before you even start saving big, do this thing first — pay off all your debts if you have any, especially those that incur high interest rates! If this seems impossible for you, start by living either within, or below, or better yet, way below your means! Or try to earn more in any legal way you can to help pay off everything you owe.
2. Set up an Emergency Fund.
The very first thing you should do after paying off all your debt is to start saving for your emergency fund. But in some cases, when your debt is not that overwhelming, you can already start setting aside a small amount for this.
According to this article:
“An emergency fund can save your life in the event that something bad happens. Also called a cash cushion, an emergency fund is money saved for the unexpected. How much should be saved in an emergency fund? … Your emergency fund should cover at least three months’ worth of your living expenses.”
It’s our emergency fund that really brought us security during the first year of the pandemic in 2020. We had 6 month’s worth of emergency fund set aside at that time and thank God we didn’t even touch it. But knowing that it’s there helped us sleep better at night despite the growing anxiety around us because of the pandemic.
3. Create different envelopes / jars / bank accounts for various kinds of savings and expenses.
Right now, we’re practicing the envelope system. We have different envelopes for the following:
- utility bills
- personal savings
- petty cash
- big ticket spending
- emergency fund
- Tuz’s savings
Some of these envelopes like the utility bills, emergency fund, and long-term savings are actually bank accounts so it’s easy to do monthly payments and transfers, plus big amounts of money stored there are much safer.
Once you have these envelopes / bank accounts, put an amount inside each one of them each month and see yourself sleep better at night because you won’t have to worry anymore when your monthly bills come or when emergency situations arise.
4. Invest but know the risks involved.
I did a few investments over the course of my lifetime and I’ll discuss some here.
Based on my experience so far, investing in life insurance is better done when you’re still young like what I did (with the assumption that you will have more than enough money when you’re older and won’t need the benefits of life insurance anymore because you already have a ton of cash lying around for your medical needs) — I got my first life insurance at the age of 22, then another one at the age of 24, then a few others in my late 20’s. I got a total of about 5 life insurance accounts from various companies with health riders. The policy period ranged from 5 to 20 years. My thinking then was like I was young and was very adventurous. I traveled all the time and did all sorts of dangerous activities like surfing huge waves, windsurfing, kite surfing, hiking up mountains in Cambodia by myself, going on road trips, etc. I was thinking that should anything bad happen to me, at least my family will get like a million for my untimely demise from each insurance company. Good thing nothing bad happened to me. I was already able to cash out my benefits after 5 and 10 years which went to my savings and I have one more that I will be cashing out this year (20th year). And the good thing about this last insurance I have is that even if I get the principal amount of my contributions, I will still be insured until I reach 72 years old. If you decide to do the same, study the insurance companies you plan to open an account with, some of them now have investment opportunities that can help you earn more passive income; compare and contrast and choose the best one for your situation despite some of the financial risks.
Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m no longer inclined to get life insurance accounts. My thinking now is, should something bad happen to me, whether a kind of illness or my untimely demise, I believe I have enough to cover my medical expenses or leave Tuz with. I’ll just keep putting money in my medical envelope and I’ll get the amount from there if ever I will need it. This is because upon calculation, if I do get an insurance, I still end up paying the insurance company more than what I would get should there ever be a need for me to use it for my health… because hello? How else would these insurance companies earn, right?!
So do your calculations and face the risks of your decisions regarding this. I did it when I was young because of my dangerous lifestyle. If I was just like any normal office girl person, I’d probably have more money now if I just saved all my contributions and put it in mutual funds or other less risky investments.
Speaking of mutual funds, I’ve just started to get to know this kind of investment about 7 years ago. From what I gathered so far, it is the least risky, and given enough time (more than 5 years), your money will really grow.
Another form of investment I’ve done is investing in the stock market. This, for me, is the most volatile of all and the most heartbreaking. You can easily earn big just as much as you can suddenly lose all your money. So before you go into this type of investing, study it well first or have someone you trust take care of it for you. Make sure the money you put in here, you are prepared to lose. As for me, Mahal takes care of our stocks since my brain and my heart cannot grasp the complexities of it all. We’ve already earned a lot here but we’ve lost some too. This is best for really long-term investing so you can see your money grow. We’ve been investing in penny stocks here since 2015 (started with only P5,000 coz we’re low risk takers). And we intend to just let our money work its magic there for a really long time. Right now, my money there is already about P150,000 give or take coz it changes every day. But I’ve already gotten maybe P200+K give or take from previous earnings and that is because Mahal studied day trading as well… it’s super risky unless you really know what you’re doing! So be sure you know!
5. Live below your means.
That’s what I did after I paid all of my debts and continue to do until now. It helps that I’ve stopped traveling so much since the pandemic began; that we lived a simple life at the farm for 3 years, and are now living a simple life near the beach. We have our own vegetable and herb garden plus a couple of fruit-bearing trees where we get our healthy supply of fresh produce. We’ve also slashed our grocery budget in half by either eliminating or lessening intake of junk food, sugary food, & frozen processed food (except during special occasions like the Christmas, New Year, birthdays, and anniversaries, hehehe) and so many other useless stuff (thanks to his pandemic) like shoes and clothes which I used to buy in bulk before Covid-19 invaded our world. Now, we just pay for utilities, my personal helper, and fish from the market for our daily dishes. The rest goes to our various envelopes and bank accounts. When you have a goal in mind, it gets easier to not buy stuff and budget your money better.
6. Treat your credit card like cash and use it wisely.
Don’t treat your credit card like free money, lol! That will put you in more debt! Instead, treat it like real cash that you have already set aside for your usual expenses. Whatever amount that gets swiped on the card machine, you must have the equivalent cash in your bank account to pay for it.
In the event that you really have no cash, and you feel like you won’t have any extra cash sometime in the near future, I believe it’s okay to use your credit card to help you ease your burden. What I did before when I was still in that kind of situation was I borrowed money from my credit card — cash advance is what they call it. Then I used the cash advance to either pay off another debt that has a higher interest rate and leverage the rest for a small business that I knew would earn. Once it did earn, I paid off the credit card bill immediately, and whatever earning was left, I put it back in the small business to keep it rolling and thriving. It worked that way for me and I only did it once! Don’t keep borrowing money to pay off another amount you owe, and so on, and so forth… You will sink in more debt and that’s not our goal here. Better consolidate your debt and let a financial institution pay it all in one go! Now you will be left with only one debt you need to pay at much lower interest rates. You can learn more here. Be wise. Use your head when using your credit card.
Like I said, personally, I’m on my fifth year of having zero debt — hurray! My debt-free journey started when I finished paying off my Alabang house mortgage way back in 2017. Plus, I rarely purchase anything paylite anymore using my credit card and when I did, I made sure my credit card bill was always paid on or before the due date to avoid finance charges and late fees. These days though, I just have them charge it straight to my credit card and when I get home, I pay for my credit card bill immediately.
Recently, I got a debit card from my other bank, so that’s what I use now when shopping. The credit card I just use for paying for Facebook ads plus it gives me security that in the event that I am not able to get cash immediately, my credit card’s limit is way more than enough to cover any extreme financial emergencies, but of course I’m praying it won’t have to come to that.
7. Create a spreadsheet for your cash flow.
When you see where your cash goes and where it comes from, you can decide better where you can cut back so you can save more, or where you can invest further so you can earn more. I use a simple Google spreadsheet for this. There are also money apps you can use to track your cash flow. What I have on my phone is Moneyfy. It’s simple to use; I just input all my expenses and savings in there so I get a general picture of how much cash I have left and how much income I’m saving.
8. Create a balance sheet as well.
This is a little bit more than your cash flow spreadsheet. A balance sheet is a more detailed record of all your assets minus all your liabilities equals your equity or net worth. Make sure they balance. It’s a balance sheet after all. You can have two balance sheets — one for your personal wealth and one for your business equity.
Let’s say your assets total P1 million and your liabilities total P450,000. This would mean your total net worth is P550K. Assets are things that have economic value like your fully paid house, other properties, jewelry, money and other cash equivalents, investments, vehicles, equipment, etc. Liabilities are your loans, mortgages, payables, debts, money owed, etc. When you total each and put them in the equation, then you get your net worth. It’s always good to review your current net worth so you know where you stand financially, you won’t be easily swayed by Shopee, or Lazada, or Amazon sales and promos or get tempted to buy a new pair of shoes, or the next Louis Vuitton bag, or get a new car loan, or take that Paris trip, or buy a house because you know how much or how little extra money you have. From there, you can start working on increasing your net worth first so that next time, you can already buy whatever it is you’ve been wanting to for so long (and when I do, I take the budget from my “play envelope”… the logic behind here is for you to enjoy a portion of your hard-earned money as well so that you’ll be more motivated and energized to make more).
9. Educate yourself about wealth creation and never loan money to family and friends.
The subject of money is something that I’ve always been interested about. Growing up with so little to none, and wealth creation not being taught in school at all, I ended up reading a lot of books and articles about the subjects of finances, money, and wealth. Currently, I am re-reading Rules of Wealth by Richard Templar; Millionaires & Billionaires by Mclean, Stephens, and Hummer; and Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. Other money-related books that I’ve already read are: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, Escape by Anik Singal, The Finishers by Exra Ferraz, Life Changing Secrets from the 3 Masters of Success by Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, and Joseph Murphy, and many more…
Before 2022, I read these books during my free time (which was usually while doing #2 in the loo, lol!). Now that I’ve made finances my top priority for this year (my last year’s priority was health, just an FYI), I consciously put in my calendar activities like reading books about money and wealth, and even including watching movies about similar topics as few of my winding down activities before going to bed. Last year, I wasted so much time watching reruns of movies, Netflix series, and shows that didn’t contribute much to my knowledge nor my wealth. This time, I am changing that and focusing all of my extra time and energy to achieving this year’s goal (and this includes my plan to study NFTs, Cryptocurrency, blockchain, digital banking, etc.)
Part of achieving my goal is this one thing that I always read about when it comes to money matters and that is to not loan your family and friends money! Giving them loans will just destroy the relationship because of emotions involved. More often than not, family and friends who borrow money from you never really get to pay their loans back! And I should know! All those people I loaned money before NEVER paid me back! And one who did, only paid half after 6 years! The books were right! The logic behind this is if they’re really serious about paying back, then they should go to loan institutions and banks and not you! In the event that they don’t get to pay, then they will have to answer to lawful consequences imposed by those institutions. But in the event that you can’t help but loan your loved ones some money, just write it off! For your own peace of mind, just treat that money as a gift to him/her because more often than not, you won’t see that money back anymore. And in case they do pay you back, then you’ll feel like a bonus has been handed to you because you were not expecting to see that money anymore.
I may not be an expert about money and I may not be able to absorb and apply everything I’m learning all at once, but at least it helps me become aware of my money blockages, and the learnings I get from these books help guide me in budgeting what little money I had at that time and helped me slowly grow them. The education I get from reading these kinds of books further helped me avoid getting burdened by debt, inspired me to take action, and let me continue to grow my money, albeit slowly but surely. I found myself to be a low risk taker, hence, I feel like my money grows slowly too and that’s okay. I can live with that rather than becoming a high risk taker in the hopes of earning more a lot faster only to end up losing so much. I’d always rather be the slow but steady one.
10. Monetize your talents, skills, and resources (including your extra money lying around).
You’re good at doing something? Get paid for it! You have an extra property? Rent it out! You have too much stuff you don’t need? Sell them! You have extra cash you don’t know what to do with? Invest it! Whatever talents, skills, and resources you have, try to find ways to monetize them. This way, you’ll be a productive member of our society, you get to earn more, save more, and have more budget for important things you need to pay, save, invest, and spend for. Eventually, and hopefully, all our financial goals will point to being able to spend only the interest of the interest of the interest of our savings. That’s one heck of a lofty goal, right? As the saying goes: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Okay, those are my own financial tools and tips which helped me all these years to stick to my budget, pay off all my debts (and later on, avoid debt), and grow my money. I hope these tips and tools can help you as well be on your way to having better finances this year. If you use other tools and have other tips, please share! And if you think you’re having a hard time taking charge of your finances, debts and spending and you need more help, you can click here to learn more.
May all of us have a more prosperous 2022! Let’s update each other about the achievement of our financial goals by year’s end!