Personal finance can be extremely overwhelming. There are so many different terms to learn, ways to manage your money, and places to invest. When I graduated college and was determined to get out of debt as fast as possible, I thought the best way to become financially responsible was by doing more. It wasn’t until I started doing less that I actually made significant progress towards my goal of being debt free. In the beginning, I read every personal finance book I could. I read blogs like Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar daily. I listened to podcasts during my commute about how to invest and manage your money properly. I tracked every single dollar I spent, earned, and invested. It was a bit extreme.
Once I started narrowing in on what mattered most though, I was less stressed about my finances and was able to get out of debt faster. I learned that the keys to accomplishing financial goals are focus and simplicity.
Do Less with Investing
Instead of worrying about where you can get the best return on your savings account by switching banks every 3 months for an extra 0.25%, focus on putting more money into the account.
Instead of creating a portfolio that has 25 or 50 stocks and mutual funds in it, invest in three or four funds that are already diversified for you such as the S&P 500 (or the equivalent in other world markets).
Simpler yet, invest your 401k or Roth IRA into a low-cost, lifecycle retirement fund based on your retirement year. For instance, I invest in the 2045 and 2050 funds for my Roth IRA at Vanguard.
Do Less with Savings
It can be easy to get overzealous when it comes to making different categories for savings accounts (especially when you can easily create and name multiple ones with ING Direct). Instead of having too many goals for savings, why not just pick one?
When I became determined to pay off my $28,000 of debt from my car and student loans I had just two accounts at my bank.
You can’t get much easier than that.
I either needed the money for bills that month (checking) or the money was going directly towards the debt (savings). Instead of wasting time trying to figure out how much I should put towards a future down payment, presents for Christmas, or a new computer I put all the extra money I could find towards the debt.
It took me over two years to pay off the debt, but immediately after I paid it off I started saving for the next goal, a wedding. In 40 days, after the wedding, I’ll pick something else.
Having a single goal to save towards is a strong motivator.
Do Less with Budgeting
Instead of making a complicated system to determine how much money you’ll spend each month, use a simple spreadsheet to track your expenses and add it up on the 1st.
Focusing too much where your money is going, how you are spending it, how much you make, and how you invest it can lead to analysis paralysis. It is better to pick a strategy and stick with it for six months, then take a step back to reassess.
What’s one area of your finances that you could simplify? How could you make managing your money less stressful? Let me know in the comments below.