One of the unintended consequences I’ve experienced since going zero waste has been the ability to save money for the first time in my life. When I consider my economic future, wealth is not a goal. But I do want stability, the ability to own a home, travel a bit, and retire (even if social security crumbles before I turn 65). I also want my financial health to be linked to economic health because financial security is no good if our planet can no longer support a basic quality of life.
A bit about my financial situation: my debt consists of 2 credit cards that I’m not actively using but carrying debt from my irresponsible spending days, federal student loans for college, and a small loan I’m paying to my parents for help buying my car. The good: my credit score is good, I live in an affordable town, and have employer coverage for my health care, dental, and 403 (b) plan. So let’s dive into how I’ve been improving my financial situation and my goals for the future. (Important note: I am not a financial adviser in any sense, while these are working for me always look for a second opinion when it comes to finances).
I signed up for Mint a few years back after getting my first grown-up job and realizing that I didn’t want to live paycheck-to-paycheck for the rest of my life. Mint is a free online tool where you can enter your credit card and bank information to track your spending by category, set personal finance goals, and get a monthly credit check. They also give you tips on improving your credit score (like keeping your credit usage below 30%). Actively tracking my credit score has helped me break into the 700+ category and is encouraging me as I pursue my next credit goal. I recommend Mint if you’re looking for an online budgeting tool or if you don’t know your credit score.
2: The Financial Diet
A lot of my poor shopping choices in the past were a result of watching makeup videos on YouTube. Earlier this year, I stumbled onto The Financial Diet (TFD) channel and have since watched the majority of their backlog of videos and look forward to their regular uploads. The main host of the videos, Chelsea, is open about her horrible financial decisions in the past and uses those experiences to help others go about personal finance more intelligently. On TFD they cover topics like saving money, negotiating for a better salary, and investing. I like that their videos are engaging and fun, without dumbing down finance in a condescending manner. I recommend TFD if you’re already killing time on YouTube but feel a bit sickened by how consumeristic it is.
3: Broke Millennial
Broke Millennial is a blog turned book that I stumbled onto via TFD. While I find the name of the blog a bit cringey (and as a college graduate with no student loan debt I think the name for her blog is a bit out of touch with reality). Regardless, I picked up the book Broke Millennial in September when I was feeling particularly motivated to take more control of my financial life. The book covers many topics TFD does, but it explores topics with a bit more depth. I recommend Broke Millennial if you want to know what the hell a Roth IRA is, how to navigate money conversations with your partner, and what to look for in a bank account. I recommend Broke Millennial if you’re ready to dive into personal finance.
4: The Year of Less
I found The Year of Less at the library and felt a kinship rather quickly with the author, Cait Flanders. Cait used compulsive shopping, eating, and drinking as a way to respond to emotions (it’s no coincidence that my makeup collection ballooned during the most unhappy year of my life). The Year of Less chronicles Cait’s year-long ban on shopping and what her experience limiting consumption was like. While I haven’t done a complete shopping ban in 2018, I started the year with a no-buy month and have been more aware of my shopping this year. I recommend The Year of Less if you want to shop less, have any interest in minimalism, or just enjoy memoirs.
I started using Wealthsimple after they were mentioned on a TFD video. I have a 403 (b) plan through work (the nonprofit version of a 401 (k) ) that I am not currently maxing out. Unfortunately, the company that manages our 403 (b) package does not offer socially responsible investing for plans of my size so I have no way of controlling what my money is tied to. Wealthsimple offers different investment plans (including socially responsible investing) for a low fee. It’s fun to watch my portfolio, but it’s also important to remember that with these types of investments you don’t want to be reactionary. Currently, my returns are down. But as anyone who has taken Economics 101 will tell you (that’s me folks), the economy is cyclical and the best time to invest is when the market is down and stocks are losing value (because they won’t stay that way for long). Hopefully, after using this plan for years, not months, I’ll have some extra money for my retirement
My next big finance goal is to switch banks, something I’ve been talking about doing for years. I currently bank with a massive bank that is not divested from fossil fuels and gives a measly .01% interest rate compared to credit unions that are more socially responsible and have interest rates as high as .1%. Unfortunately, laziness has literally cost me money I could be earning from a slightly higher interest rate and my current banking doesn’t reflect my values. My goal is to switch to a local credit union before the end of 2018 so that I can start 2019 off on a fresh foot.
I hope these financial tools and goals give you some inspiration for your own financial life! What is your relationship like with your personal finances?