17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

The new year usually sparks many of you to want to improve your finances. Now, I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m all for focusing on your financial health. If the New Year sparks that fire within you to get your finances together – then I’m all for it!

Here are 17 ways to improve your finances in 2017. Choose a few of these to focus on in the New Year if you’re new to personal finance. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed. But I do want you to make some real change in your life.

improve your finances

Overall financial health

1. Dream a little

This may seem like fluff advice, but I really believe that dreaming/envisioning the ultimate financial state can really get you revved up to actually improve your finances! So take a moment to really imagine what it would be like to live with no more debt. To finally turn in that last payment for your mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc. Imagining this huge weight coming off of your shoulders can help you get started on actually tackling your debt!

2. Know your numbers

To improve your finances, you need to know where you are currently. Make it a point to know and be more mindful of your monthly income and expenses. Your entire personal finance journey is built with these building blocks! Here’s a video I put together on how to get this information if you don’t already have it.

3. Track your net worth

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip of knowing your numbers. Knowing your numbers is one thing, but actually tracking your numbers each and every month is what helps you be more mindful of your situation. The key here is checking in on your finances every single month, whether it’s your net worth or your income/expenses. (I hope to do a post/video on what your net worth is soon).

4. Educate yourself about personal finance

I get it – the world of personal finance can be overwhelming. But running away from it is a surefire way to not get anywhere financially. Make it a point to read a book (I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi) or listen to a podcast (I recommend The Dave Ramsay Show or Stacking Benjamins) about personal finance once a month or so. Believe me – avoiding personal finance will not solve your personal finance problems!

5. Focus on one or two financial goals

When you focus on way too many goals at once, you tend to lose track, get overwhelmed, and fail at most of them. Choose one or two goals to focus on this year. Will you work on increasing your income or decreasing your expenses? Is this the year you get serious about your debt or start saving for emergencies? Pick a goal that will improve your finances and get started! I personally suggest following Dave Ramsey‘s step by step goals if you don’t know where to start.

6. Get in sync with your significant other

This is something Juan and I are still working through. Actually, I think this is something that will just become a constant conversation. As your goals change, your spouse’s may change as well. As you improve your finances, make sure your partner is still on the same page as you. Make an effort to check in with each other each month to make sure you’re working towards both of your goals.

Increase your income

7. Start a side hustle

Your main income is great, but having a side income can really help with your financial goals! Don’t know where to start? Think of things you already love to do – crocheting, working on cars, spending time with pets… chances are someone has already come up with a way to monetize it! Think of how you can monetize one of your hobbies so your side hustle can also be something you enjoy doing!

8. Work towards a promotion

Nine times out of ten, a promotion leads to an increase in income. Make sure you are an absolute stellar employee – make it into work on time, finish your tasks in a timely manner, and make sure all the work you do is done with integrity. Then, when a spot above you has opened up, make it known to your manager that you are interested. Work hard and your work will speak for itself!

9. Work towards and negotiate a raise

Sometimes a promotion just isn’t in the cards. That doesn’t mean you can skip asking for a raise. Make your case as to why you deserve a raise, do your research on the average salaries for job titles closest to yours, and have an honest conversation with your manager. Warning – this only works for great employees, not just any employee. Just because you want to improve your finances doesn’t mean you deserve a raise.

10. Sell some stuff

Got a ton of unused clothing, appliances, toys, etc. lying around? Donate the stuff that is already in poor condition and sell the stuff that is still in great quality! eBay is a great place to start, but there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ fashioned garage sale. The extra cash will come in handy as you improve your finances.

Expense control

11. Give up just one thing

I’m not asking you to give up cable, coffee, soda, AND gift giving all at once (although – more power to you if you want to)! Start small – what’s one expense, big or small, you can go without for all of 2017? For me – I’m going to cut back hard on eating out. Speaking of eating out…

12. Eat out less

It’s no secret that eating out often can do a lot of damage to your waistline. But it also does a ton of damage to your wallet! I’m not saying you should eliminate eating out completely – just cut back! Juan and I are going to stick to eating out only twice a week (this is a huge step back from our normal 5-7 days a week)!

13. Find another commute option

For us 9-5ers, a commute can really make or break the budget. Take a look at what you spend now on your commute (gas, toll, train fare, etc.) and look up other options available to you. Keep in mind the cheapest option may not be the best in terms of time spent, so make sure you take into account all things – not just the price tag.

14. Cut out cable

*gasp* I know, how dare I say these words??? But let’s face it, y’all – cable is expensive! With Netflix and Hulu being at extremely affordable rates, the case for still having cable is starting to dwindle. For us, the hardest part will be finding ways to watch our Golden State Warriors and other sports broadcasting. But other than that, Netflix and Hulu usually does the trick for our TV fix.

Beef up your savings

15. Seriously, get an emergency fund

I don’t care if you’re in deep debt – get yourself a freaking emergency fund! If you don’t have on yet, building one this year will greatly improve your finances. You are not invincible and Murphy loves visiting those who aren’t prepared. Even if it’s just $1,000, it’s a great start and better than nothing.

16. Set up a personal escrow account

You know those annoying expenses that don’t happen every single month and surprise you whenever they do pop up? Setting up a personal escrow account will prepare you for all of those expenses. Pair it with automatic savings and you don’t even have to think about it!

17. Start saving for retirement

I don’t care how young you are – it’s never, ever too early to start saving for retirement! No one ever said, “Man, I really wished I waited longer until I started saving for retirement”. For starters, look and see if your employer offers a free match to your contributions into your company sponsored retirement plan. Basically – your employer will put money into your retirement plan for free as long as you’re also putting in money! Take advantage of that free money!

So there you have it – 17 things you can work on to improve your finances this year! You don’t have to do all of them – in fact, I suggest choosing just one or two of these things. Focus on a few goals at a time and you’ll be well on your way to financial peace.

What are your financial goals for 2017?

AMDG,
Lisa

My Advice for College Graduates

My Advice for College Graduates

My friends over at TheLadders reached out to me to share some tips for new graduates who are getting ready to enter the work force.

I thought this would be perfect for this time of year! We are just starting to wrap up graduation season over here and I’m sure there are a lot of graduates getting asked the dreaded question, “So, what now?”

I remember what it felt like, having just finished school and not having a job lined up like some of my peers. It’s overwhelming and exciting at the exact same time! Here’s my advice for college graduates.

My Advice to College Graduates

Take Time to Celebrate and Enjoy This Time

Hey, finishing up a degree is not easy! And you did it! Don’t forget to take time to celebrate what you’ve done. I’m not saying you should splurge on a vacation that you can’t afford or anything like that. I’m saying take some time to really enjoy and appreciate your accomplishments.

Have fun at your graduation party. Take this time to finally read that book you’ve been putting off because you were studying. Go on a hike or have a beach day with your friends. The first few weeks of the after-grad life are perfect for moments like this. Yes, the job search is important. But don’t let it completely take over your life right now. Let yourself enjoy this time. When you do find your first job, you’ll miss this free time.

Define Your Must-Haves and Decide What You Can Compromise

The job search can get pretty overwhelming, so I say you should start with defining what you want and what you can live without. What location do you want to work in, or does location even matter to you? What kind of company do you want to work for – big, small, public, private – or do you just want to work for any company? How does your degree tie into all this?

For example, when I was searching for my job, I knew I wanted to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I didn’t have to stay specifically in the city. I was open to the East and North Bay as well. As far as what kind of company, I didn’t have any particular wants – I was open to whatever company would have me at that point! When it came to how it tied in with my degree (I got a bachelor’s in Accounting), I knew that I wanted to try my hand at accounting, but I was also open to finding any position within business in general.

I ended up getting a job as an Administrative Assistant at a small company in San Francisco. While I was more of an office assistant, I also helped both the accounting and finance departments. This position was perfect as my first job because I gained accounting experience, but I learned that finance was more my cup of tea.

Learn as Much as Possible

Being a new grad, you’re probably really proud of all that you’ve learned. However, when you start a new job, I would say refrain from being a show off and instead soak in all the real life knowledge you can. Sure, you may have gained a lot of skills and knowledge in school, but your first priority in your first job isn’t to completely change up everything and make your mark. It really is to learn the ins and outs of your new duties and company.

When I was a fresh new grad, I was excited to show off my Accounting Skillz and how much I knew about Excel. Then I quickly learned that in fact, I had much more to learn about Excel and a lot of other things. Although you’re no longer a student, keep the student mentality.

Take Your Time and Trust the Struggle

Don’t feel like you have to change everything once you get there, at least not for your first job. Take the first month or so to really study how everything works. Became a master at your position first before you take on new things.

I’m not proud of this, but I used to say that a lot of my first job was “b*tch” work. But now, I look back and see that it wasn’t. Sure, some things like making coffee, making copies, and opening the mail can be tedious and boring. But when you become a master at it, people will notice and will eventually trust you with other things.

I hate saying cliche things like this type of work “builds character”, but it really does! Show them how good you are at the mundane things and they can’t help but trust you with bigger things as your career progresses.

So there you have it – my advice for college graduates!

Did I miss anything? What would your advice be for a new graduate?

AMDG,
Lisa

 

Perfect is a Myth

Perfect is a Myth

Something’s been on my mind lately.

A lot of people, myself included, like to talk about all the changes they want to make in their life. Perhaps they want to get out of debt, start a new side-hustle, or even just dive into a new hobby. Or maybe there are more personal changes someone wants to make. Maybe they want to be more assertive, gossip less, or even just have a more positive outlook on life.

It’s easy to talk about the things you want to do, the qualities we want to acquire. It’s much harder to actually, you know, get up and do them.

Now, I’m not the perfect person to talk about this. I’ve been complacent about many things lately. And maybe that’s why I’m blogging about this.

perfect is a myth

I’ve noticed several things within my circle of people. Either they are constantly talking about what they want to do or they are actually putting in the work.

Now, the ones who are talking about what they want to achieve may actually have a lot of knowledge about this new endeavor. They’ve probably done the research, looked up tons of articles and books on the subject, and they’ve acquired a lot of book knowledge on The Perfect way to successfully accomplish these things. But usually, that’s where it ends. The actions of change? Nowhere to be found.

On the other hand, there are those who are taking clear, solid actions toward their goals. They are not on The Perfect path and they are far from where they want to be, but each day they are taking actions. Taking an hour a day to actually focus on some actions, perfect or not, is better than all the book knowledge on the subject. These people choose imperfect, yet consistent actions over The Perfect action and they learn as they fail. These are the people I want to be more like.

It’s one thing to know a lot about something, like weight loss or personal finance. But it’s another thing to actually live out what you know.

Personally, it bugs me whenever someone talks a lot about their knowledge of something but has nothing to show for it. When they constantly talk about The Perfect way to reach financial independence, or The Perfect method of losing weight but haven’t done a single thing towards their goals. Yeah, I get that you know a lot about weight loss/personal finance/starting a business, but what are you doing about it?

I guess what I’m trying to say is this – don’t get caught up in launching The Perfect business, diving into The Perfect healthy lifestyle, or being Perfect when starting a new hobby. Reading articles and books on these new things isn’t a bad thing, just don’t let it stop there! Strive for small changes each and every day. Experience is a far better teacher than articles/books are. Perfect is a myth that holds us back from real, tangible actions that lead to real change.

Don’t be afraid of the imperfect. Fail fast, learn faster.

What changes do you want to make in your life? What actions have you taken?

AMDG,
Lisa

 

How to Get Promoted Sooner Than Expected

In my last personal update, I mentioned that I recently got a promotion!

As much as I would have loved to have this opportunity just fall into my lap, realistically it didn’t happen that way. In general – opportunities like this don’t happen out of no where. It’s a result of many things that I had control over.

Here’s what lead me to my promotion and how you can get promoted sooner than you expected, too!

get promoted

Efficiently Work Your @$$ Off

“Work your @$$ off” is a phrase used by many. It may even seem like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. I’ve added the efficiency component for a reason, though.

In my opinion, there are two kinds of workers – 1) the ones who try to get away with doing their job with as little effort as possible and 2) the ones who know how to efficiently get their work done so they can productively work their @$$es off.

Lesson – Don’t be the first kind.

Yes – there’s a huge difference between an extremely efficient worker and a worker who tries to just get everything done as soon as possible without covering all their bases. The latter looks at all the tasks and duties they have to do and says, “How can I get away with doing just the minimum amount of work to get by?” while the former looks at the same exact list and says, “How can I get all of this done well and in a timely manner?”

Toot Your Own Horn

This year was the first year I ever had to do a self-performance review. I wasn’t too worried, though, because I was told from the beginning to keep a track record of all that I do. This “brag list” includes what I accomplish on a daily basis as well as projects and ad hoc assignments I’ve assisted in. When it came time to turn in my performance review, I pulled out the brag list and filled it out with ease.

Lesson – Put together your Brag List. What are your daily duties?  What projects have you accomplished for the company and how has your effort impacted the company? The Brag List does two things – 1) keeps you accountable with what you’ve done and 2) encourages you to keep accomplishing goals at the company so you can keep adding to your brag list! The more you record what you’ve done, the more confident you become in your work. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn!

Know What You’re Worth

After I submitted my own performance review, I sat down with my immediate supervisors and managers to discuss my own review and, what we’ve all been waiting for, compensation. For the most part, they agreed with my performance review, but the compensation aspect of the review just didn’t match up, in my opinion.

My opinion was reinforced when I went to sites such as Salary.com and Payscale.com, plugged in my title and location, and saw that the number just didn’t add up. I saved these reports and ended up referring to them a lot in the future step.

Lesson – Do your research! Ask around, look it up, and put together a case for yourself. Of course, keep compensation and benefits in mind and also look at the job descriptions online since many companies’ job titles vary one from the other. Save your research, study the numbers, and know your worth!

Be Vocal to the Right People

After my disappointing performance review, and after all the salary research, I asked to sit down with my supervisors and managers again. I basically made my case – I’ve been doing this for the company, this is what I expect to be compensated, and this is not matching up with what you’re offering me. Immediate changes did not happen, which was fine. But being vocal to my higher ups was definitely what got the ball rolling in terms of my recent promotion.

Lesson – Speak up to the right people! It’s easy to be disappointed and to complain to your peers. Honestly, that’s what I did at first! But complaining to your peers, other than having something to talk about, ultimately does nothing. So instead of complaining, put your case together (your brag list + your compensation research), and talk to the right people. Nothing will be fixed if they don’t know anything is broken.

I was told that people at my company didn’t really get considered for a promotion until they’ve been there for 18 months. I’ve only been there for 14. Be consistent in your work, don’t be afraid to brag, know your worth, and speak up and you’ll be on the path to get promoted!

What do you need to work on to get promoted? Be honest.

Best,
Lisa

BEWARE – San Francisco IRS Telephone Scam

Last Thursday was another busy day in the office. I was going about my day as normal when I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.

Now, usually in these cases, I don’t answer when I don’t know who it is. But seeing as the area code was 415 (San Francisco area code), I figured it might have been someone I knew who changed their number, or a business I frequent often calling to tell me I left something behind (you guys have no idea how often this happens to me).

So I answered. Instead of a familiar voice on the other side, I heard a recording. I wish I had remembered exactly what the voice was saying, but here’s the gist: the IRS was looking for me. The voice told me to call back immediately or they will take legal action against me.

Needless to say, I was freaking out! I immediately began to wonder if I did my taxes wrong or something. This was the first year I didn’t go to an actual tax preparer and instead filed online using H&R Block…

Before I called, however, I decided to Google the number. Here’s the number for all of you in the  SF Bay Area: 1.415.251.5170

My Google search for the number lead to this site: http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-415-251-5170

All I can say is – thank God I searched for this number before calling them back. It turns out this whole thing is a known IRS telephone scam. If you go to the link above, you’ll see a ton of testimonies from people with the same exact experience, and some even worse than my own! For example, one caller claims that when he called the number back, the person on the other end told him that he would be audited for tax papers filed 7 years ago! Yet another caller claims that he was told that he has two hours to contact an attorney before the police show up to arrest him!

Don’t fall for this IRS telephone scam! The IRS knows of these scams and has written about what to look for and what to do if you’ve been targeted in their news release dated April 14, 2014 entitled IRS Reiterates Warning of Pervasive Telephone Scam.

IRS Telephone Scam: What Do You Do If You’re Called

The IRS is aware of this scam and many others. Here is what they suggest to do in these situations:

If you think you owe taxes:

Do not call that number back and do not avoid it. Instead, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 and a real IRS employee will help you out with any payment troubles.

If you don’t think you owe taxes:

If you haven’t received anything in the mail regarding you owing taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

Also, it’s a good idea to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” over at FTC.org and make sure to note that it’s an “IRS Telephone Scam”.

Be aware and be safe with your personal information, everyone!

Have you ever been targeted by this kind of scam? How did you deal with it?

AMDG,
Lisa
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