Everyone knows money stresses people out. In fact, 90% of Americans have reported that their finances are a primary source of stress, and the Coronavirus pandemic certainly hasn’t made things any easier on us.
If you’d rather do anything other than balance your budget or do your taxes, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, money concerns have a tendency to catch up with you. The good news is we’re here to help. Here are three basic principles to help you simplify your financial life:
Take your finances digital
You might be used to keeping your records on actual papers. Or maybe you have the arcane knowledge of how to balance an honest-to-goodness, real checkbook. If that’s the case, you might not be fully utilizing the powers of online banking and digital finance.
We don’t mean to say that the old school ways are bad! They’re actually pretty cool. The problem is that the rest of the world has gone digital, and that’s simply the new normal. We recommend following suit, because we don’t want you to get left behind.
One of the most important steps is to digitize your documents. Piles of paperwork just create physical and mental clutter. You can scan and keep digital copies of any important paperwork, and reduce your junk mail. It’s good for the environment AND your sanity.
Another excellent time-saver is to switch to online bill pay. When you authorize vendors to send you bills online, you can see and pay all of your bills in one place. You can even set up recurring payments at certain times of the month, and monitor each one as they are scheduled, paid, and cleared.
There are more online tools as well, and a solution for pretty much any problem. For example, you can use a password manager to store your login information, and even generate more secure options. You can also use a financial dashboard to give you an overview of the state of your assets.
The world of online finance is essentially limitless, with new options and opportunities popping up every day. You owe it to yourself to stay in the loop.
Consolidate as much as possible
Like the stacks of paper records we mentioned before, a lot of money stress has to do with organization. You might be even more stressed than you should be, and it’s likely just because you have to look in a dozen different places to figure out what’s going on with your finances.
The key word is, of course, consolidate. Centralize your assets, records, and financial obligations so that you can consolidate the important pieces and get rid of the clutter.
For example, you may have several different checking and savings accounts for different financial goals, or even different accounts at different financial institutions. You can make things a lot easier by consolidating accounts with AgFed where it makes sense. It’s a lot easier to manage a single checking and savings account through a single provider, and you can see where you stand at a glance.
Another common complication is debt. It’s common that people have to manage different payments to different financial institutions for each loan or card, but there are good ways to consolidate and simplify the process. This is especially true for student loans, which you really don’t need to be making separate payments on.
One more good idea is to pay all of your bills for the month on the same day. It’s true that due dates for different vendors are often spread out, but most of them will be more than happy to process your payment a week or two early. Batch bill paying is a great way to consolidate your stress as well, so you can forget about paying bills until next month.
Cut back and cut down
Many sources of financial stress come from having too many irons in the fire, and not enough control. You can start to see the trend here: Good financial management is largely staying organized.
Probably the most common financial advice, but still incredibly true, is to reduce your number of credit cards to one. Having lots of credit cards only contributes to your financial stress. The extra spending power might feel nice when you’re in the moment, but in the long run it’s likely to cause you even more problems.
While you’re consolidating and cutting up credit cards, start working on a plan to reduce your total credit card debt. Getting rid of debt isn’t as easy as pushing a button, but you need a strategy to avoid a never-ending spiral of minimum payments, high interest rates, and fees.
Alongside these steps, you can also do things like cancelling recurring payments and subscriptions. Monthly automatic payments, even small ones, tend to add up and can contribute to money struggles. You don’t need to cancel everything, but you should keep an eye out for subscriptions you’re not really using.
Finally, consider other areas of your life where you might be able to cut down on stress through financial management. For example, renting a house or apartment is a lot simpler than owning, so that’s a sensible decision for many people. You can avoid biting your nails about repairs, maintenance, and property value—those are for your landlord to worry about. Of course, every family is different, so maybe owning your own home would de-stress your life even more.
There’s often room to simplify transportation expenses, too. For example, if you’re working from home part or full time, maybe you can get by with one less car in your household, which would save a lot of money on gas, registration fees, and insurance. Or you could reduce car anxiety by setting up a special savings account for maintenance and repairs, and adding to it automatically every month or paycheck.