Worrying about money is the actual worst. What it does to you physically and mentally sucks even more. According to findings reported in Social Science and Medicine, financial stress can cause depression, anxiety and hypertension. But you know how even the shortest daily workouts do the mind and body good? Well, the same rule applies to your bank account. We tapped certified financial planner Pamela Capalad to create an easy routine to whip your wallet into shape in seven days. C'mon, get after it!
ID your spending habits
Ask yourself: Are you an impulse shopper? A savings hoarder? A high-risk investor? "If you understand your relationship with money, you can figure out how to make it work for you," says Capalad. (If you have trouble identifying your habits, sites like Moneyharmony.com offer free surveys that help reveal your money personality.)
Assess your money diet
Dedicate a few hours — and let's be real, a glass of vino — to sorting through your last three months of spending. Divide your expenses into categories with an app (see breakout) or by hand, if you're old school. Ignore non-negotiables like rent, utilities and insurance, and concentrate on discretionary spending. Name columns things like dining out, clothing, entertainment, self-care, splurge and unexpected.
Trim the fat
You may be spending money without even realising it. If your bank charges maintenance fees, dump it for a cheaper one. Find all unused subscriptions that auto-charge, and get rid of those suckers. Then research other phone and internet companies. If you find lower rates than what you currently have, call up your provider and talk to them about what they can do for you. Say, "I got this offer from [competitor]. Can you match it?" says Capalad.
Refine your routine
Cast a sharp eye over your discretionary spending. "Everyone has an inkling, like, "I know I spend too much money on food," but nobody knows how much that is," says Capalad. Come up with monthly goals to cut in specific areas and create solutions that won't make you have FOMO. If you want to scale back on your restaurant spending but still want BFF time, sign up together for a food-delivery service like HelloFresh and cook the pre-planned meals together.
Set the pace for saving
Saving is a marathon, and the finish line can feel far off, which makes it tempting to give up. To keep yourself on course, ask your bank to create a separate savings account, with a balance you can't see when you log on to check your everyday account. Set up an auto-transfer to move a certain amount of funds from your checking account to that long-term savings one every payday. Then make a deal with yourself to only check it once every six months.
Push for results
Like any new fitness plan, you won't see results immediately. "Sometimes, you can put a lot of effort into cutting back on your expenses and still find you don't have enough money," Capalad acknowledges. Fight feelings of defeat by looking for ways to make a few extra dollars a month. Maybe you can consider asking your boss to discuss a pay rise. If that's out of the question, think about realistic side hustles to rake in more moolah.
Reward your discipline
You're still going to get to treat yourself to purchases you love, like concert tickets or new shoes at least once in a while, so don't beat yourself up if you do buy something on your splurge list. "It's not realistic to go cold turkey," says Capalad. "You need to give yourself a reward now and then, so allow yourself to indulge on occasion." Kick it old school and create a splurge jar by chucking in loose change. Spend it as you please.
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Cosmopolitan Australia.
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