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How to Stop Letting Your Money Control You

How to Stop Letting Your Money Control You

    Money is a mystery to many people and when I got out of college I was no exception. I knew I made a decent wage and I could afford to live but I never seemed to have any extra at the end of the month. When a large, unexpected expense would arise, I was sent running to my parents…or to my credit card. I had no control of my money; it was controlling me.

    To control your money, you have to ask yourself a simple question: Where is my money going? Once you begin to understand where the money goes, it’s easy to track and manage it.

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    Where is my money going?

    The first step is to figure out where your money is going. All of your money goes to one of two places: fixed expenses or variable expenses. Your fixed expenses are going to be things like rent, utilities, student loans, insurance and car payments. These expenses are the same amount every month and ongoing.

    Variable expenses are everything else like groceries, restaurants, clothing and entertainment. All of these things can be planned and controlled.

    One of the best things you can do to control your money is to create a Bills Calendar. Since I use Google Calendar, I made a new calendar called “Bills” and added all of the fixed expenses for the month. (Don’t forget any yearly expenses like Amazon Prime or XBOX Live, for example.)

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    How do I control my money?

    Now that you know where your money is going, you can control your money with a budget. Yes — budget is a scary word. It was for me too.

    Start with looking over your bank statement and listing all of your expenses for a month. Similarly, if you use Mint, this becomes even easier. Make a note of the categories you’re spending money and how much you’re spending each month. It’s good to look back at least 3 months, but the longer you look back the better idea you’ll have of what you’re really spending each month.

    Next, find one of the many budget templates available online and fill it out. You won’t use every category, so just you what applies to you.

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    The biggest misconception I had about budgeting was that once I set it up, I had to live by it to the cent. A budget is a living document. It is meant to be updated and corrected until it is a true representation of what you’re spending. I review my budget every other month and make corrections as needed.

    Automate your money

    When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the idea of Billpay is scary because you never know if you’ll have the money for the payment when it’s due. Now that you control your money, Billpay can save you money and stress.

    Many bill payees (such as auto insurance and student loans) will give a small discount if you sign up for their auto payment system. In addition, if you know your fixed expenses are taken care of, you will never pay another late fee again.

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    Now that your bills are under control it’s time to pay yourself. When you’re 21, the idea of retirement is a lifetime away. You don’t see a need for savings or a 401k or anything your parents worry about. But it’s never too early to start saving.

    Pay yourself

    I look at my savings account as paying myself. Sure, I get a paycheck from my job, and I “give” a lot of it away. But I need to keep some of that money for my “future self”. I need to have money for car repairs, medical bills, or even a new computer or vacation.

    I cannot emphasize how much less stressed you’ll feel when you start paying yourself and helping out your “future self”. Take a percentage of your paycheck and put it into savings automatically. You can set up a recurring transfer with your bank to move money into savings every paycheck, or you can set it up through direct deposit with your employer if you use a different bank with a higher-interest savings account.

    (Photo credit: A Calculator and Statistics via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 15, 2018

    30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

    30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

    Summertime can be a real strain on your wallet. The sun is out, there are people to see, places to be; it’s no wonder you might be short of funds during these sunny months. Not everything has to cost you an arm and a leg.

    Take some time to go through this list of 20 cheap summer activities and make some realistic goals to complete as many as you can.

    Video Summary

    1. Visit a strawberry festival

    Summer is prime time for tasting strawberries. More often than not, an area that grows strawberries will have a strawberry festival. Indulge yourself in strawberry pies, jams, cakes and more!

    2. Have a picnic

    Take your partner or your family to the local park and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Designate each person to bring one food item of their choice to add to the fun.

    3. Camp in your back yard

      The summer heat can sometimes make it hard to sleep. Why not enjoy the heat outside in the yard? Pitch a tent or gaze into the night sky.

      4. Take long walks

      Discover something new where you live. Take the afternoon off from your chores and go for a long walk. You may be surprised by what you discover.

      5. Break a world record

      Breaking a world record doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You could even break one on your lunch hour. Give it a go!

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      6. Go on a bike ride

      The number of bike paths on roads in big cities has increased dramatically over the years. Take advantage, and enjoy the summer breeze.

      7. Join a gym class

        The gym is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but why not go with a friend a join a class? Spinning, yoga and step classes are always more fun with friends, and a lot of gyms allow you to pay-as-you-go.

        8. Find a new hobby

        The summer is the perfect time to find a new hobby. Serotonin (our body’s natural “happy” hormone) is produced by the sunshine and will be at a yearly high, which is great for when we want to tackle something new.

        9. Join a sports team

        Not all sports teams are competitive and require huge amounts of your time. Join in the fun with like-minded people, get fit, stay healthy and make some friends along the way.

        10. Make a slip ‘n slide

          Gather your friends, some plastic sheeting, a hose, washing up liquid if desired, and make a huge slip ‘n slide just like these guys. Granted, yours won’t be as big, but you get the idea… it’s fun!

          11. Make a treasure hunt for your kids

          Today’s digital world sees our children more often than not playing inside than outside. Why not create a sense of adventure by making a treasure hunt? Only rule? It has to be outside.

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          12. Visit a free festival

          Towns and cities are awash with free festivals, with themes from film to science. Scout your local area and discover something new.

          13. Visit the zoo

            Let’s face it: we love animals. While browsing news websites and social media networks you’re bound to come across a few pictures of cats. Take a trip to your local zoo for a better experience.

            14. Take a road trip

            Enjoy the open road with a few friends and take a road trip somewhere–anywhere. Just go out and enjoy the sunshine!

            15. Play ultimate frisbee in the park

              Frisbee is always great fun down the park, but why not turn it into more of a competitive sport by playing ultimate frisbee?

              16. Make your own ice cream

              Ice cream is a very versatile dessert. Make a sandwich, enjoy a cone, or simply just enjoy a bowl full. Better yet, making your own ice cream allows you to create any flavor you want.

              17. Invite your neighbors over for a BBQ

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                When was the last time you invited your neighbors over? Do you even know them? Now’s your chance. Just ask each person to bring a food item so costs don’t mount up for you.

                18. Get a summer job

                For many students, summer is the time for relaxation and fun. But who said earning money and being productive isn’t fun? You only get out what you put into a situation.

                19. Attend a charity event

                Attending a charity event is a great way to raise funds and awareness for a cause, meet new people, and generally have a good time. Search for your local charity event today.

                20. Visit a national park

                National parks are a great way to explore nature and learn something new. You could even volunteer and make a difference in helping restore natural habitats.

                21. Visit your local comedy club

                  Local comedy clubs are extremely underrated. They are cheap to attend and no doubt you’ll have a barrel of laughs.

                  22. Make your own hammock

                    Hammocks are very relaxing, are perfect for summer afternoons and are surprisingly easy to make.

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                    23. Read in your new hammock

                    Now you have your very own hammock, the only thing left to do is enjoy it. Grab your favorite book and read to your heart’s content.

                    24. Watch a movie outside

                    Movies are great. Relaxing outside in the evening is great. Put them together and you’ve got a perfect combination. In D.C, Maryland and Virginia this summer, for example, you can enjoy a huge number of movies outside.

                    25. Take a hike

                      Hikes are a great way to keep fit and see more of Mother Nature. There are countless trails available for you to explore. Why not try some this summer?

                      26. Learn how to fly a kite

                      As a child, you probably had a kite and haven’t touched it since. Why not dust it off and attempt to fly it? It’s tricky, but well worth the challenge.

                      27. Work out at the park

                      American cities are full of parks with ample space for a work out session. No doubt you’ll be happier to work out in the sun rather than a crowded gym.

                      28. Take your dog to the beach

                        One of the many joys of owning a dog is taking him or her for long walks during the summertime. This joy is enhanced when visiting the beach, for both you and your dog.

                        29. Make a summer smoothie

                        Healthy, delicious and perfect for the summer. Not only that, there are countless recipes ready for you to try.

                        30. Attend a free yoga session at the beach

                        No experience needed and all skill levels are welcome. Take yourself and a buddy down to the beach and try some yoga. You’ve got nothing to lose!

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