Do Good With Money: A Step-by-Step Guide for Where to Start
You make $3k, $5k, $7k a month, but somehow at the end of the month you don't know where it went.
First off, you're not alone. Actually you're part of the masses.
It takes the average American, with their 4% savings ratio, 25 years to save one year's worth of living expenses.
But you, you're not here to be a part of the masses. Hell no.
You're here to do something different.
You're here to actually start doing good with your money. You're here to obtain the freedom in time as well as money to do what you want to do when you want to do it.
You're here for personal freedom.
That starts with saving. Every damn month.
And, you can do it!
It's probably way easier than you ever imagined. It's just that no one ever taught you this stuff. And in reality, very few people ever got taught this stuff.
So our dudes and dudets, here's how to uncover your hidden green and start on a bulletproof path to personal freedom.
And if you want to skip around, use the table of contents below:
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What You Should Track (And Why)
Since our first black diamond runs, we've been taught to look at the wrong numbers.
We were taught by Aaron Carter on MTV Cribs that your salary — your income — is what makes you rich, cool and happy.
But the thing is is while your income is a part of your financial picture, it shouldn't be the main focus of transitioning to do good with your money.
Aaron Carter made $200 million by the time he was 18. Today, eleven years later, he's $2 million in debt.
In other words, Aaron's Party is now completely over.
So how does that happen?
The root cause of it stems from a concept he missed called, Understanding Enough to Live a Happy Life.
But beyond that, his number's worked in the same way yours and mine do.
He simply spent more than he made. He spent more than his income.
$40,000/yr - $45,000/yr = -$5,000/yr.
$200,000,000 - $202,000,000?
Yep, that still equals -$2,000,000.
So what do we learn here?
Income isn't everything.
It's a candy society has unconsciously made us think is the financial number we need to track, but tracking it as your main financial goal is fool's gold.
So what do you focus on to actually start doing good with your money?
You focus on Net Income.
You can find your net income by subtracting your spending from your income.
Net Income = Income - Spending
Make $50,000/yr and spend $49,000/yr?
Then your net income is $1,000/yr.
In that situation, you are really only making $1,000/yr for yourself. The other $49,000 you made was given to someone else.
Could you imagine working just one day and only keeping 2% of the time you spent at work for yourself?
Imagine doing that for a whole year!
The way you actually start doing good with your money is by focusing your financial turnaround on improving your net income.
It's how you beat Shaq. ;)
*Now if you have debt, you may be thinking, "That doesn't work for me because my freakin' debt payments will never let me have a positive net income."
But net income is the number for you too! You just have to calculate it a bit different. Here's how:
At the end of each month when you calculate your net income just leave your debt payments out the Spending side of the equation.
Net Income = Income - Spending
So for example:
Debt Payments: $1000
Net Income = Income - Spending
$1500 = $3000 - $1500
Debt payments of $1000
Leaving debt payments out of the picture, this person has a net income of $1500/mo. That is kick ass!
So if you have debt, pay that shizz down. Leave your debt payments out of the equation and celebrate as your net income numbers improve!
With the myth's busted, we now know what we need to track — Net Income.
So how do we track it? And how do we actually start doing good with money.
How to Figure Out What's Actually Happening
Glad you asked.
Here's your checklist for exactly what to do to actually improve your money situation.
Ready? Awesome. Let's go.
1. Gather All Your Accounts Together
As crazy as it sounds, it's commonplace to not know all of your money accounts.
If that's you, that's okay. But you're not here to be commonplace, so let's make the change.
Here's a list of the accounts you should look for and gather together.
(Get started and just list yours out now as we go.)
Credit Card Debt
Note that while you list each of these accounts it doesn't matter how good or bad the numbers look like.
All that matters here is that you find and gather all your accounts together.
If you do that, you're winning.
So at after you do this, you're probably feeling kinda stoked. You know where all your money is. And that's huge.
2. Add Them To One Place Where You Can Track It
Next up, take all those accounts you gathered and add them to one place.
The free service that we use and recommend is Mint.com.
Adding your accounts to Mint is simple. And once it's done you'll have your entire money picture in one trackable place.
Again, while you're adding your accounts to Mint don't worry about how good or bad your money picture looks.
Seriously. That's for another step.
Just get your stuff in there, and then we'll take on the next step.
(If you need help, here's an article that will make adding your accounts to Mint easy.)
So once you have everything added to Mint, then it's on to figuring out what's actually happening with your money picture and taking action on it.
3. Figure Out What Is Actually Happening and Take Action
Let's just jump right to it, here's a beautiful article we wrote that show's you step-by-step how to figure out what is actually happening with your money in Mint.
As you start going step-by-step through that article and your Mint account, you should keep something close in mind.
The numbers you see in your Mint will likely make your stomach flip. Like big time.
What we want you to internalize is that that is a-okay! It's actually good!
Look, the point of figuring out what's actually happening with your money is not to immediately see good net income or budget numbers.
The point of figuring out what is actually happening with your money is to see the truth.
So expect this step to feel like a cross between a pile shit and an X-Games gold medalist. an awkward first date.
If it feels that way, then smile because you did it right.
And by doing it right, seeing your true numbers, you are accelerating your path to money independence insanely faster then someone who hid the truth (fudged the numbers) to make themselves feel good.
This feeling, let's call it good-fear, is exactly what you want to be feeling.
Because when good-fear is near, all you need to do next is take action to improve your situation. For us that action is going to be starting to do good with our money.
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Take the Right Action to Boost Your Stash
Now that you can see what is happening with your finances, it's time to make some beneficial changes.
We want to start by focusing on what we can control — your spending.
All else is secondary.
So start by looking at the history of where you've been spending your money. In Mint this is under Trends >> Spending by Category.
With that in front of you, we can see what's working and not working for you. That gives us a map for what to change.
What we don't want to do here is make a change that feels like a sacrifice.
What we do want to do is find places and ways to make changes that boost your happiness in both the near and long term.
So look in your spending for places where you can get the same experience at a less expensive cost. Or look in your spending for places where axing the cost all together will increase your happiness.
An easy example is your phone bill. If you are paying any more than $40/mo, you should switch.
Both Republic Wireless (Android) and Cricket Wireless (iPhone and Android) are two incredible phone companies.
Their epic $30-$40/mo, no contract plans will give you the same experience at much less the cost.
Exactly what we're looking for!
Even if you have to buy out of a contract, you'll make that money back in savings in a number of months.
So as you look through your spending numbers, ask yourself:
1. Which categories feel the worst to look at?
2. What seem to be the lowest hanging fruits or the elephants in the room?
Write down each item you want to change in one big list.
Your approach to changing each of the items on your list will be different.
This is because there's going to be both easy, quick changes and there's going to be long-term changes.
There's also going to be both changes that have significant impact in improving your money situation and changes that will have minimal impact.
So after you make your list, head back to the top of your list and write down these two headers:
Time to Change | Impact on My Money
Then go down the list and next to each item, add a 1, 2 or 3 under the headers in line with each item.
Use "1" to mean the item is a slow change or will have a minimal impact in improving your money picture.
And use "3" to show that the item is a quick-change or will have significant impact.
Once you have your list and your numbers, then start taking action to change the items with the easiest change and most significant impact.
These will be the "3 | 3"s, "3 | 2"s and "2 | 3"s on your list.
We're going to push you here. And we want to remind you at this point that the only way your going to improve your money situation is by taking action.
Not by reading this article. Not by thinking about this process. By taking action.
So if you are here to actually start doing good with money, to give yourself the gift of personal freedom, then the above are the first steps you need to take to actually make it happen.
As you get going, it's going to take time to see you numbers completely change. It's not going to be one day or one week. Rather it's going to be one or two months.