It All Makes Cents!

Amanda Harper


If you know the basics of handling your finances, much of the generic money advice you find online may seem silly or juvenile. You've heard the advice—and made up your own mind—about making coffee at home and skipping drinks at social events.

Ready for some money tips that feel a little more advanced? While we'd never claim to have it all figured out, we can share the advice we've gotten that felt like an "AHA!" moment.


Create a Personal Financial Calendar

Making time to think about your finances sounds about as much fun as scheduling a root canal. But just as you keep track of doctor's appointments and vehicle maintenance, you must keep track of financial to-do list items. Some money maintenance tasks, such as quarterly taxes, are regular and have fixed due dates. But much of minding your money is up to you to remember to tackle. Rather than leaving it up to chance, why not make calendar reminders for yourself?

Here are some items that you may want to set aside a date to consider or handle. If you're not sure which are necessary for you, ask your trusted financial expert!

  • Pull your free annual credit report
  • Schedule a meeting with your financial advisor(s)
  • Make your maximum retirement contribution
  • Review your financial goals with your family
  • Assess and plan for quarterly/yearly taxes
  • Review insurance policies
  • Review your FSA/HSA
  • Finalize charitable contributions for the year
  • Set Clear-Cut Goals

I think it's a fair bet that we all aim to save more money and grow our wealth. But it's hard to stick to goals—or celebrate your successes—if you don't have a clear picture of what winning looks like. 

Skip nebulous, poorly defined goals. Instead, set specific goalposts with real numbers and timelines. We suggest sticking to smaller, more manageable objectives with shorter timelines. This allows you to see your success in real time and feel confident that it is possible! When you hit your target, set the next one and keep that forward momentum.


Institute a (Reasonable) Shopping Policy

Impulse shopping is a reality of our lives—it's unavoidable. So, rather than feeling guilt and dread, we encourage you to create a few rules or mantras that can help you navigate these impulses just a little more mindfully. That way, you can be sure that the things you buy will be used and loved, with no regrets!

For many shoppers, it's helpful to have a list of "no-buy" categories of products that they simply don't need. Personally, I don't need to add a single short dress, pair of pants or sweater to my already overstuffed closet.

Studies consistently show that sales drive impulse spending and buyer's remorse more than anything else. Before adding that "bargain" to your cart, ask yourself whether you would love it just as much if it weren't on sale. Very often, these are items we wouldn't have looked at twice if they weren't under that "50% OFF" sign. Buy what you love, not what's on sale.


Make Use of Information Available to You

There are tons of experts waiting to help you navigate financial matters. Obviously, having a wealth management, financial planner or investment advisor in your corner is the best way to ensure you're making the right money moves. Suppose you don't already have a financial expert you meet with regularly. In that case, many offer one-time financial "checkup" appointments to answer your questions, set up a preliminary game plan and make you feel more confident.

But you may not know that you likely have some experts in your corner already. Your bank or credit union may offer free financial guidance. (If you're shopping around for a bank, consider whether they provide this when deciding on the future home for your money.) Your workplace retirement plan likely includes free help from the vendor that manages the plan. If you have an online brokerage tool, it likely includes resources to educate you on investing. And it goes without saying that the internet offers a wealth of information – just be sure it's a reliable, expert, trustworthy source.


Negotiate at Work

It's good advice to negotiate your salary at regular intervals and when interviewing for a new role. But have you considered negotiating other aspects of your work "perks" and compensation? Vacation time, reimbursements, commissions, job titles, special projects, retirement benefits matching, remote work days, professional development, severance and more may all be negotiable. There are many potential ways you can increase what you get from your career.


Have a Credit Card

So much of the discourse around credit cards is negative. And it's true, they can be your worst enemy. But in today's world, a credit card can actually be a financial safeguard as well as a benefit to your credit – so long as you pay the balance off in full every month and try to stay below 30% of your card's spending limit.

We've all had the dreaded fraudulent activity alert on our debit cards. It's stressful and scary when your account has potentially been compromised. Your whole life goes on hold until the situation is resolved.

However, this moment is still somewhat stressful with a credit card, but you're not immediately cut off from your money. Credit cards also offer a level of consumer protection that debit cards don't always provide. Especially if you shop online, a credit card places a wall between thieves and your money. While it doesn't mean you'll never get another fraudulent activity alert, it does mean that you'll still be able to make purchases – and your checking account won't be drained. That kind of peace of mind isn't exactly priceless, but it is nice.


Don't Just Sit on Savings

This sounds counter-intuitive; after all, the first piece of financial advice you got was probably "save more money." Having some money in your savings account is absolutely essential. But having too much money just sitting there means you may be missing out on opportunities for that money to grow.

For the risk-averse saver, one tactic may be to move "overflow" savings into a high-yield savings account. This means the money will accrue more interest. The drawbacks of these accounts is that there are often limits to the number of withdrawals and it can lack the perks of a traditional savings account. It's also just not the most efficient way to grow your wealth; a target date fund may be more effective for you.


Shop Around

When it comes to your money, it's essential to know that you're getting the best possible service for the best price. From car insurance to wealth management, it's worth occasionally shopping around. While it's very important to bear in mind the trust and warm relationship you have with your current vendors, 

Just remember: cheaper does not always mean better. If a new vendor offers a much, much better deal, be skeptical and ask lots of questions. 


Be Patient

Warren Buffet famously said, "The biggest thing about making money is time. You don't have to be particularly smart; you just have to be patient." 

In times of financial uncertainty, it can be tempting to make drastic moves. If you're feeling uncertain, meet with your financial team to have a conversation. But if they advise caution and patience, take their advice – and a deep breath. It's going to be fine!