When you think about money, how do you feel?
For many people, the answer to that question is “anxious, shameful, and avoidant.” When it comes to money, we often feel overwhelmed and uninformed.
Feelings around money are complicated and can intersect with parts of our identity – gender, race, class, and more. Our relationships with money are hugely influenced by our families growing up and can take a while to untangle.
If you feel like you don’t have a positive relationship with money, it’s worth exploring why — and putting in the work to improve it. Improving that relationship takes time, effort, and honesty, but there are two things you can do today (and every day) to start that process and feel a little bit more in control. And the beautiful thing is that they each can take just five minutes of your day.
Spend time with your money every day.
No, you don’t need to sit in a bank vault (or with the pile of cash hidden in your mattress), but a key part of feeling more confident with your money is getting comfortable actually looking at it, even if it is just $2. This means knowing what’s going on with your dollars: The good, the bad, and the ugly.
When people feel overwhelmed it’s natural — and very human — to react by avoiding the thing that is overwhelming us. That can feel good in the moment, but it harms us in the long-term. The stress lingers and creeps in when we are trying to enjoy our lives, creating an underlying current of stress.
Instead of actively making decisions that might benefit us in the long run, our avoidance is a passive decision that is detrimental to our future and that causes us stress today.
It’s important to be in tune with where your money is going so that you can make decisions and adjustments to reflect where you want it to go. By spending a bit of time every day checking in on the previous day’s transactions (and confirming your account balances) you’re able to reflect on your spending and how it’s aligning with your priorities. You also get a full picture of what money you have and what it needs to cover.
Every morning I sit down to enjoy my coffee or tea and I spend five minutes or less updating the previous day’s transactions and reconciling my account in YNAB.
It gives me a chance to check in on any bills that are coming up. If I have extra money hanging out in my checking account, I can decide to use it to make an extra payment on my car loan or send it over to a high-interest savings account or investment account. I love this part of my morning. It’s a simple routine, and it’s something for me.
It doesn’t matter if you use a homegrown Excel sheet, YNAB, Mint, or something else entirely. What matters is the routine, the awareness, and the intentionality.
The initial set-up will take longer than five minutes, but once your tracking system is in place, it really is only five minutes of your day. That’s five minutes that can help lower your financial stress, lead to more intentional choices, and help you feel more comfortable with your money. And that’s a pretty good return on investment if I do say so myself.
Learn about personal finance
The other part of the equation is removing some of the intimidation around money and the financial world.
If you can commit to spending five minutes each day learning about personal finance, you’ll be shocked at how quickly you start to feel confident talking about things that used to make your eyes glaze over.
Investing can seem incredibly complex until you start reading about it and learn that it boils down to a few simple rules. You might not understand the difference between a Roth, Traditional, and Simple IRA, but one article can help you decide which account may be right for you.
You can become proficient in something by spending five minutes each day on it, and just like interest, that knowledge will compound. The things that previously seemed scary and out of reach suddenly become accessible, and that means you can spread the knowledge.
There will always be more to learn (that’s the beauty of life) but you only need to know a little bit to get started.
Financial knowledge is a game-changer — that’s why they don’t teach this stuff in schools, but that’s a topic for another day. Luckily, nowadays we have entry-level learning available to us in so many different formats. If you want to get started, find a few personal finance blogs you like (hi!) and commit to reading one article per day.
Even better, find content created by someone who shares a part of your identity. Don’t let old white men have a monopoly on the financial world!
Check out a personal finance book from the library and read one chapter each night before bed. Listen to a financial podcast on your way to work in the morning. The possibilities are endless! Obviously listening to a podcast or reading a book can take more than five minutes, but you can listen to them on your commute or maybe even during work in the background.
I typically rotate between all of these different options throughout a week (I’ll link some of my favorites down below), and if I have a question, I look it up on my own time.
A getting-started list of resources
- Mr. Money Mustache
- The Simple Path to Wealth
- Rich & Regular
- Tread Lightly Retire Early
- Get Rich Slowly
- Millennial Money
- Your Money or Your Life (Vicki Robin)
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (John C. Bogle)
- Financial Freedom (Grant Sabatier)
- Broke Millennial (Erin Lowry)
- The Millionaire Next Door (Thomas J. Stanley)
- Bad with Money (Gaby Dunn)
While successfully completing a 180-degree shift in your relationship with money will take time (and maybe even a little therapy) you can make some significant strides in improving your financial well-being by just implementing these two small habits into your day. So why not try one out today?
PS — The YNAB link is a referral link, which means that if you sign up for a subscription at the end of your free trial, I’ll get a bonus free month. I wouldn’t recommend YNAB if I weren’t enthusiastic about it, and I think you will be, too! You can sign up for your free trial of You Need a Budget here.