5 Easy Financial Wins I Had When Starting My Personal Finance Journey
After having my personal finance aha moment, I knew I needed to get on the right path quickly. Securing some easy financial wins at the start of the journey would help get momentum rolling and keep me motivated.
To set the backstory, I had spent the formative years during and immediately following university making some money mistakes. See my post on Stupid Money Mistakes I’ve Made – What I Learned From Them.
Luckily none of these mistakes were crippling and I was still young enough that I could eliminate those missteps with better decision making.
But where do you start? When you haven’t been overly efficient with your money it’s hard to decipher how to even begin taking your personal finances more seriously. For me, the first step I touch on helped lead into the next wins. Small, easy changes or strategies to get on the right path and slowly make improvements.
The 5 easy financial wins I had early on in my personal finance journey are shared below, including:
- Collected Knowledge On Finances
- Performed A Spending Audit
- Turned Clutter And Extra Stuff To Student Loan Payments
- Started Investing With A Robo-Advisor
- Spent Smarter On Things That Matter
COLLECTED KNOWLEDGE ON FINANCES
After I made the decision that it was time to put money at the forefront of my priorities, the hunt for knowledge was on. I knew I needed to better understand the basics of budgeting, investing, retirement and general day-to-day money management.
Thankfully for me (and all us), there is an endless amount of valuable, easy to digest information on personal finances that can help get you on the righteous path.
There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of podcasts and books in the personal finance world but I personally took value from each within this collection during my own starting point.
You can see my post The Personal Finance Resources And Content That Saved My Financial Life for more books, blogs, podcasts and apps or services. Or click the image below to get more details on the free Personal Finance Resource Starter Kit I put together.
Personal Finance Podcasts
- Millennial Money Minutes: this show is hosted by Grant (Millennial Money) and Matt (Distilled Dollar). It’s short-form, quick-hitting content that covers one specific topic each episode. There are 275+ episodes that run the gamut of all things finance and these topics are discussed in personable, understandable manner.
- ChooseFI: Start from episode 1 and work your way through the catalog of ChooseFI. The topics discussed at times will be above the beginners personal finance mindset but that knowledge is gold. The passion of the hosts, Jonathan and Brad, as well as their guests, rings true in each episode.
- The Side Hustle Show: Nick Loper (Side Hustle Nation) hosts this weekly podcast that is all about generating additional revenue streams. This podcast really helped open my eyes to the endless opportunities there are to make more money from your hobbies, skills and/or hustle. 275+ episodes and counting with great guests, advice and strategies to push your earnings outside just the 9-to-5.
Check my posts 30+ Best Personal Finance, Investing and Side Hustle Podcasts and Top 75 Podcasts To Help Improve Your Life for great podcast recommendations.
Personal Finance Blogs
- Get Rich Slowly: JD Roth at Get Rich Slowly has an archive of personal finance content dating back to 2006. Every topic imaginable has been covered, from the basics to the higher level financial ins and outs.
- Millennial Money: Grant at Millennial Money (and the podcast above) brings relevant content to millennials to the forefront of his writing. From investing and real estate to side hustles and basic money management, he covers it all.
- Making Sense of Cents: Michelle at Making Sense of Cents brings an all-encompassing lifestyle approach to her personal finance blog. The topics discussed align with everyday financial decisions we’re all making. The tips, recommendations and stories are easy to digest and connect to your own life.
For a complete list of personal finance blogs, check out Modest Money’s Top Finance Blogs List.
Personal Finance Books
- The Simple Path To Wealth: Your Road Map To Financial Independence and a Rich, Free Life: this is the #1 book I’d recommend to anyone ready to start putting personal finance as a top priority in their life. JL Collins penned this amazing book that outlines the mindset, motivation and strategies behind financial independence.
- Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps To Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Fully Revised and Updated: This book by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez is a stalwart of the personal finance community. Originally released in 1992 and it has since been updated in 2018 to better fit the modern world of money.
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich: A straight to the point, matter of fact book on personal finance by Remit Sethi. While the title is a little click baity, the content inside is not and the advice shared is rooted in taking action. Remit lays out the book into a 6-week personal finance program all built around banking, saving, budgeting, investing and wealth building.
See my post 25 Books For Personal And Professional Development for additional books that might be of interest. I also have some of my all-time favourite reads on my Book Recommendations page.
PERFORMED A SPENDING AUDIT
After collecting a basic foundation of knowledge on money, I realized how much I was doing wrong. The first step was to evaluate my spending with a fine tooth comb.
Where was my money going? What problem areas did I have? How could I make immediate improvements?
I went back through six months of statements from my bank and credit card providers. I used Mint, Excel and good ol’ pen and paper to better understand the different buckets I was spending on. Check my Personal Finance Tool, Services & Apps Recommendations Page for more resources to help you master your money.
From the six month spending audit, I identified a few quick and easy financial wins. I was able to generate additional monthly savings of $200+ by barely even changing my lifestyle or blinking an eye.
Spending Audit Round #1
- Better Grocery Planning: $90 monthly savings (thanks to Checkout 51)
- Reduced Cable Subscription Package: $40 monthly savings
- Refinanced Student Loans: $30 monthly savings
- No Weekday Beers Policy: $30 monthly savings
- Negotiated Cell Phone: $10 monthly savings
Again, this barely affected my lifestyle or caused any discomfort. After another month, I realized I could push those savings further by impeding selectively in some spending areas.
Spending Audit Round #2
- Being More Mindful With Entertainment & Eating Out: $150-$250++ additional monthly savings
- Cancelled Cable & Sourced TV/Movies Through Other Streaming: $50 additional monthly savings
- Better Grocery Planning v2.0: $35-50 additional monthly savings
- Cancelled Other Entertainment Subscriptions: $35 additional monthly savings
That pushed my overall spending audit discovering of savings to an additional $450-$550++ monthly.
There was so much room for improvement given how poorly I was spending and managing my money. These additional savings were used to first payoff my consumer credit card debt quickly. Then those funds went to increasing my bi-weekly student loan payments by 75% and finally snowballed into additional retirement savings.
Small wins to get that ball rolling, check my post on Building Good Money Habits – Make Your Own Money Momentum.
Perform your own spending audit if you’re looking to better manage your budget. Whether that leads to a higher savings rate or reallocation of your dollars, starting your personal finance journey with an understanding of your cash flow is essential.
TURNED CLUTTER AND EXTRA STUFF TO STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS
After getting serious about eliminating my student loan debt, the first step was to attack that principal balance.
Where can I find a sum of money to throw at it? Sure, the additional monthly savings I identified above were helping. But what other easy wins did I have?
I quickly realized after looking around my apartment and I had a whole lot of student loan support dollars just lying around my place. These items could easily be listed online via eBay as a quick income boost.
What Did I Sell On eBay?
- Old golf clubs
- An Xbox I never used
- Sports memorabilia
- 2 previous iPhone models
- …and a handful of other items
It took me less than 45 minutes to take some pictures and list everything on eBay. In the end I sold $1,800+ worth of items, after fees and shipping that was over $1,250+ in net profits to go towards my student loans. That additional $1,250 will not only save me interest and shrink the repayment timeline, it also helped shift my mindset towards my debt and realize I could control it.
I guarantee any person out there looking for some additional dollars for whatever purpose they need it – debt repayment, investing, vacation fund, etc. – can find some of it around their house. Check your closet, cupboards, under the bed and just walk around your place.
What do you actually need? What items bring value to your life? Could you survive without it?
After that first sale you’ll be hooked. It’s such an easy win at the start of your personal finance journey (or any stage of your money timeline). Plus clearing out all that excess stuff is a freeing feeling.
STARTED INVESTING WITH A ROBO-ADVISOR
Through my work I had been contributing to an RPP, including a 5% employer match, and a separate RRSP (essentially a 401k and IRA respectively for American readers). However, it wasn’t until only I had my personal finance aha moment and consumed the resources mentioned in the knowledge section above, did I start investing outside my employee offerings.
Based on still being in debt and only just starting to get my finances sorted out, I told myself I would start via a robo-advisor until I had $10,000 saved. After that I would turn to my own DIY discount brokerage account via QuestTrade (I am in Canada).
I know it wasn’t the most optimal approach given the fees are slightly higher but the main benefit for me was developing the mindset and habit. I know my personality, if I started investing as quickly as possible I would take it and run with it.
A robo-advisor was a suitable platform to get that mindset and the habits rolling quickly and easily.
So where did I begin?
Why Wealthsimple? We didn’t have as many robo-advisor options at the time when I was starting out but Wealthsimple had just opened up shop. I was intrigued by:
- No minimum deposit
- Easy set up (minutes) and intuitive use (both app and desktop)
- Growth fund with a portfolio of indices to get broad market exposure
- Timely customer service when I reached out initially with a few questions
- $5,000 managed free (I got that to $10,000 free pretty easily with their incentives of referring a friend and setting up auto-deposits)
Starting with Wealthsimple worked as planned. It got me committed to investing and pushed me to invest more, this was an easy financial win for me.
The ease of use with the platform turned it into a game almost. How much have I saved this week? What other funds did I come in under budget on this month to put towards my retirement? How fast could I get to that $10,000 mark?
If you’re just starting out on your personal finance journey and might feel a bit overwhelmed with DIY investing, there is no harm in beginning with a robo-advisor. During that time you can collect more information on other mean of investing and sort out other areas of your financial life all while continuing to save for retirement.
You can get started with Wealthsimple or one of the other robo-advisors offered.
SPENT SMARTER ON THE THINGS THAT MATTER
As highlighted above, my spending audit helped eliminate a lot of my wasteful or poor spending habits. However, my goal isn’t to live a hobbit lifestyle within the confines of my house. No fun, no excitement or adventures just to increase my savings rate.
Yes, the goal of eliminating my wastefulness was to pay off debt and save more for retirement. But another goal was so that I could spend more (and smarter) on the things that matter to me and bring me joy.
What are the things that matter most to me? My girlfriend.
Life experiences with her bring me the most joy. And spending money to accomplish that within my means is worth every cent. But I knew I could get smarter with how I was spending on the two biggest categories that bring us our enjoyment: travel and date nights.
Who doesn’t love to travel? Immersing yourself in the culture, food, people and history of places around the globe.
Traditionally I would just do some quick searching online to find the best prices I could, pull out the credit card and reserve.That wasn’t the smarter way of spending on the things that matter. Luckily, within the knowledge collection process I outlined above I took in some information on travel rewards and travel hacking.
That got the ball rolling…and I haven’t looked back.
Check my post Travel Hacking Resources Guide For Americans And Canadians. It includes over 70+ links, tools and tips to travel more for less. From accruing points through rewards cards and rewards program to specific podcasts, blogs and online communities, that post pulled together everything we’ve implemented.
If you’re looking to better spend on an upcoming vacation, I wrote 21 tips to save money this summer and still make the most it.
Breaking our general routine and enjoying different experiences is important to us. Unfortunately, we had been spending too much on our date nights in the past.
However, once we decided better money management and understanding of our personal finances was essential, we implemented some new strategies to stretch those dollars. Small changes that would barely change our lifestyle and still give us that time together.
What were those easy financial wins?
- Tuesday Movie Nights: movies are 50% off on Tuesdays, a perfectly frugal date night.
- Finding The Local Eateries Special Nights: we figured out what specials or discount offers are available on the different nights at our favourite (or new) food spots in the area. We don’t eat out often but now when we do we can reap the rewards of smarter spending.
- GroupOn: in terms of providing new experiences at a sometimes crazy discount, GroupOn is ideal. From fun events like paint nights at a local bar or 2-for-1 access to the museum, not to mention restaurants and travel discounts too, GroupOn is a great date night tool. Hundreds of offerings every week to choose from and selectively deploy as a financial win.
- More At Home Date Nights: cooking homemade meals, playing board games, watching movies or getting outside for a nice walk.
Nothing groundbreaking or life-changing here but in the beginning, it’s all about the easy wins. Looking for some inexpensive date night ideas? Check out this post 105 Cheap Date Night Ideas.
I still have so much room for improvement to keep that momentum building faster and further. However, these easy financial wins really drove home the positive reinforcement on the mindset and habits I needed to implement.
Small steps, patience and consistent effort at the start of my money management turnaround.
There are basic changes anyone can make at the start of their personal finance journey. For me, these changes barely altered my lifestyle, happiness or comfort and the net-effect has put me on the path I am now.
What financial wins did you have early on? Let me know what worked for you in the comments below.
Are there some easy financial wins you would recommend people accomplish at the start of their money journey? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Here are some other posts to help you take control of your money and life:
- 15 Smart Money Moves You Can (Easily) Make This Month
- Calculate Your Net Worth – Why Do It And How To Track It For Free
- The Personal Finance Resources And Content That Saved My Life
- Understanding Your Credit Score And How To Check It For Free
- 6 Tips To Help Create Accountability With Your Personal Finances
- 35+ Rewarding Side Hustles Anyone Can Do To Earn More Money