Ready for better financial health in 2020? Here’s 5 financial education tips to get you there.
How to make more money, how to spend less, how to save more for the future: all important questions for enhancing your financial well-being. We've collected our favorite financial education tips to get your financial health on the right track in 2020.
Financial education 101: what you need to know about money in 2020
April is Financial Literacy Month—an ideal time to take stock of your personal finances, shore up your financial know-how and find ways to boost your savings. What should you think about doing this month to start improving your well-being and financial security?
Tip 1: Bump up your earnings by optimizing your tax withholding
What is tax withholding? Withholding refers to the amount of money in your paycheck that is allocated to your taxes. And you can change your tax withholding elections—it's a quick, easy and free way to add funds to your monthly budget.
If you get a refund check after filing your taxes, that's a sign you're sending too much of each paycheck to the IRS: essentially giving the government an interest-free loan every time you get paid.
Owing money to the IRS each tax season, meanwhile, could result in your getting hit with a big tax bill that you may struggle to afford. You want to be right in the sweet spot: paying just what you owe in taxes every pay period, no more and no less.
All you need to do to optimize your tax withholding is change your elections on the IRS' W-4 form. If you received a large refund, had a big tax bill or experienced a major life event like a marriage, a divorce or the birth of a child, adjusting your W-4 elections is a smart financial move.
Tip 2: Save on recurring expenses like subscription services by shopping around
The start of the year is also a good time to do a sanity check on your spending. Many spending categories—like internet service, cell phone service, cable and streaming services—are recurring charges, which makes them easy to ignore. Just pay the monthly fee and move on, right?
Chances are, you can free up a significant chunk of spending each month by taking a hard look at these recurring expenses. Can you find an internet provider that charges less than you're now paying?
Would it make sense to switch off your cable subscription? You may be able to keep your current service providers but negotiate for a lower rate—or take advantage of a special offer that is usually reserved for new customers.
Because these kinds of spending hit your budget every single month, any savings you can find will grow with time. You may only be able to slash your services spending by $20-$50 per month, but by the end of the year, your savings will have become big enough to notice.
Tip 3: Boost your pay by learning to negotiate
If your retirement savings aren't where you want them to be—or if your income doesn't match your aspirations in another way—now is a good time to figure out how to earn more money. One of the best ways to do that is to negotiate for a raise.
Sound stressful? If you haven't ever requested a raise, it might seem scary. But negotiating for higher pay is as simple as opening up a conversation: one in which you highlight your performance and make the case for why you deserve more money.
You don't need to put together a formal presentation to get a raise. As long as you gather evidence of your professional achievements—and suggest a figure in line with what's fair for your position—advocating for higher pay, more often than not, will show results.
Tip 4: Amp up your earnings with a side hustle
You can make money outside your primary job, as well. There are more opportunities than ever to find a job that doesn't require a fixed time commitment, especially if you're willing to strike out on your own as a consultant or freelancer.
From driving to delivery to food preparation, there are many companies that want your labor. Your only challenge is sifting through your options to find the one(s) that fit you best.
A side hustle can pair very well with an ambitious savings goal. If you want to save an extra few thousand dollars this year for retirement or an emergency-savings fund, contract work can help you get there.
Tip 5: Slash spending on dining
When you're working hard, it's tempting to treat yourself to a restaurant meal. And Americans are dining out more than ever: Restaurant spending rose 7.4% between January 2019 and January 2020, compared to an increase of just 2.5% in grocery store spending. Even when we stay home, it's become all too easy to order food delivery from an app—but these food costs can really add up.
Consider looking through your credit- or debit-card statements to see how much you spend on out-of-home dining. Odds are, it's more than you expect.
Imagine that you dine out twice a week and spend $30 each time. Thirty dollars isn't a huge amount on its own. Over time, though, it can take a big bite out of your wallet. Sixty dollars per week is $240 per month—and nearly $3000 per year!
Food is a prime place to cut back your spending in 2020. Even if you don't ditch restaurants altogether, you may benefit from tracking your spending more closely—and setting a monthly dining budget.