I didn’t even know personal finance was a thing until I got into my 30s. I’m not ashamed to admit that since I was just living life and enjoying every second of it.
However, I found that I enjoyed life much more when I wasn’t stressing about bills and had money in the bank.
Living paycheck to paycheck and spending everything you got to “support the economy” was a fun way to live when I had money.
It was a miserable way to live when I didn’t.
That’s when I decided that I needed some structure. There had to be some rules that I could follow that would help me get on track with all of this money stuff.
Until I did research and came up with these rules “money stuff” was an actual thing to me.
15 Simple Rules of Personal Finance
You know the line where they say “these aren’t really rules, they are more like guidelines”?
Same applies here.
When it comes to money nothing is really written in stone.
You have to decide for yourself if these rules are the best course of action for you.
1. Spend Less Than You Earn
The simplest of concepts and yet something I continuously failed at for a very long time.
If you want to continue to have money in the bank (or wherever) then you need to spend less than you earn.
This was a problem for me because I wouldn’t earn money at a 9-5 job. Instead, my money came in spurts and in different amounts.
Because of this I always figured that whatever I spent I could just make more of later.
Definitely not the best approach to things.
Which brings me to the next rule…
2. Help Your Future Self, Don’t Expect Them to Help You
One of the hardest things for people to grasp is that our future selves are not actually a different person.
That is how many people view things. It’s weird.
When you think about spending your rent money at the club you probably think that your future self (that cool person) will figure things out.
Your goals should be that your current self makes life better for your future self.
They are the same person.
3. Build an Emergency Fund
Crazy things happen to normal people.
The more things that you have in your life, the greater the chance that something bad will happen that will require money.
For example, I’m married with 4 dogs, a house, a car, and a ton of computer equipment.
If anything happens to any of these people and things in my life then I need to make sure I have money to fix the situation quickly.
This is why it’s important to build an emergency fund.
One awesome side effect of an emergency fun is that it offers you a peace of mind.
Sure the unknown can be quite stressful but when you have money saved up to take care of it, it makes things a little bit easier.
4. Always Kill High-Interest Debt
Because everything is done electronically, it is hard to see how painful high-interest debt is.
It’s the debt that never seems to end just like that $19 Tiki drink at the bar with terrible decorating.
It’s hard to make progress if you’re being held back by something and that something is high-interest debt.
What about low-interest debt?
That really depends on how you want to tackle things. Some people believe that if you have low-interest debt (1%-3%) then you are better off using the extra money that you would use to pay it off to make investments with a higher return (5%).
Other people just want to clear all of their debts as soon as possible.
5. Build a Budget
I hate the word budget because it always makes me feel like I don’t have enough money to buy or do what I want.
It seems limiting but there is a good reason for that.
Sometimes you don’t have enough money to buy or do what you want.
What a budget does though is allow you to plan.
It allows you to get creative.
Only have $20 for entertainment purposes this weekend?
Figure out what you can do with $20 and run with it.
Once I got over the mental hurdle of budgets being limiting, life became so much easier and less stressful since I understood how much I could spend without stressing out my future self.
6. Figure Out Your True Hourly Wage
You don’t really earn $15/hr.
You really earn $15/hr – taxes – costs of commuting – professional clothes – work-related meals – other expenses you pay out of pocket.
Oh, also don’t forget to figure out how much time you spend doing work-related things.
- Driving to work
- Working from home
- Preparing for work
You may discover that you earn a lot less than you think.
The goal here isn’t to make you depressed.
The goal is to help you see how much you think your time is worth.
For example, let’s say your true hourly wage is actually $8/hr.
Your friends want to go out for drinks and you know you’ll spend $40.
Is going out with them worth 5 hours of your life?
7. Set Big Ass Hairy Goals
It’s hard to get better with money if you don’t have big goals to aim for and that you keep reminding yourself of.
For my wife it’s a house in Southern California close to the water.
For me it’s retirement.
Every time I spend money I know I’m not getting myself closer to either of these goals.
By no means am I trying to restrict the enjoyment I get out of life now, but I do what to take care of my future self.
He seems like he’ll be a good guy.
8. Make a Meal Plan
This one is more recent now that I follow the Ketogenic Lifestyle.
Being able to plan your meals for the week helps to make sure you aren’t spontaneously spending money on expensive meals or slowly nickel and diming your way through bags of chips.
When you plan your meals you know what you are going to have and how much you need to spend to make it happen.
Seriously, this becomes a complete gamechanger for anyone.
9. Don’t Ever Go Grocery Shopping Without a List
Bad things happen.
If you’re meal planning then this makes things a lot easier because you’ll already know what food you need.
10. Don’t Worry About What Other People Think or How They Spend Their Money
I have a friend that buy Rolexes and another friend that will complain about a $5 beer.
I don’t worry about how they spend their money because it is their money and I don’t want to get caught in a comparison trap.
I also don’t worry about what other people think. This is obviously easier said than done but these people aren’t part of my goals.
In my partying days I would buy bottles of champagne just to show off. My “friends” would drink every weekend pretty much on me.
One day I lost all of my money and they asked if I was going out.
I said sure but I couldn’t buy bottles.
I never hung out with them again.
11. Set Time Every Month to Review Yourself
This not only includes your finances but your life as well.
Are you staying on track? If not, why not? If so did you encounter any obstacles?
It’s very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and not take the time to review until it’s your birthday or New Year’s Eve.
12. Start a Side Hustle
This may sound crazy.
Maybe you work enough already.
Maybe you think you don’t have the skills to start a side hustle.
Believe me, in today’s world anyone can start a side hustle.
Related: 15 Side Hustles You Can Start Today.
13. Adopt the 10-Second Rule
I’m an impulse buyer.
I see something I like, I buy it.
As you can imagine this can be pretty problematic for someone trying to save money.
That’s why I’ve now adapted the 10-second rule.
The 10-second rule simply states that before you put something in your cart wait 10 seconds to justify why you want to spend money on it.
Remember, your time equates to money.
14. Adopt the 30-Day Rule
Similar to the 10-second rule but for more expensive things.
Thinking about getting that diamond encrusted iPhone?
Wait 30 days to see if the urge is still there.
It’s hard to achieve dreams without the support of those close to you.
You’ll have enough challenges fighting against you, you don’t need those close to you helping those forces out.
Instead, be sure to share with them your goals so they can get on board with everything.
Want to save $5,000? Then they’ll understand if you aren’t trying to go out every weekend to the club with $40 cover.
Want to lose 20 lbs? Then they’ll understand if you aren’t trying to go eat at the burger joint for happy hour every lunch.
What happens if they aren’t on board?
What happens if it’s your partner?
Sit them down and have a heart to heart.
What happens after that is up to you.
Many More Rules
There are a ton more rules one could apply to their personal finance lives.
- Use public transportation
- Bring your own lunch
- Shop at low-end stores first
- Never play the lottery
However, I’ve tried to list the rules that I feel will apply to everyone looking to get their personal finances back on track or keep them on track.