This Halloween, the scariest haunted house on the block might be your own home if you’ve got financial pitfalls like big credit card bills or surprise medical bills keeping you up at night.
But like creaky floorboards and noisy pipes, saving for retirement and getting out of debt aren’t as spooky as they seem. And the best way to get over your financial fears is to look them in the eye. So as you celebrate Halloween this year, we’ve got some tips to help you not to get spooked by your finances.
Cast out demons with a budget
Making a budget is probably the best way to protect yourself from past and future financial demons. If you haven’t made a budget before, now’s the time to do it. By creating a budget, you can make room for all of your expenses, your debts, and your short-term and long-term goals.
To make a budget, you first need to establish what your monthly income is and what your monthly expenses are. Keep in mind that there are two different kinds of expenses: fixed or essential expenses that you have every month such as rent and variable or nonessential expenses that can change from month to month such as money for dining out. Additionally, you’ll probably want to make room in your budget for saving and investing.
Prepare for stormy days and emergencies
Rainy days and emergencies can make your financial situation even scarier than it might already be. And if you don’t have short-term savings to help you get through those rainy days, they can be even more daunting.
In your budget, make room for short-term savings in the form of both a rainy day fund and an emergency fund. Your rainy day fund should contain $500 to $1,000 and can help you manage if you have an unexpected expense such as home repairs or medical bills. When you have a rainy day fund, you won’t have to put those expenses on a credit card. Your rainy day fund should be liquid so that you can use that money whenever you need it.
You should also have an emergency fund with three to six months worth of expenses. So if you experience a big life change such as a layoff, you’ll have money to fall back on. You might want to keep your emergency fund in an account where it can earn interest over time.
Don’t let debt drain you
Having more debt than you can handle makes everything in your financial life more difficult. Like a vampire, credit card debt, student loan debt, and more can drain your financial resources if you don’t handle it carefully.
But if you have more debt than you’re comfortable with, it’s not too late to get on top of it. Two strategies you might use to attack your debt are the avalanche method and the snowball method. With the avalanche method, you start by paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first and then move on to debts with lower rates. With the snowball method, you start by paying off your smallest debts first and then move on to bigger ones as you build confidence.
When you don’t have debt pulling your down, you can work towards your financial goals such as investing or buying a home.
Don’t let retirement fall through the cracks
When you’re fighting off different financial hazards, saving for retirement might start to fall through the cracks. But saving for retirement is critical to your overall financial wellness.
There are two main kinds of retirement accounts: 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). A 401(k) is usually provided through an employer and can have an employer-match benefit, whereas generally anyone can open an IRA by opening an account at a bank or some other financial institution that offers it.
There are two different types of IRAs, Roth IRAs and traditional ones. Contributions to traditional IRAs are made on a pre-tax basis, meaning that you don’t pay taxes on that money until you withdraw from your retirement account. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made on a post-tax basis, meaning that you pay taxes on the money you contribute so that you don’t have to pay taxes on your savings once you withdraw it.
If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, you can open a retirement account now.1 If you already save for retirement, consider increasing regular contributions if you’re able.
Get ahead of future ghosts by investing
You might think you’re not ready or financially prepared to start investing. But by starting to invest early, you can avoid more financial ghosts in the future. With Stash, you can start investing with small amounts of money whenever you’re ready. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and exchange-traded funds for as little as $1.
Investing regularly in a diversified portfolio over the long-term can help you build savings over time.2 With Stash’s Set Schedule tool, you can automate your investments so that you can invest regularly without having to even think about it.