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What’s on Your Financial To-Do List? Here are 6 Easy Tips

6 Easy Financial To-Do's

As we’ve all seen firsthand, life can change a lot from month to month and year to year. But there are some simple financial habits that are always a good idea. With a little help from Haven Life, here are six things on our to-do lists for starting the year off right, no matter what your family structure…

Financial To-Do's

1. Get familiar with your credit score.
The credit score — so much riding on one little number. Monitoring your score can be scary, but it’s also important for your financial health. The more you know, the more empowered you are. If you don’t already know your credit score, there are a number of apps and services that will track it for free each month and automatically notify you of any changes. The golden rule to improve or maintain good credit? Aim to pay your bills on time each month, and whenever possible, pay off credit cards in full.

2. Do a deep dive.
Take a look through your bank and credit card statements to check for any surprising activity. Many times, we’ve unearthed fraudulent charges or an ancient magazine subscription going to an old address. It’s also a good opportunity to take stock of what you spend your money on and notice any patterns. You may even discover areas where it pays to negotiate (for example, you can ask to waive the annual fee on your credit card, or ask for an interest rate reduction).

Financial To-Do's

3. Consider life insurance.
Life insurance is one of the best things you can do for your loved ones. It can feel daunting, but if you have children, life insurance is one way to provide some financial security for them in the event something happens to you. Life insurance is also worth considering if you have people who depend on you in any way (for example, if you have a partner who relies on you financially, or if you’re single and have a mortgage and would want someone in your family to have your home as an asset if you were to die). It can also be worth considering if you don’t have children but plan to have them in the future, since the younger and healthier you are, the cheaper it is.

If you’re not sure if life insurance is right for you, try using this online calculator. (It will even tell you if you don’t need it at all!)

When it comes to life insurance, our online agency of choice is Haven Life. They make the process streamlined — the online application process is so simple! But the first step is to get a quote. You may be surprised by how affordable term life insurance can be. (For example, a 20-year, $500,000 Haven Term policy for a healthy, non-smoking 35-year-old woman is $20.32 per month.)

Financial To-Do's

4. Unsubscribe.
Consider cutting off any subscriptions or programs you no longer use (or never really used to begin with), like music streaming services, online publications, or fitness apps. Do you still need every streaming service now that your favorite show is over? Rest assured you can always re-up in the future if you change your mind.

5. Create an emergency fund. (Or, build up your existing one.)
Financial experts agree that one of the top things you can do for yourself, and your future, is to create an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a cushion, separate from your personal savings, that you put aside in the event of any unforeseen circumstances. Should something happen (say, a job loss, medical bills, property damage, the list goes on), your emergency fund can help prevent you from accruing debt and help you save in the long run. Just how much should go in your emergency fund? It could be anywhere from a month to six months of expenses, or more. It ultimately depends on what you can manage and what gives you peace of mind. You can always start small, and add to it whenever possible.

Financial To-Do's

6. Set tangible goals.
With any kind of planning, it’s important to remember the why. Goalposts give you something to look forward to and provide motivation for staying on track. It could be a future goal, like paying off debt or putting money aside in a college savings fund. It can also be more immediate, like buying something for your home or taking a trip (when it’s safe to do so). Write them down so they’re official, then check in with yourself throughout the year to track and refine them.

Financial To-Do's

If there’s just one thing you do this year, for both your peace of mind and your family’s future, life insurance is a great place to start.

Last but never least, know that any and all steps you take to improve your financial future are worth feeling proud of.

What goals are on your to-do list this year? Do you have any other helpful tips to add?

(Photos by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Haven Life, a partner we love. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep Cup of Jo running.)

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

  1. Rachael says...

    Agree with Life Insurance. In Australia, it’s common to have it bundled into/inside our superannuation fund (retirement), the policy cost isn’t too much, and it means that for those managing a tight cashflow, they aren’t needing to squeeze a little more to be protected.

    I just buy less coffee out this year. It’s an expensive habit, that could save me a few hundred if I added it all up

  2. Cait says...

    I’ve been a fan of Rubyellen and her blog for over ten years. I was so thrilled to see their beautiful family featured. And this is a good post for them to model for – I know she cares about budgeting ;)

  3. ruth says...

    Anyone know how to find the blog or IG of the big beautiful family above? I used to follow them years ago and would love to again. xx

  4. R says...

    Reminder that to anyone who has had the privilege of building personal wealth, especially those who built it on the backs on black and brown labor and with government support/subsidies/land grants – need to redistribute that immediately. And I don’t mean donating to the NAACP – direct cash aid to the people in your communities/cities.

    Reminder that if “investing” means becoming a landlord, you’re exploiting working class people and profiting off their labor. if “investing” means joining a portfolio that invests in polluters and developers, your wealth comes at an expense to others.

    rather than focusing on building personal wealth, lets focus on reparations and building strong communities.

    • Karen says...

      News flash that not all landlords are rolling in the cash – that rent money goes to the landlord, who in turn pays the mortgage, the gardener, the water, the property manager, the City, files tax returns, etc. It’s so easy to assume landlord are just makin’ money left and right, and that is not always the case.

      And if landlords are exploiting working class people and profiting off their labor, what about the banks who issue mortgages? This is all a cycle, and it doesn’t start/end at tenant/landlord.

    • Mary says...

      This is such a silly comment, I am compelled to reply. I am a landlord. I am also a single mother and the person responsible for my all bills, including eventual college tuition, for my son. Implying that I am somehow “ripping off the working class” is outrageous. My tenants over the last 15 yrs, would say that they were provided a wonderful place to live while they finished grad school, did postdocs, started small businesses and many other noble pursuits. It’s been a win/win and I am proud to be a landlord and consider it a way to diversify my investments and save for both my son and my own future. Please do not boldly disrespect people’s choices.

    • Sarah K says...

      What a ridiculous comment. As a small-time landlord I find your gross generalizations extremely offensive. One of my renters is a black lesbian couple, both immigrants- should I throw them out and encourage them to purchase their own condo?
      Your comment also completely ignores that Americans must build personal wealth in order to secure retirement. We have no social safety net. Putting on your own oxygen mask first is prudent.

    • Jordan G says...

      Yikes. We landlords aren’t necessarily “exploiting” anyone. We could all be encouraged to look at any bias we have when considering tenants, but this comment is just over the top.

  5. Mallory says...

    I purchased a Haven Life policy after a previous sponsored post. I did not realize how often knowledge of the policy brings me piece of mind. I cannot say that this policy is any better or worst than others, but the process was simple – minus that pesky blood draw.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’m so glad, Mallory!

  6. Jeanne says...

    I would like to add one thing to this list. Please consider filling out a healthcare power of attorney. Should you or a loved one go into the hospital for any reason you/they will likely go alone due to Covid. I have just recently experienced this with my 79 year old father. Healthcare power of attorney helps eliminate issues within the family as well as issues for the hospital. Not to mention the obvious, protection of the patient. Less drama for everyone involved because emotions run high in these experiences and while you might assume everyone will be reasonable, you might also find otherwise. These forms may be found free online. Just make sure it is the form specific to your state.

    • Krystal says...

      Yes, this! I am currently in training to be an end-of-life doula, to help people with this, exactly! We are so afraid to talk about death that it can leave our loved ones reeling to make big decisions at a vulnerable time, and often at great emotional and financial cost. It’s not morbid to discuss end-of-life plans. It’s loving and considerate. Added bonus: you’re more likely to have your actual desires for care honored when people, you know, actually know what they are!

    • C says...

      I so agree with this, as well as filling out an advanced directive form that outlines your goals of care should it come to the point that you are not in a position to make those known for yourself. I work with mostly geriatric patients in a hospital setting and so many families are having these conversations for the fist time when they are in an emergency situation and their family member is unable to verbalize their wishes. I agree with Krystal as well, it may feel morbid but I have gained a lot of peace of mind having these conversations with my parents and knowing that I’ll be able to honor their wishes when the time comes.

  7. KJ says...

    How others judge your choices says more about them than you.

    Anna, your grace is inspiring and best wishes for your family!

    COJ – you guys are doing great!

  8. Cynthia says...

    How many children to have is a personal decision, and folks should not be criticized for their choices. My husband and I came from small families, and we decided to have only two children which suited us. As for those who criticize the sponsored posts, don’t read Cup of Jo. If it’s a sponsored post, I feel the products can be trusted.

  9. Michaela says...

    As someone who’s pregnant for the first time, yesterday morning I was talking to my partner about life insurance and a will and guardians for our future little one, so this post is so timely!

    While it’s so disappointing to see how many people are judging and criticizing personal family planning decisions, it’s heartening to see how many people are defending those of us who are interested in having children and growing our families- this is a personal choice, and while individual choices do have an environmental impact, they have nowhere near the impact of corporations. For those of you who feel the need to shame other people’s family planning choices and actions, maybe try directing that energy at big companies and industries, or perhaps examining your own choices before you make judgements about strangers on the internet.

  10. Becky says...

    Over the course of the pandemic we have cut off some our subscriptions. Some offered to drastically cut down my monthly fee for a few months but it would go back up and while that was tempting I stayed with a firm no.

    Another suggestion, I was in desperate need of a new phone and I purchased one at best buy, an unlocked motorola. While not the same as my samsung galaxy it was significantly cheaper. I paid 130, I chose to do it as in upgrade to my Verizon plan but even if I hadn’t it was still cheaper than paying off a phone over two years. Reg price 250. It’s a drastic difference from paying 30 a month over 2 years. I think the pandemic taught me I def go without so much and still be very happy. Most things in life are frivolous conveniences.

    Another consideration, I’ve heard google fi is a great phone service alternative. Anybody use it?? Verizon is reliable but 70 bucks feels like alot right now every month now that I have really put the cost of monthly expenses into perspective.

    • Anne says...

      Hi Becky – We used GoogleFi for over three years and were very happy with them. They have excellent customer service. The only drawback is that you pay for every bit(e) of data. We usually paid $50/month for two of us. We just recently switched to Mint Mobile, which comes with 3G of data for $15/a month. Mint’s coverage isn’t as comprehensive in the mountains, but then there is WiFi calling…

    • Gretchen says...

      My husband uses Google Fi and is happy with it, especially because it has a reasonable international plan (for when travelling to visit his family is safe again). We have found that there are some places that it doesn’t work as well, but in those instances, we use my phone.

      I’m on AT&T, but a few years ago, I switched from a traditional plan to a pre-paid plan, which is significantly less expensive and they offer a discount for setting up AutoPay.

  11. Kathryn says...

    P. S. CoJ readers should wear pearls for Kamala today!!! I just found out and I’m going to put mine on at lunch! :)

  12. Jean says...

    Back to the topic at hand, my biggest regret was not learning about investing and retirement earlier. So many folks put this off, but every year you do, you lose money – a lot of money. JL Collins The Simple Path to Wealth is a great start. I didn’t comprehend what an index fund was till my early thirties because no one in my family did. And learning to navigate the Vanguard site…oooof. But please don’t make my mistake. It seems scary, but it’s fun, think of it like a new board game where you have to learn some rules. You do not need thousands to start – start by opening a Roth 401K and investing $100 in a target retirement fund.

    I would say my other tip at the moment is that I think “emergency funds” generally need to be more than $1,000 to a few months expenses. I realize “but people just can’t save that much money!” but if you can, do. This pandemic has illustrated that we can find ourselves in situations, through no fault of our own, where there are no jobs, or no safe ones, and the government simply will not help. I did not think there would ever be such a failure at the federal level in the US, but after witnessing people go through almost a year without being able to get unemployment benefits, or losing all avenues of employment because an industry died overnight…we got to save more. And that does mean, for most of us, getting more frugal, watching the subscriptions, the coffee and dining out. There’s a strong social media pushback against denying ourselves sources of pleasure to save money, as if that is puritanical or out of touch, but while I think it’s well intended, it’s bad advice. Yes, it’s ridic for a bank to tell me that systemic economic inequality can be solved by not buying a $5 avocado toast every day…but it can still be a good decision on my part not to buy the avocado toast every day, if that makes sense.

  13. Ashley says...

    Another thought… If life has worked out in a way that allows you to have more control of your financial situation, advocate for policy that allows more folks to have the same choices. Let’s believe in the inherent worth of all people with living wages, support for caregivers in various complicated situations, and housing that promotes economically diverse communities.

    • Grace says...

      Yes this! This comment makes me feel seen, thanks Ashley :). I’ve been sticking these tips and tricks in my back pockets for years, but a decade into adulthood and the thought of having money beyond my basic needs is still in the hopes and dreams category. I don’t begrudge anyone their wealth- it’s folks with money who buy my art which in turn pays my rent. A retirement plan and reliable savings shouldn’t be a huge privilege, but hot damn in America it really is! So extending the scope of money thoughts to the greater well-being would be so cool!!

    • M says...

      Yes to this!

  14. Andrea says...

    Perhaps Cup of Jo could do an article on top American polluters and the necessity of collective action over individualized shaming and attacking women’s reproductive rights and imperatives. A lot of readers seem to have moral superiority issues.

  15. Jean says...

    Thank you for showing such a large family. It’s unfortunate that a few comments are showing up a dark strain of elitist prejudice against children and families. Be careful when you start accusing other human existences of stealing your resources. This is the same train of thought that also leads to anti-immigrant hysteria. Many people find great love, help, and joy in having children. Child-free coastal progressives do not an entire world make. Very few people in developed countries today have enough children to make a difference, and as other’s have noted, it’s corporate pollution and consumerism that is the grave danger to the environment. If you’ve gotten on a plane for fun in the past few years, hold back on criticizing a family for having more kids than *you* think is appropriate.

    • Judy says...

      yes to this, 100%! antinatalism is a strange brand of superiority complex, and accusations about carbon footprints from childfree folks who enjoy their freedom to travel the world ring hollow. Just because something feels more wasteful than other choices does not mean it is more wasteful than other choices.

    • Patty says...

      My parents had 9 kids and were by no means elitists. Makes me laugh. But I guess that was lifetimes ago…

    • Krystal says...

      Absolutely agree. Overpopulation conversations always have an whiff of eugenics whether intended or not. Also, let’s not forget that some people never have and never will get a say in whether or not they carry a child to term. From abusive partners to unjust policy or lack of resources, there are plenty of ways to force people into parenthood. It’s incredibly disappointing to see hateful reader comments go unaddressed. It’s easy to leave difficult conversations to the comments section. I’m grateful to see CoJ acknowledge areas of privilege and shift away from this in the recent past.

  16. Toni says...

    I’d love to hear more about budgeting for families with kids (however many!) in different settings – rural, urban, suburbs.

    I’m in NYC with 1 kid and a spouse it feels cost prohibitive to have more without having to make serious sacrifices – like needing one or both parents to take on a second job.

  17. Maria says...

    I have never commented on a blog before and this blog is literally the only social media I have or follow but these comments are making me feel so upset I can’t not comment ha. Loving how people preach inclusion and non judgment but then are totally hypocrites and stigmatize people who aren’t like them because of the amount of children they have..? Thanks NO thanks Sharon for basically calling Anna a liar – I’m truly amazed at how rude and condescending people can be. Seriously unless you also have 8 kids and ARE HER, you don’t know her life and don’t tell her how much she is spending!. Fayana – how dare you single her out and say her carbon footprint must be huge trying to shame her for bringing children into the world?! She’s obviously awesome and while sticking up for herself remains polite and kind. (I know I’m not following her example and taking the higher road here but we’re not all saints). Anna you seem like a great person and mother – congratulations on your baby!
    If you ask me, WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE PLANET are good parents and families who raise children (one or ten) to be kind compassionate people who will respect and love the earth AND the people in it and make it a better safer healthier place to be.

    • Ash says...

      Well said, Maria!

    • Lia says...

      Amen to that!

    • Kathryn says...

      Yes, amen! :) Anna, congrats on your baby on the way. Babies are the best (even if babies be babies;))
      Aren’t you glad your parents chose to splurge a little carbon on bringing you into the world? I am. Being aware of the tradeoffs makes life even more precious.

    • Anna says...

      Maria, thanks for your kind words! :) I absolutely agree that families raising kind, thoughtful kids is good for the planet, and that is my hope for all of my kids – that they go out and make the world a better place! :)

    • a.n. says...

      a-freakin’-men, Maria.

    • Mary says...

      Yes!

    • Maria says...

      Hey friends, I have been feeling so bad about my comment up there haha. While I totally stand by what I said, I wish I had said it in a kinder more loving way (as Anna so graciously did in her replies) and I should not have called out individual people – I hope those women can forgive me. I seriously hate to think that I have contributed to any negativity that is already in abundance on the internet. In attempting to stand up for one thing, I put other people down and that was a mistake for which I am embarrassed and want to apologize.
      I am not normally so sassy (tho my husband would beg to differ haha). I feel like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail when she finally is able to come up with a good “zinger” in the moment and then feels terrible immediately afterward. No excuse for rudeness, and I really am sorry. Best wishes to ALL.

  18. Heather says...

    Families come in all shapes and sizes, let’s support them all. I think this would be in keeping with the typical COJ community vibe. More support and kindness, less judgment. Il

  19. LB says...

    I bet there’s a correlation between big, upcoming political events and the tone of the comments on COJ.

    • katie says...

      I bet you’re right and I thought that too.

      I couldn’t sleep last night so I was reading the comments here, which are usually a source of comfort. Not last night on this thread. People were nasty and judgmental. And not just to the person who has a large family. To COJ too, on everything… from the pictures not being diverse enough to having more than one sponsored post to saying they’re surprised the COJ team even thinks about money and saving.

      COJ team, I applaud you for your kindness and inclusion. The world needs more people like all of you.

      Rude commenters, I feel sad for you that you feel so much hate.

  20. Andrea says...

    Something that I’ve learned over the years as a female business owner/money manager – ask the hard questions with any potential loan officer/banker/financial advisor you might be working with.
    When my business first began to turn a profit and I started investing, I hired a financial advisor and, embarrassingly enough, didn’t even ask how they make their money. When I finally had the courage to ask and got my answer, I found I was paying 3.5%. It may not sound like a lot, but opposed to companies like Vanguard at 0.04%, it is hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. (My initial investment would have been worth $210,000 at a 3.5% rate versus $464,000 at a 0.04 fee rate). Ask the hard questions. Be clear on where you are putting your money. And know the fees you are paying.
    And finally, read the book The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins.

    • Ana says...

      Huge YES to The Simple Path to Wealth

  21. Saving and investing for retirement is so incredibly important. As one reader already stated, social security is not enough to provide a comfortable lifestyle for most people. We have longer life expectancies, higher healthcare costs and many people buy homes and start families later in life than our parents generation. Saving for retirement in a 401k or IRA or regular brokerage account and investing in low cost index funds is critical for a long, financially secure life!

  22. Alex says...

    These comments really showed me how mean the internet really is. So rude behind your computers.

  23. Lily says...

    Mine is to actually make money.

  24. Jenny says...

    If love to learn more about setting my 13 year old up for financial
    Success in the future. How soon can I start teaching him about a credit card? What’s the best way to set up an investment account for a minor that is not directly related to college? Something they can see grow and make choices about investments?

    • Maggie says...

      I use this website a lot for my 7th graders: https://www.ngpf.org/. There’s a lot of great simulations and conversations starters regarding finance in a very kid-centric context.

  25. a.n. says...

    i love these pictures and echo the other commenters’ request for investment information! i really enjoyed this post, though, and appreciate these every time they come up.

  26. Monica says...

    Also, that “large family photo” mama would be a wonderful one for Beauty uniform or wardrobe feature. She’s amazing! I was really excited to see her on here!

  27. Emma says...

    Data certainly indicates that, on average, each additional child increases a family’s carbon footprint; however, I’m not certain that pointing fingers and making passive aggressive – or aggressive comments – to individual parents of larger families is a constructive use of anyone’s time. How much do you know about them? How quickly we jump to conclusions instead of remembering that most people are doing their best, that we are all just “walking one another home.” Perhaps these families eat a plant based diet, avoid air travel, and are a one-car or no-car family? Each of these things dramatically decreases the carbon footprint, and the small measures mentioned about (hand-me-downs, a smaller home, recycling) certainly can make an impact as well. Please, be kind.

  28. Kelly M says...

    These photos are so nice. The light!!! That pretty human in the solo shot is just fabulous! As are the rest of these families.

  29. Quyen says...

    Invest, invest, invest!!

    • Lacey says...

      Amen!

    • Robin S. says...

      Yes!! Start early and let it compound, compound, compound! Or, if you didn’t start early, start now!

  30. Betsy says...

    It’s not for everyone, but if your credit score is in good shape, I found I save a lot by getting a good rewards credit card and using it on things I needed to spend on anyway (groceries, my church tithe, insurance…). Some of the stuff I’d bundle to pay in advance, getting discounts AND some kind of bonus from the cc. Traveling on a budget is a priority for me, and one year I went to Thailand for free, just on the miles I’d earned from a travel card. In college, I used a basic cash-back card, and that took a chunk out of my textbook fees.

    Again, not for everyone, but if you’re on top of paying on time and are good about closing ones that don’t serve you, it can be a wise investment. Nerd Wallet is a good jumping-off point for finding something that suits your needs.

    • K says...

      Great point, Betsy! I’m very invested in the credit card travel points world. If you have the ability to pay your cards off every month, I would second this recommendation. I have had some wonderful vacations (flights, hotels, even connections to and from the airport all covered) from spending a few hours a month working on a strategy (which cards to get, when to close them, always paying the balances off every month, etc.). Again, this isn’t for everyone and it definitely means being at a stable place with income already, but if this is interesting to you, I would recommend checking it out.

      I would also add that you can have a great credit score while doing this (opening and closing cards and maximizing bonuses).

  31. Malin says...

    The photos are wonderful – I would have loved them even more if there would have been one photo of a black person. And a male couple. Sigh.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you for your note! As always, we strive for inclusion and representation on Cup of Jo. Here, we had a bunch of different races, ethnicities, family structures, marital statuses, and sexual orientations. It’s always a top priority for us. Hope this helps!

    • S says...

      I found this post to be very inclusive!

    • Sydni Jackson says...

      This kind of comment is absurd to me. There are so many communities represented in this post, and it has a lot of photos compared to how many they normally post. COJ is very inclusive, but obviously every single group isn’t going to be represented in every single post every single time. Look at the whole.

  32. Alexis says...

    I try and go through various unsubscribing/purging sessions every year (so much stuff! So much email!) and always feel lighter. In 2020 I turned my cancelled subscription funds into recurring donations which, while admittedly not saving me money, made me feel SO much better about where my money was going.

    • Samantha says...

      Brilliant approach*! Such a great strategy to pivot a payment amount that’s already coming out of your wallet, instead of simply absorbing it back into your disposable funds. (*of course, this is only if you’re in a comfortable cash flow position. )
      Thanks Alexis :)

  33. kk says...

    I think you’re missing some detail here where you note how much of an emergency fund you should have. You note “It could be anywhere from a month to six months or more. ” ….of what? I believe the idea is X months of of your expenses, right?

    Just missing some detail here.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes thank you!

  34. Anna says...

    Yeeessss!!! Photos by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo. LOVE ❤❤❤❤❤❤ Crossing my fingers for more!! 👏👏👏

    • Anna!! Thank you!! Sending virtual hugs of gratitude for your kind words!

    • Rusty says...

      Yes!!!
      I re-looked at the photos again and again.
      So lovely! 🤗

  35. Jeanne says...

    Put as much money away for retirement as possible before you spend it on “wants”. Max out your 401k. Have a secondary investment account if you’re able. Take advantage of the power of time + compounding interest. Social security may not exist in the future and even if it does, it’s not enough to support you. God help us if the healthcare system isn’t overhauled.!

    • Heather says...

      Yes – agree on all of this! For healthcare, one thing I wish I had done earlier is switch to my company’s high deductible plan and put the extra funds (the difference in premium) all in my HSA. The HSA funds roll over year to year and when you retire, you can use them on insurance premiums. Obviously this won’t solve the awful problem of our healthcare, but it helps.

  36. KT says...

    Speaking of negotiating… negotiate your salary. Do this every year. Take notes all year long on what you’ve specifically contributed to your company, how you’ve developed in your role and become more valuable to the company, and any new tasks you’ve taken on. Take calls with potential other roles so you know where you’d go if you’re not valued and paid accordingly. Recruiting is expensive and training is hard, if you’re a valuable employee your company does not want to lose you. Then take whatever you negotiated and invest it into an index fund. Repeat!

    • Heather says...

      I would also add to this – set up monthly 1:1’s with your manager (if you don’t already do them) and within those meetings, run down a list of things you’re working on or have accomplished. I keep a separately file to do this, but then send it via email so she has it documented as well and can take notes during our meeting.

      In my experience, at least for larger companies, I’ve found the compensation review process actually starts way before any of us have realized with meetings between upper management only. Meaning, long before we’re even asked to complete our own ‘self assessment’ many of us have been ranked/categorized. With that, if we haven’t been advocating for ourselves all year and keeping our manager apprised of our accomplishments, we could easily be missing out.

  37. Anna says...

    Love the picture of the big family! Despite all the push for diversity, bigger families rarely get featured anywhere! As a mom of (almost) 8, I appreciate it! And they’re actually not as expensive as everyone thinks! ;)

    • Fayana says...

      Your carbon footprint must be enormous! Good luck with the 8th…

    • Anna says...

      Fayana, actually many big families are naturally very eco-friendly out of necessity, and because this is something that our family is very intentional about, I would guess that our carbon footprint is actually less than most much smaller families. :)

    • Summer says...

      Anna, as an only child it was my dream to be one of 8 siblings! I even wrote a little book about my and all my fake siblings. My childhood home was tiny so my solution for all my made up siblings was that I would sleep in the tub, haha. I would give anything to have the experience of having a brother or sister, especially as I grow older.

      Also, about shaming people for family size: rarely will a person ever think “oh, I shouldn’t have had this kid.” Be kind and respect people’s unique journeys.

    • Caitlin says...

      Anna, congratulations on your growing family 😊

    • Anna says...

      Summer, that is so sweet! :) I love that you were willing to sleep in the tub to make room! :) And yes, I am amazed at how many older people have told me that they wished they had had more kids!

    • Angie MacRae says...

      What an incredibly gracious response. Thank you. You have set a wonderful example.

    • Monica says...

      I concur! Most of the larger families I know are extremely frugal and small footprint by choice. We have 3 kids (so not a large family) and work intentionally to live simply and produce more than we consume.

      Stereotypes like “large families have larger footprints” and don’t further unity or understanding, nor do they celebrate diversity in families.

    • Heather says...

      I agree! Loved the photo of a bigger family..I’m a mom of 4 and even that seems like a big fam..nice to be included! ❤️

    • Rusty says...

      I’m the youngest of 7 and big families actually seem to use up/waste less! All those hand-me-downs, group activities, shared rides, many gands to complete tasks.

    • Lia says...

      Anna, you are such an angel for the lovely way you are responding to these comments. Congratulations on your 8th child, and I hope you and your family have a blessed day.

    • Capucine says...

      Some of the kids in the big family photo are adopted, I forget how many of them, so add that into the mix of judgement y’all. You do you.

    • Bets says...

      I also come from a large family, and its great when people are conscious of their impact and reduce waste etc. The issue is though, that each of those 8 children will potentially grow up to have a family, own a vehicle or two, a separate house, vacations etc. Each person has an ecological footprint and over a lifetime, 8 children has a much larger impact than 2, especially in westernised countries.

  38. Elizabeth says...

    Ok these are great. But what about investing? So much of financial advice for women is about saving, budgeting, insurance. What about making money? Taking appropriate risks? Not being duped by a bank charging very high fees for minimal financial advice (writing from Canada where this is rampant). Saving is important, yes. But young men are encouraged to think big, invest, take risks. Speaking to the young women out there – do the same.

    • S says...

      Second this!

    • Jb says...

      I’d love a post about investing 101

    • M.E. says...

      I totally agree with Elizabeth! Steps to getting your finances together should absolutely include investing, whether via a Roth IRA or a 401(k), especially if you are fortunate enough to be eligible for employer matching.

      Investing consistently into index funds is one of the easiest paths to building wealth. Added bonus: contributing to a pre-tax 401(k) through work is a way to reduce your taxable income.

      I would love to see more posts here aimed at helping people invest, budget, get out of debt, improve earning power, and generally become more comfortable with their finances.

    • Liz says...

      I second this!!

    • JP says...

      Yes, please! How do we make our money WORK! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Great ideas!!!

    • SR says...

      I would love this! As a young woman who was never taught about investing, I’m finding it all very confusing. It’s so necessary, especially for my generation (gen z) with high rates of student debt and the risk of no more social security. If most millennials can’t afford to buy a house, then what’s in store for us? :'(

    • Heather says...

      Yes! I regret taking it slow with investments when I was young without kids or a house – time is on your side and that’s huge.

      Here are some random things I learned over the years and will qualify that it’s all of course if you’re in the financial position to invest and I am not remotely an expert:

      If you have an employer match for retirement you should at least contribute this much (again – if you’re able) so you don’t lose out on the money. When you are younger and your tax rate is lower, you can do the Roth version of IRA and 401K (contributions are after-tax) as it means your gains won’t be taxed when you pull out the funds – at which point, you presumably would have a higher tax rate so you’re saving.

      For college savings with kids – you can set up a 529 (gains aren’t taxed if they’re used on qualified education expenses) even before they’re born and then transfer it into their names.

      Don’t try to time the market – just invest frequently and steadily – if you can set up automatic transfers then its even better!

      If you’re more of a passive investor (as I am) – you can set up as many type of funds as you’d like – a balanced fund (selected based on the manager’s past results which are available with your institution) which has less risk or index funds tied to the S&P or even to specific sectors (healthcare or tech).

      I also try to steal advice away from anyone willing to share it – older relatives or close mentors at work – just soak up everything you can.

    • Jessica says...

      Yes to this!

    • Cecile says...

      Yes a thousand times!

    • Yishey says...

      Yes! I second JB – a post (or series!) on investing 101 would be super helpful.

    • Cynthia says...

      Investing is important, because while you are taking risks, you are earning more than you would ever earn on a savings account today. You do want to have some easily accessible money for emergencies, but not all of your money should be in savings accounts. We have our investments with TD-Ameritrade, who will become Charles Schwab at some point. We started out years ago with a utility stock, and then we bought other stocks. Thanks to my husband’s and my investments, we are retired and comfortable. We don’t have to touch our investments. We’re able to live off our Social Security and school system pensions. We also live a modest life style.

    • nadine says...

      Second this! I would also be interested in ethical/sustainable investments.

  39. Farhana says...

    I ask myself (before committing to a purchase) how many minutes/ hours/ days I’ll have to work for it and if it’s worth it. FWIW, it feels a little strange to see money (saving) tips on COJ. I never thought it’s something that ever crosses your mind.

    • Eloise says...

      Farhana, That’s a bit harsh AND so very untrue – CoJ, at a minimum, has introduced readers to Paco de Leon, who rocks! (Maybe turn your energies to googling her for a minute instead of making what are coming across – to me, at least – as a number of strident comments that could be seen as personal attacks to both Jo and anyone with more than one child.). (But your “how many hours” tip is a good one!)

    • Rusty says...

      When I was at the start of my career, I chose to NOT have a credit card. I went window shopping before lunch, with $5 in my purse. I’d consider all the lovely, beautiful, fantadtic things I saw, tried on and desperately wanted in the spur of all those moments …. and by the time I’d finished lunch, I’d know if any purchase was worth it!😏

  40. Tracy says...

    We signed up for Haven after your last post and I of course never want to use it but am happy to pay for that peace of mind for our family. We also used their estate planning partner to set up wills so everything is super buttoned up now!

  41. K says...

    I’m super happy to see another financial article (these are so helpful and interesting). I’ve really liked the articles in the past as well (I’ve taken care of my student debt and set up a workable budget from some great advice here), but I have something very specific I’m hoping you might considering covering in the future. Maybe others need information on this as well, so I thought I’d put it out there. I really need to know more about investing, specifically in non retirements accounts (stocks, mutual funds, CDs, etc.) I have an IRA that is set in a targeted retirement fund. I have a work 401k. I have a house fund and an emergency fund. None of these are a ton of money (I’m in my thirties), but they are definitely something. I’ve decided to not buy a house (I live in a ridiculous market and I’m done with that dream — for now), so now I need to know how to invest in non-retirement funds so that I potentially could still pull funds out (what happens if I do decide on that house someday or some other big life event I’ll want money for). This would be so helpful for me as I’m very risk adverse and I know that my funds in savings accounts should be out there making money for me. But where and how?

    Also, just wanted to say, I ran that calculator above and was shocked at how inexpensive life insurance can be. Thanks for this post. Very helpful.

    • HL says...

      Seconded!!

    • Kate says...

      Hi K, I am Canadian so we have different financial options. I was going to suggest the investment platform I use, Wealthsimple, but it might not work in the US.

      However, I enjoy the Daily Worth as a resource and have just found something interesting called Ellevest. It seems like there is a membership fee but it could also be a good resource for information and investment options!

    • Emilie says...

      Thank you K! This is specific, but also broadly applicable to many of us I’m sure. I am:
      – 32 yo
      – Making a good salary (100k+)
      – Undergrad + Law school debt still 100k+ (have paid about 80K so far.
      still so far to go.)

      I have also decided not to buy a house — for so many reasons: it is not the “sure bet investment” that is was for our boomer parents; western world’s obsession over ownership does not align with my values; smaller footprint for city living, etc.

      I would also like investment advice beyond retirement savings (RRSP in Canada). Specifically, I am looking for advice as to how to replicate (as best possible) the type of long term investment that a house was 40 years ago — i.e. my parents bought a house in 1977 for $88,000 and sold it in 1989 for $200,000+, and then did that twice more with subsequent properties. Where I live, residential property will simply not perform in this pattern again, especially for such a low buy in cost. How can I make my money work in this manner now? Any advice would be so very much appreciated! Thanks CoJ!

    • K says...

      Thanks to all you replying here! Love this community so much. You’ve given me some weekend homework.

    • Allison says...

      K, it sounds like you’ve got a great head start on your finances. For your short-term needs, CD rates are pretty awful right now but they’ll at least do better than a standard savings account and are good for people who are risk averse. Just comparison shop for the best interest rates and go for it. You can open an account at your local bank or online, whoever has the best rates and best suits your needs (minimum investment requirements, length of investment, whether there are early withdrawal fees, etc). You could also see if there are high interest savings or checking accounts that make sense for you (again, the rates on these are really bad in general). If you’re looking at a place to put money away for the longer term with a potentially higher return on your investment, an online broker like Robinhood, Ameritrade, or Etrade is a simple way to buy stock. I didn’t invest with a large amount of cash to start but you could definitely do that. Rather I have my account set up to automatically take a fixed amount from my checking account every month and I don’t even think about it. It’s just like paying another bill.

  42. Kate says...

    Hmm, this is the second sponsored post on CoJ in less than a week.

    I didn’t say anything when the (annoying) ads started, and I even find these sponsored posts useful (though not as engaging). I understand the need to keep the lights on but I honestly feel like it’s a bit lazy to let companies write blog posts for you…however, I appreciate the strain of these unprecedented times. CoJ kept the content coming even when it felt, for A LONG TIME, like there was only one thing we were all talking about. The CoJ editors, like many of us fortunate enough to work from the safety of our homes, are “at home, during a crisis, trying to work” so I think I need to cut them some slack. And add that tagline to my email signature…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much for your note! We typically do one sponsored post per week, but sometimes we will do none and other times we will do two. We always write them ourselves. In this case the wonderful Caroline wrote it, and our beloved photographer Nicki Sebastian took the photos in LA — we wanted to show different types of people/couples/families. Thank you!

    • Becky says...

      What? You read a free blog, free, that is your choice, your choice, to read and you are upset about 2 sponsored posts in a week? Get a hobby.

    • Katie says...

      I thought this was a great and useful sponsored post! I love the free content at COJ and think that your sponsored content is generally thoughtful and relevant.

    • Kate says...

      Thanks for the reply, Joanna! That’s really good to know that the staff are writing the posts! In that case, keep ’em coming.

  43. Dale says...

    Those photos! Amazing work. Love them so much! X

  44. Fran says...

    One quick (and very small tip) that’s helped control my spontaneous spending recently is to unsubscribe from all marketing emails. At the start of this year I took 30 minutes and unsubscribed from all promotional emails. Not only has it reduced inbox number significantly but I’m no longer tempted to buy something just because of an ongoing sale. Not earth-shattering, but as Bill Murray says in the great, What About Bob?, “baby steps!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great tip, Fran!

    • Kate says...

      This is great, Fran! I’m using Unroll.me right now to unsubscribe from marketing emails! It’s just nice to visually reduce the deluge of clutter and spam as well.

    • Ceridwen says...

      I need to do this! I find Instagram is bad for me….at night if I am scrolling and see things I want. I am a sitting duck for marketers. I recently started following more people who provide financial advice so they are a good reminder during a scroll fest.

    • Laura says...

      This is what I have done too and it is so helpful. I read about this tip in Shannon Lee Simmon’s “worry free money” which is a great book for workable financial advice

    • Aliez says...

      Fran this is the best tip I’ve read, I’ve just finished using Unroll.me at your advice at it feels so satisfying! Thank you :)

    • Cecily says...

      This was HUGE for me! Specifically, I was getting Outdoor Voices marketing emails to my work email, so I would sit down at my desk to do work and find myself 30 minutes later having bought workout clothes I didn’t need!! It was so satisfying (and good for my budget) to get rid of those emails!

  45. Jessica says...

    A little annoyed by #4 (unsubscribe). It feels like a version of “latte” or “avocado toast” budgeting. Many people also share subscriptions. It’s just not where I would start.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I hear you, Jessica! That tip was more about subscriptions you don’t use — for example, I never use Spotify or Audible but I was realized I was paying for them every month. Also, Showtime! those unused subscriptions can really add up over the course of a year.

      (Subscriptions I DO use: Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc.) xoxo

    • Robin says...

      I think this is a really good tip and something I did last year when I switched jobs and took a 20% pay cut. I cut Netflix (I watch free shows on CBC Gem), a G-suite domain, and an unused chequing account. I also canceled my gym pass (I walk and hike instead, though I do miss going to the gym). These small things have added up to about $70 a month savings, which is substantial considering that after doing this I only have about $100/month of spending money. In addition, I have greatly reduced my latte intake, which reduces my monthly spending by about $40. Now that I’m in a lower income bracket, cutting little costs is necessary.

  46. Fayana says...

    Have smaller families! Kids are *expensive*! (and it’s great for the planet :)

    • AM says...

      How do I send my kids back?

    • Megan Budelman says...

      Ha! I got on here to leave the comment, “Thanks for showing a larger family!” I don’t have one, but I wish I did and they are so stigmatized.

    • Alyce says...

      Touche, AM, touche. If you figure out how, let me know. ;)

    • Sadie says...

      Buy everything you can second hand. It is a great for the earth and great for your bank account.

    • Emily says...

      Globally, most countries are in a population decline, which leads to “inverted age structure” (more elderly people than young people) which is not good for economies, working-age population, etc. Immigration may be able to combat some of the decline, but not if our world, as a whole, is in population decline. I know the argument for sustainability / caring for the globe remains, but inverted age structure is something to consider. (Especially in view of future financial resources.)

    • Sharon says...

      Most people are not having more than 2 or 3 children. Thinking about inverted age structure is a valid argument…but not necessarily for individual families. The reader who posted about her (almost) 8 children, saying they are not as expensive as one might think…I beg to differ. I won’t list expenses…we all know what they are, multiplied by 8? No.

    • Anna says...

      Sharon,
      I’m that reader, and while I understand why it might seem a lot more expensive to have a big family, having lived it, I can assure you it’s not! ;) Having multiple kids doesnt equal this much per kid x amount of kids. Most things we buy are used by multiple kids, despite only buying them once, the amount we spend on a car and house remain the same despite the amount of kids, we homeschool and our school expenses are very low, etc., etc. The only few things that I can think of where we do spend more because of having more kids is food and gifts, but even there we spend modestly (and hospital bills for the actual births…ha!). This is a big misconception when it comes to large families! But we have lived very comfortably as a large family on a small budget so I can attest to the fact that it simply isn’t true! :)

    • S says...

      @Anna, you obviously don’t have many/any kids in college yet…

    • Courtney says...

      I’m a mother of 6 and I can also attest to the fact that children are not nearly as expensive as advertised, nor as environmentally toxic.
      By necessity, a large family will tend to buy second hand, hand down clothing to younger siblings, share bedrooms, eat homemade meals, and invest in experiences rather than goods (you can only fit so many toys into one house). Naturally, we eat more food, but very little goes to waste.
      Of course the fact that there are simply more humans should mean that there is a greater carbon footprint, but in our case I really don’t think that is true (at least not right now, while they’re all under one roof). In comparison to our friends with small families, we actually make and spend less money, and we do so quite comfortably. Our priorities are just different. And that’s okay.
      I don’t comment here to be defensive; we are happy with the lifestyle we have chosen but would never expect others to value the same things we do. I simply refuse to feel guilty for having a houseful of happy, healthy children who love being part of a big family. It’s what works for us. I just wanted to share my perspective :)

    • Emma says...

      Anna, I truly cannot imagine how you are responding to these direct comments so kindly. I hope today is a little easier on you!

      Are we forgetting that her 8 children (and all children!) are beautiful, worthy, living, breathing human beings? I honestly don’t understand what the goal is in calling out *existing* families other than to shame. What is the changed action you are hoping for? As others have mentioned, she can’t send any of them back (not that she’d dream of that)!

    • Heather says...

      Fayana, can you help me understand what you mean when you say better for the planet? I’m just trying to understand this point of view. Thanks!

    • Kate says...

      As a recently minted aunt, but a happily child-free woman, I can say that when I first met my sweet baby niece (on FaceTime) I thought, “Oh, so this is why people want these things” Kids are incredible and magical, I don’t want to share my home or my life with one, but if someone does I certainly don’t judge them. I do agree that sometimes people make non-environmentally friendly decisions due to the excuse that they have kids, which isn’t cool.

    • Sam says...

      Man I really feel that family size is not one of those things that we should judge other people about. A big family may be expensive, but so are many things that people might reasonably decide to do: attend private schools, eat at restaurants, live in NYC. And of course we should all be concerned about sustainability, but reducing our carbon footprints is not the highest good, or else all sorts of choices that we generally like to leave room for people to make would be ruled out, like having any children at all, going to weddings out of state, commuting from the suburbs, living a long life. Surely there are special goods that attend having a large family, not only for the individual family members, but also for the broader community. And surely there are special cons as well. When it comes to family planning, how someone weighs these pros and cons in her specific situation seems like a topic about which we should tend to withhold judgement.

    • Soon-to-be Mother of Two says...

      I think the question becomes: Where do you draw the line? What is an “acceptable” and “environmentally friendly” number of kids? I think you could feasibly argue the answer could be zero? And it’s high time the humans take a break from reproducing and give the planet back to the wild. Ha! Or is the number of kids YOU have (using general you) perceived as the “right” number? [So many people use this logic!]

      I will never forget when I was pregnant with my first child and went out to dinner with a couple—they went on on and on about how they will NOT have kids, it’s the worse thing ever for the environment, they will foster and adopt ONLY, it’s obviously the One Right Way to live, etc.

      I was drowning in their self-righteousness. [And could I have pointed out “questionable” environmental decisions they’ve made? Of course! No one is perfect.]

      Let’s show empathy for each other, is my point.

    • Tenley says...

      I’m the oldest of 7 kids, and echo a lot of what Anna has shared: my family was very frugal and followed a lot of eco-friendly practices that made life easier AND saved money! Hand-me-downs, thrift shopping, sharing bedrooms, 1 vehicle, growing fresh veggies, composting…the list goes on!
      I learned a lot about not wasting resources and valuing relationships in those growing up years that have made me a more conscious consumer.
      And it’s so fun to have this group of wise, funny people to grow with: my big hearted always-makes-me-laugh sister, the brother who writes songs in his bedroom and always has the best relationship advice, the one who can sew a perfectly tailored jacket and tells great stories, the one who rolls her eyes but then reassures me that everything will work out just fine, the one who delivers the most devistatingly hilarious roast every time, and the one who devours graphic novels and gives the best hugs.

    • Anna says...

      I sooo appreciate all the kind words and support! Thank you! :)

      And Tenley, your description of your siblings warms my heart! That is exactly how I felt growing up in a big family, and what I wish for my kids! :)

    • shannon says...

      Anyone interested in learning more about children and keeping expenses low can check out the many, many posts on Frugalwoods about this topic.