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The concept of "self-care" encompasses a lot. It's all the stuff you do to keep yourself well: physically, mentally and emotionally. And it spans not just the stuff you do because you love to—like eating your favorite breakfast and spending time in nature—but also the stuff you do because it's good for you, like getting your teeth cleaned or going to the gym.
One area of self-care you may not hear about as much is financial self-care. Creating an intentional, healthy relationship to earning, spending and saving money can have immediate, positive impacts on your financial picture. When you're not stressed about money, it's easier to have an overall brighter outlook.
To add building financial wellness into your routine, here are six ways to practice financial self-care.
1. Pay Yourself First
Take care of your future self by setting a portion of each paycheck aside in savings. When it comes to setting savings goals, the sky's the limit. You can set up savings funds for all your goals, from the practical—like buying a home one day—to the fun, like going on vacation next summer.
If you're just getting started with saving, start an emergency fund first. With emergency savings, you have a lifeboat in the event of a financial crisis, such as a large, unexpected bill.
Experts recommend putting anywhere from three to six months' worth of basic expenses into your emergency savings account. But part of financial self-care is setting attainable, motivating goals. So, start with a goal that works for you, such as $1,000. Then, set up automatic transfers into a high-yield savings account to ensure you're saving consistently toward your goal.
Find High-Yield Savings Accounts
2. Treat Yourself
Self-care is a lot more than lighting candles or ordering takeout after a particularly long day. Treating yourself is a way to make yourself feel cared for. So be sure you're factoring self-love into your budget. Set aside a small amount each week or so specifically to do something nice for yourself, and buy the bath bomb—you'll thank yourself later.
3. Invest for Retirement
Many experts recommend contributing 10% to 15% of your gross income toward retirement. But if that's a stretch for you right now, start where you can. Then, aim to up your contributions by a percentage or two each year; some plans allow you to do this automatically.
4. Pay Off Debt
Prioritizing paying off balances that charge high interest—generally speaking, about 8% or more—will save you a lot of money over time. Plus, once those balances are done with, you can dedicate the money you were paying each month toward investing in yourself.
To pay off debt faster, pick a debt repayment strategy that works for you. The debt snowball strategy is where you pay off your debts from smallest to largest. On the other hand, with the debt avalanche strategy, you pay off your debts from highest-interest debt to lowest. Each has its own benefits for staying motivated, but you'll save the most with the debt avalanche strategy.
5. Look for Money Leaks
Much of the spending we do each month happens on autopilot—recurring expenses like bills, streaming subscriptions, monthly fees and prescriptions. These purchases can turn into money leaks, where money leaves your bank account each month without you even realizing it.
To plug spending leaks, look through your bank account and credit card statements for recurring transactions. Cancel subscriptions that you don't use. For bills, you may be able to negotiate a lower price by calling your provider and asking them for a discount.
Or, you can outsource the work with Experian BillFixer™. BillFixer comes with an Experian CreditWorksSM Premium Account, and you can use it to ensure you're getting the best deal and negotiate lower rates on your monthly bills. Negotiators will call your providers on your behalf, and you'll keep all the savings.
6. Keep Learning About Finance and Credit
Much of improving your financial wellness comes down to getting informed about the options and resources available to you. For example, achieving financial freedom in retirement hinges on knowing how to invest through tax-advantaged retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs. Achieving homeownership depends on understanding how mortgages work and the credit and income requirements you'll need to meet.
To integrate learning into your financial self-care, try exploring finance podcasts and beginner-focused finance books. You can also check out the monthly personal financial news from Experian, where you'll get a look at what's happening on a large scale and how you can integrate that knowledge into how you manage your money.
While you're building a mindful financial life, don't neglect your credit. Start monitoring your credit for free through Experian to learn more about the information on your credit report, including your balances, payment history and how much of your available credit you're using. You'll also be alerted to changes in your credit scores to stay in the know.
The Bottom Line
Setting aside time to take care of yourself financially can reduce your overall stress and help you reach your goals. Beyond matters of basic survival—like paying your bills on time and affording groceries—setting aside intentional time for financial self-care helps you to prioritize mindful approaches to money management, such as setting inspiring saving goals, investing for retirement and budgeting for the things that boost your mood.