First, I want to say that I’m not a total financial expert. I don’t have a degree in finance or a license to advise people. I’m not a math person. I’m just someone who hated being in debt and wanted to pay off my student loans ASAP. Like yesterday. I read a lot of books and blogs to get to where I am today. I know that if I can do it, you can too.
I’m also a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. Every day, I write about debt, credit, budgeting more for clients like Forbes, Mint and Investopedia.
So if you’re a total finance newb, here are my favorite ways to get started:
The Basics of Personal Finance
I didn’t know a ton about money growing up, but what I did learn, I got from my parents and Dave Ramsey. Dave is the godfather of personal finance, the name that most people recognize when they think about money management.
When I read his book, The Total Money Makeover, something in me changed. In the book, he shares stories of how people paid off huge amounts of debt using his simple principles. Dave doesn’t talk down to you. He doesn’t make you feel like an idiot for racking up $50,000 on your credit cards. While this book doesn’t focus on student loans, it’s a great primer for general personal finance.
If you prefer to learn about money while you’re driving or doing chores around the house, then I recommend the Stacking Benjamins podcast. Voted the top personal finance podcast by Kiplinger’s Magazine, this podcast shares money lessons in a funny, relatable way. The host is a personal friend of mine and is always cracking me up.
One of my favorite personal finance blogs is also the most extreme. Mr. Money Mustache (who lives about 30 minutes away from me) is the story of one man’s quest to spend as little as possible while living his best life. MMM retired in his 30s and writes about biking instead of driving a car, renovating his house by hand and saving 50% of his income. He’s a little abrasive, but an entertaining blogger and someone I think everyone should read.
Another favorite is Broke Millennial written by my friend Erin Lowry. Erin writes about money in a super easy to understand way by sharing her own stories. She writes about not getting an engagement ring, working as a freelance writer and paying for her dog’s surprise vet bills (yes, we have a lot in common).
Want more options? Check out the Modest Money Top Finance Blogs list. You’ll find hundreds of blogs on there, including ones about early retirement, investing and more.
Budgeting is the cornerstone of personal finance. Having a budget is like having a roadmap to financial success. Without a budget, you’re just wandering around, not sure if you’re getting any closer to your goals.
One of my favorite budgeting tools is the app, Mint. It’s the most popular budgeting tool out there and works great on desktop and mobile. Mint syncs with all your accounts so your expenses are in one place. From there, you create a budget based on your income and use it to track how much you’re spending.
I’ve used Mint ever since I started seriously tracking my expenses, and I still use it today. Plus, you can check your credit score for free through Mint and even get personalized recommendations based on your activity. Plus, it’s free!
Another popular budgeting tool is You Need a Budget. YNAB also syncs to your accounts and lets you see how well you’re budgeting. I’ve not used YNAB personally, but it has lots of fans out there. It does cost $50 a year, but if it helps you save more than $100 a month, it’s more than worth it. You can try it for free for 34 days. If you like it, use it and write off the cost as a necessary expense.
Student Loans and Debt
Paying off your student loans is impossible without the right help. Here are some of my favorite resources.
Unbury Me is a tool that shows you how you can pay off your debt faster using either the snowball or the avalanche method. If you plug in all your loans and credit cards and how much extra you can afford to pay each month, it will show you how soon you’ll be debt free and how much interest you’ll save.
The Student Loan Show is hosted by my good friend, Jay Fleischman, who is a consumer lawyer specializing in student loans. He helps students discharge student loans and fights against companies trying to scam innocent consumers.
Need to track your debt? Use the Pay Off Debt app, created by my good friend Jackie Beck. The app allows you to plug in all your information and track your payoff. As someone who paid off $28,000, I know how important it is to see your progress and track your payments.
Here are some of my most popular posts about getting out of debt:
- How Much Interest Are You Paying?
- How I Paid Off My Loans in Three Years – and You Can Too!
- The Secret to Debt Payoff? Make It Easy
If you feel like you still need more help, check out my course, Student Loan Knockout: A 20-Day Journey to Debt Freedom. I walk through all the steps with you, guiding you out of debt without feeling overwhelmed or inundated with new information. Plus, you can always email me if you have any questions or concerns.
Make More Money
If you’ve already been budgeting and cutting expenses and still don’t have enough, then it’s time to make more money. Making more money is the secret to unlocking all your financial goals, like retiring early or starting a new business.
If you want to learn how to find a side hustle, check out Nick Loper’s Side Hustle Nation. He writes about every kind of side hustle you can imagine, from reselling sneakers online to working as a brand ambassador.
You can also check my posts on how to make more money with real people:
Other Favorite Resources
Digit is a perfect set-it-and-forget-it saving system that anyone can use. It links to your bank account and safely withdraws a certain amount of money every couple days. It holds the money in a separate account which you can access any time just by texting Digit. It’s perfect if you’re saving for a vacation, an emergency fund or a new laptop.
Betterment is a digital financial advisor that asks what your retirement goals are and tells you how much you need to save every month to make it happen. It also invests your money in a variety of lowfee funds that you can feel safe about. It makes investing accessible to everyone. There’s no minimum to start.
Anyone who hates doing taxes as much as I do should look into TurboTax. There are both free and paid versions, which are worth it, especially if you’re used to paying hundreds for tax preparers. TurboTax walks you through your taxes step-by-step so you can do your taxes by yourself.
One of my favorite freelance tools is FreshBooks, which lets me send out invoices to clients and track my business expenses. It can add on automatic late fees and remind clients when an invoice needs to be paid. It makes invoicing so much easier so I can spend more time on what’s really important to my business.
Have any more questions? I’m all ears! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a note below.