Yesterday, Heather Reaves, a Financial Advocate at Navigon Financial Group, came to The Raleigh Forum to do a brown bag lunch session on financial planning for our coworkers. It was an informative and- dare I say?- fun way to tackle personal and professional financial question and issues.

I came away with a list of takeaways (both new and reinforced) and an action plan that I wanted to share!

  • Remember to think “What is the value of money to you?” Other than basic needs, what are your intentions and goals in making and spending money? For me, a big reason I want to make money is to reinvest it in other business ventures.
  • Heather compared a budget to a pair of jeans- you would never buy concrete jeans, so don’t try for a concrete budget. You need elasticity and flexibility! Income and spending ebbs and flows, so plan (or unplan, as the case may be) accordingly.
  • Be realistic- you may put a cap on how much you can spend on coffee each month, but if you reach your cap on the 20th of the month, will you not drink coffee for the rest of the month? For me, the answer is no, so I know I have to adjust other parts of my budget.
  • Always have fixed and discretionary categories on your budget. Fixed = rent, student loan payment, car insurance. Discretionary = eating out, entertainment, even gas (for me at least, since I live so close to most things and could walk/bike/take public transportation)
  • Making a budget is only the first step. Following through is obviously very important! Use tools like Mint.com to make it easy, efficient, and manageable.
  • Think of finances as a game (within reason!). Add a little bit of “play money” into your budget for when you’ve stuck to your budget. Reward yourself for proactive financial decisions.
  • Use silly money-saving techniques like putting $1 into a jar every time you bike or walk instead of taking your car.
  • Don’t worry too much about student loans. They are generally low-interest and they should be seen as assets, not debts.
  • The goal of credit is to show that you’re trustworthy. Credit bureaus look at income, debt, collection action, number and types of loans and accounts, and your credit card history.
  • With a credit card, always pay the minimum each month. Passing the 50% mark of your credit limit is not a good idea.
  • Just because you can have a higher credit limit doesn’t mean you should. Base your limit on your comfort level. Don’t trust yourself to carry $1000 limit? Start out with $500!
  • A good test: if you wouldn’t put it on a debit card, don’t put it on a credit card.
My action plan:
  • Update my Mint.com account and keep it up to date
  • Check my credit score and note areas of improvement
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+Cristina Roman