LendingTree Academy

How to get financially savvy and stay that way

Written by

Jonathan McFadden

Posted

February 21, 2020

We’ve collected money management tips and insight from LendingTree women who are savvy spenders and savers. This is the final in a four-part series debunking gendered stereotypes about women and money. Read the first three installments here, here and here.

Here’s what Ally Pinner, LendingTree’s employee engagement and communications partner, said about managing her finances, in her own words.

Getting savvier with time

I manage my finances with a monthly budget and consider myself a conscious spender. That definitely wasn’t the case in college, or even right after. I was careless with my spending and didn’t understand the importance of establishing structure in how I managed my money. Now that I’m older, I value my savings and traveling/experiences over material items. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Save a little to save a lot: At 16 and throughout college, I worked part-time jobs. I considered the money I made ‘fun money.’ That meant I didn’t contribute anything to my savings. I know, it’s terrible. But saving wasn’t top of mind until my mid-to-late 20s. I adopted a savings method I learned from a coworker: Every time I got $5 from cash tips, I’d put it aside without touching it until the end of the year. Now, at 29, I contribute to my savings each month.

Make reasonable purchases: My first “big girl” purchase was a used 2011 Mazda 3. Unlike a lot of my friends who bought brand-new cars, I considered my purchase reasonable and within my means at the time. I don’t regret it, but I realize now I could’ve waited until I actually needed to get a new car. I still have that car and plan to keep it until the wheels fall off since I no longer have a monthly payment (I paid it off in 2017). One of the best things I’ve done is use the money that would’ve been my car payment for a “vacation fund” that’s separate from my savings and allows me to save money for trips.

Budgeting isn’t scary: I once thought having a budget meant I couldn’t go out to eat, go on trips or splurge on an expensive pair of shoes. That’s not true. A budget makes you conscious and smart about your spending. I still get to do everything I want, but my budget keeps me in line and prevents me from spending past my means. It helps me stay smart about my finances. Budgets aren’t one size fits all, so people should create one that works with their lifestyle and priorities. You can even download apps that make it easy to track.

Keep watch over your accounts: I check my bank account frequently. If you’re aware of your spending and can see it day-to-day, you’re less likely to spend money carelessly.

Keep utilization low: I have three credit cards — one for cash back and two for travel rewards. Still, I make sure I keep my credit utilization low. I don’t consider my available credit as money I can freely spend. I recommend refraining from getting multiple credit cards, because you can keep your finances simple. If you plan to get multiple, do your research to see which ones are most beneficial to you. Ahem, LendingTree lets you compare cards, so take advantage!

Take the “free money”: I began contributing more than the max contribution my company will match in our 401k plan. I learned to plan for my retirement early and committed to never contributing less than the percentage my company will match. It’s essentially “free money.”

Don’t treat available credit as available money: When I was 24, I planned a trip to Thailand and made the mistake of opening up a new credit card to pay for my $1,200 flight. I intended to pay it off within six months. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, I considered the available credit as my own money and racked up close to $3,000 in credit card debt in just a few months. My parents weren’t going to bail me out, so I had to figure out how to pay it off without ruining my credit. It took me more than a year-and-a-half to pay down the debt. I created a budget to avoid excessive spending and put as much money as possible towards the credit card each month. This was one of my biggest financial lessons.