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The Financial Order of Operations: 10 Great Money Choices for Every Stage of Life

The Financial Order of Operations: 10 Great Money Choices for Every Stage of Life

One of the reasons personal finance can feel so overwhelming—nay, defeating—is that there’s so much pressure to do everything at once. I think it’s why so many people feel lost and incompetent with money. I did too, until I discovered a financial order of operations.

Money decisions are always intimidating. Every financial decision you make compounds over time! That can be good, like when investments grow. But it’s also terrible, because financial mistakes can haunt you for years after you’ve made them. With so much pressure to get it right, every single time, and always on the first try, it’s no wonder people freeze up.

I wish someone had sat me down and compassionately explained that I didn’t have to do everything all at once. If you want to stay motivated and make meaningful progress on a goal, it’s so much better to focus on just one at a time. And just like in eighth grade math, there’s a right order of operations to everything, depending on what stage of life you’re in.

Today I’m going to take you through my financial order of operations. It’s a basic blueprint of ten steps most people could follow to transform their finances for the better.

In my opinion, it’s the best order in which to save, invest, and pay off debt. It also takes into consideration the incredible importance of maintaining motivation and keeping financial decisions centered exactly where they should be: around your personal goals, dreams, and emotional well-being.

Best of all, anyone can follow the first two steps! You don’t need to have money or a job to get started. Woo-hoo! Gates are open—send in the teenaged overachievers!

Obviously, everyone is different. Think of this journey as the Oregon Trail. We all start in the Independence, Missouri of total ineptitude, and we’re all trying to get to the gloriously fruitful Willamette Valley of financial independence. Some of us may choose to raft down the Columbia River Gorge, and others will take the Barlow Toll Road. That’s totally fine! This guide will help you make informed decisions, even if you don’t follow it exactly.

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How to Make Any Financial Decision, No Matter How Tough, with Maximum Swag

We get literally hundreds of questions on how to make a financial decision.

“O great and mighty Bitches, should I pay off my debt or add to my savings?”

“Our Bitches, who art in Bitch Nation, should I take a gap year or try to finish my college degree as quickly as possible?”

“Wise and benevolent Bitches, should I buy a house or keep renting?”

“Most beloved and humble of Bitches, how should I allocate my investments?”

“Bitches, I beseech thee: how much of my income should I budget for necessities vs. entertainment?”

One of the things about our blog I’m most proud of is that we answer as many of these questions as possible. Hence our Ask the Bitches series and the entire Q&A premise of our podcast!

It’s not entirely altruistic, though. We get off on being human Pez dispensers of advice tablets. And when we get multiple questions on the same topic, we often just write a whole ass article on said topic. BOOM! Question answered in perpetuity!

Despite the pleasure we take in our methodology, I’m about to shift it from a BGR-exclusive service to something even amateurs can do at home. With this article, I’ll wipe out about 70% of the questions people ask us in one fell swoop.

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How can you work toward new financial goals with $2,000 in fixed costs?

Case Study: Swimming Upstream against Unemployment, Exhaustion, and $2,750 a Month in Unproductive Spending

Hi, it’s me: your Good With Money Friend.

If an old acquaintance reaches out and asks if I’d like to grab drinks, I know it’s not because they miss my sparkling personality. It’s because they just cracked open their investment statements for the first time in five years and they need to talk to someone who actually understands whut dafuq it says. It’s okay! I don’t take it personally.

The Good With Money Friend is a very valuable part of any friend ecosystem. A squad without one is like a Pokemon team without a dragon type: our rarity and fussy movesets make us only situationally useful, but there’s no getting through the Elite Four without at least one of us.

Obviously Piggy shares my genus and species. We started this blog so that we could save time by sending people a link instead of tapping it all out with our thumbs in a text!

Now, we ain’t professionals. (CFPs are lawful good. We’re chaotic good; we tell you which parts of your taxes you can cheat on. Key distinction!) But if your budget for financial advice is “here, take this six pack,” then BABY, we’re here for you! Talking to a Good With Money Friend can give you the gut-check you need when you can’t afford professional advice, or need insights from someone who knows you better than a paid professional you just met.

This week I Zoomed with two of my closest friends. We talked through their goals and identified a strategy for getting there. With their permission, I’m going to open up that process so you can see how I arrived at my conclusions. 

One of our key missions at BGR is to create more Good With Money Friends, especially in historically underserved communities. So open your mind like a flower in the morning and absorb our baseless opinions! One day you, too, will be rich in grateful friends, a more stable immediate community, and/or six packs!

CHEERS M8
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You think Beyonce scrubs her own damn toilet? A resounding "hell no!"

Stop Measuring Your Time in Beyoncé Hours

Let’s debunk a shitty motivational platitude, shall we?

“We all have the same 24 hours in a day.”

This trite adage is meant to motivate the lazy. It’s meant to erase the excuse “I don’t have time,” to convince us that the only thing separating us from the most successful people in the world is how we spend our allotted twenty-four hours every day.

The result, at least for this Bitch, is that I sometimes find myself frustrated and cranky because I couldn’t complete all my goals in a single day.

I begin my twenty-four hours with the goal to finish three major projects at work, read fifty pages of a novel before bed, get a workout in, walk the dog, weed the garden, write an article for the blog, edit a chapter of a freelance project, mop the kitchen floor, schedule dinner and hanging out with three other couples, paint a bookshelf for my friend’s nursery, and call United Airlines in the vain hope that for once in their miserable existence they’ll treat a customer with reasonable compassion.

And when I’ve failed to complete all these goals in a single day, I beat myself up for not being efficient enough. For clearly there are successful people out there achieving all of their goals in the same amount of time, right? We all have the same twenty-four hours, after all!

To be successful, you just need to optimize your time! Work smarter, not harder! Stop wasting time and use your twenty-four hours just like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk! Sort out your priorities and get shit done! If Sheryl Sandberg can do it in twenty-four hours, then by all that’s holy, so can you!

Which is, of course, complete and utter bullshit.

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January is for goals!

Actually, Fuck Big Goals

Dear ones, this will be our last post of 2018. After that, we’ll be taking our usual two-week winter vacation. But don’t worry, we’ll be back in 2019.

And let’s be real here—we’ll be at our worst. Doughy from cheese plates; mildly queasy from eggnog; loaded down with gifts of questionable usefulness; viciously introverted from mandatory holiday interactions with people. December is a month during which I often feel overfed and slothful, yet also exhausted and kinda seasonally depressed. But January is better. January is for goals! My Catholic guilt over nonstop holiday partying conspires with hardcore New Years Mood to shove me off the couch and make me strike at my goals like a holly jolly king cobra!

My goals for this year are modest. And that’s how I like it. I think we spend way too much time talking about the benefits of huge goals, and far too little on tiny goals.

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