3 New Money Habits I Learned From ‘Finance for the People’

  • Unlike most personal finance books, “Finance for the People” actually addresses economic injustice.
  • I adopted three new habits from the book that made managing my finances so much easier.
  • The most helpful one was having two checking accounts: one for bills, and another for fun spending.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

As a millennial dealing with student loans, credit card debt, and the rising cost of living in a big city, I hate hearing out-of-touch advice from “experts” telling me that quitting my Starbucks habit will solve all of my problems.

In contrast, “Finance for the People,” written by queer Filipina American former financial planner Paco de Leon, is a breath of fresh air. De Leon actually addresses how systemic economic injustice affects our relationship with money while giving practical, realistic tips that help you build wealth.

After reading this book, I learned that there’s a huge difference between taking responsibility for my finances and blaming myself for my past money mistakes.

Taking responsibility for my finances is an act of self-preservation that can help me thrive, especially as a transgender person of color. On the other hand, harshly blaming myself for my past mistakes is a sure-fire way to dig myself deeper in a hole of debt and financial despair, since I’m making emotionally charged decisions based on past trauma.

This mental shift motivated me to make realistic and actionable changes in my finances. Here are three tips from “Finance for the People” that helped me change my relationship with my money and improve my financial situation.

1. Weekly finance time

Weekly finance time is a dedicated half-hour or hour to deal with daunting financial tasks. De Leon writes, “When you set aside the time, you are committing to yourself in advance. You are prioritizing your financial life and not letting your other obligations or desires encroach on this important time.”

Scheduling weekly finance time stopped me from constantly obsessing about money. Instead of anxiously doing mental math every time a bill comes due or when I’m out with my friends, money takes up less mental space because I know I’ve already dedicated time to solve those problems beforehand.

Weekly finance time also helped me tackle difficult tasks like going to my state disability office and calling my service providers to update them about my gender-affirming legal name change.

2. Separate checking accounts for bills and fun spending

De Leon suggests categorizing your spending into two sections: “bills and life,” and “fun and BS.”

Bills and life includes:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Property taxes
  • Home/renters insurance
  • Transportation
  • Medical insurance
  • Pet care
  • Debt
  • Phone
  • Household supplies
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Food at home
  • Utilities
  • Kids
  • Health
  • Other essentials

Fun and BS includes:

  • Dining out
  • Vices
  • Hobbies
  • Gifts
  • Personal growth
  • Entertainment
  • Kids’ hobbies

She then suggests using a separate checking account for each category to make life easier. Because I don’t use big banks like Chase and Bank of America, it took me a while to get used to transferring money back and forth on payday to make this work. But once I got used to it, it was a game-changer.

This simple move took away the mental gymnastics of doing math to figure out if I’m going to be dipping into my rent and bills if I decide to spend an afternoon at a museum then treat myself to lunch. Seeing the actual number that I can spend on fun in its own account gives me the freedom to spend my money on things I love.

3. Automate emergency fund savings

De Leon provides a really simple equation for a savings rate to help readers create a timeline to build an emergency savings fund. An emergency fund is easily accessible cash typically kept in a high-yield savings account with three to six months’ worth of living expenses to be used in case of emergencies.

The equation is: (Monthly savings ÷ Monthly take-home pay) x 100 = savings rate.

Because a lot of my take-home pay is tied up in debt repayment and the high cost of living in Los Angeles, I currently have a savings rate of 2% per month. It’s humbling to come to that realization about my savings, let alone share it with thousands of readers on the internet.

With this new self-awareness, I made it a point to automate my precious little 2% savings each paycheck. When I have a few extra dollars left in my “Fun and BS” checking account, it makes it that much more rewarding and motivating to build my emergency fund.

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