Three Skills to Develop to Be Better with Money

Sometimes, developing skills in other areas of life can have a spillover effect on your finances. Most positive improvements to your life and habits will also positively effect your wallet.

There are three important skills that can really transform your financial health long-term. These are the ones which, from my perspective, have the biggest impact:

1. Learning to Say No

  • Your junkie uncle is asking for a cash loan again, and your family wants you to give it to him because he's faaaaaaamily.
  • Your sister wants you to babysit, but you know that if you do, you won't get any studying done tonight.
  • Your friend wants you to cosign on his loan. He might not understand that cosigning puts you at risk of having to pay the whole debt and isn't just a reference. Either way, he says you're 'being unsupportive' of him if you don't!
  • You don't really want that distressed copper bar sign at the flea market, but the vendor is really laying it on thick and you'll feel guilty if you just walk away.

These are all situations where your no-saying skills will save you money. Even the babysitting example will affect your wallet, as your performance in school has a lot to do with what kind of job you'll be able to get later. Learning how to assertively say no is one of the most important skills you will ever learn.

Even if you have a million dollars, you won't hold on to it for very long if you can't say no whenever someone asks you for something.

2. Learn to Document and Follow up

  • You would return those shoes to the store.... but you lost the receipt.
  • You're certain that you sent the paperwork on time, but you didn't send it certified mail, so you have no proof. Now you have to pay the fee.
  • You know you weren't at fault for that accident, but since there was no video footage, the cops say it was 50/50 fault.
  • You could have taken that purchase as a tax deduction, but since you never kept track, you simply forgot.
  • You're certain the customer service rep told you that you had 60 days to sign up, not 30, but since you have no proof, you have no recourse.

Documentation is underrated. We live in a proof-based world, where you can only get results if you can prove your actions!

Keeping receipts and confirmation numbers, sending certified mail, logging phone calls (or recording them, when legal) can make a huge difference in results.

It seems like a lot to keep track of, but since most of us have a smartphone, a lot of documentation can be automated.

Here are a few basic documentation tips:

  • Always send documents certified mail and keep the certified mail receipt.
  • Keep receipts for at least 90 days, or for 3 years if they are tax-related.
  • When making an important phone call, take a brief note of who you spoke with, what was said, and what day and time it was. Consider getting an app that records your phone calls- many are free online. Sometimes, even just telling a customer service rep that you may be recording a call will get them to stop lying to you or bump you up to a supervisor.
  • Get a dash cam for your car. If sh*t goes down it's no longer he-said-she-said. You've got proof positive you were not at fault. If something crazy goes down in front of you, you can even put it up on youtube for that sweet ad revenue. In a world teeming with bad drivers and insurance fraud, dash cams often pay for themselves many times over.
  • Did you know that you can snap pictures of receipts right in your iphone's notes app, and it will crop it for you?
Some of these things cost money, like dash cams and certified mail. Think of it this way: if the insurance company is claiming they never got your documents, and therefore your $5000 medical bill wasn't covered, would you go back in time and pay $3.95 to have some proof?

3. Learning to Research

We all know that knowledge is power:

  • You would have saved a lot on your taxes this year if you knew about the IRA deduction.
  • You would have been able to sue if you knew your employer was breaking the law.
  • You would have bought a different car if you knew that this one was so poorly designed and expensive to repair.
  • You would have started looking for a new job a lot sooner if you knew that your company was collapsing.
  • You would have chosen a different college major if you knew how difficult it would be to find a job.

You can't change what you don't know. Sometimes, there are things that are just impossible to know, unless you have a crystal ball.

 The good news is, you don't have to know everything.

Start a research habit. For five minutes a day, while the coffee brews or while dinner cooks, scroll through blogs and websites that will teach you something. It could be anything: "how to be well dressed on a budget", how to negotiate a raise, how to draw better pictures, Consumer Reports style research on a potential purchase, new financial knowledge... whatever direction you want to go.

Scan news headlines on an aggregation app like Reddit or Apple News. Don't go down the rabbit hole of scandal news where you fall into a comment vortex of angry unreasonable people- focus on staying informed, not getting inflamed.

A research skill doesn't just mean sinking hours of time into the internet. It means learning how to cut through the crap to get to the information that will benefit you. This means separating credible sources from ones that will tell you anything to sell you a product.

If you find yourself starting to mindlessly scroll, pull yourself out and regain your focus!

One of my favorite stories is about the time I broke my sink in college back in '08. The porcelain basin cracked in half. As a 20 year old girl with zero prior plumbing knowledge, I fixed my sink by watching YouTube videos. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.

What non-financial skills do you think have the biggest spillover benefits to your financial life? Let me know in the comments!

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