Are You Financially Smart? 10 Questions To Ask Yourself

I used to be super intimidated by money to the point where I was blindly withdrawing cash from the ATM and looking away so I didn’t have to face my remaining balance. I wallowed in the bliss of my financial ignorance for a year after graduation until my student loan payments began. Suddenly, it was time to face reality and start “adulting” responsibly. Are you financially smart? Here are 10 questions to ask yourself.

  1. How are you dealing with your debt? In order to be financially smart, you have to accept your debt and begin dealing with it. I postponed thinking about my student loan for a year while traveling the world and working freelance, but it eventually caught up with me. Trust me, the time will come for you to face your debt and the sooner you do it, the better. Making your first payment will be painful but will also feel like a huge relief.
  2. Do you use your credit card too much? Sure, credit cards are the go-to when we spend money but there’s one crucial thing to remember: anything you put on the plastic is borrowed money. I used to splurge on drinks and plane tickets, racking up a hefty bill on my credit card. If you’re not careful, the bills will pile up and you’ll be in debt up to your ears in a year or less. Use your debit card instead so you don’t end up overspending.
  3. Are you able to save money at the end of the month? As an independent woman, you have to be able to handle your own money. I used to work in an office and all my girlfriends complained how they had $5 left in their bank accounts by the last days of the month. I got financially smart and started putting away a chunk of my paycheck as soon as I got paid. Put as much as you can aside as soon as the money comes in so you don’t have to be a hermit staying home every last weekend of the month because you’re broke.
  4. If you’re not saving, where is that money going? If you’re not saving a little every month, you’re not financially smart and you’re setting yourself up for failure. I know it’s tempting to spend those last $50 on makeup at Sephora, but if you put it away instead, it’ll pile up over time. Instant gratification is sweet but it’s way more enjoyable to have peace of mind knowing that if an emergency came up, you’d be fine.
  5. Would you manage to survive if you got fired tomorrow? I used to have a job I really hated and was performing really badly. I expected my boss to fire me any day and that was super stressful because I didn’t have money to survive without the job. If you want to be financially smart, you have to have a Plan B in case all went to hell out of nowhere. That way you can walk around calmly and be proud of yourself.
  6. Do you owe money to your friends and family? Answer that question first and then ask yourself why you owe money. Did you borrow $200 for a pair of cute ballet flats? Is your job paying you too little? Ask yourself what needs to change in order for you to not need to borrow money. Take charge and become financially smart. You’ll live better, plus being good with money is a huge turn on.
  7. Do you have a set budget every month? A sure way to ruin your finances is to go into every month without a plan. You need to allocate how much money will go on rent, bills, food and then figure out what’s left for shopping and fun. If you want to be financially smart, you have to create a strategy. Put together a quick Excel sheet and you’ll be fine.
  8. Are you an impulsive spender? If you like me can’t just see a cheap plane ticket or a great dress and not buy it, you need to admit that to yourself and correct it. Impulsive shopping is nothing new. Remember how Carrie had to beg Big for help in Sex & the City because she overspent? Don’t be that person. Meditate on it. Learn to restrain yourself.
  9. What percentage of your income do you spend on rent? The golden rule when it comes to rent is that you should spend no more than 30% of your income on it. If you’re living in the heart of NYC in an apartment you can’t afford, it’s time to make a change. Be financially smart and live according to your means.
  10. Do you wonder where your money went every weekend? I used dread checking my credit card records on Sunday morning. I was spending crazy money in bars and on taxis. Becoming financially smart taught me to take the exact amount of cash I allow myself to spend while going out and no cards. Once the money runs out, it’s time to get creative or go home. This trick has saved me hundreds of dollars already.
Dayana is a passionate traveler who's been navigating foreign lands and confusing relationships since she was 16. You can read more of her work on Matador Network and her blog, Dee Across The Sea.