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In our new series, Investing In Yourself, Chelsea walks you through the basics of getting your money under control so you can reach your long-term goals. In our last episode, she tells you everything you need to know to balance saving money and living the life you want.

Written by Amanda Holden

The Financial Diet site:

Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And this series is sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

When it comes to saving money, there is a huge range of behaviors and belief systems out there. On one side of the spectrum, there are people who absolutely refuse to consider saving even when their incomes would totally allow for it. On the other end, there are people who are obsessed with saving to the point of self-imposed austerity.

They insist on no indulgences, no mistakes, and, sometimes, no joy. Ideally, we fall somewhere in the middle, enjoying our everyday lives while still being serious about saving money. You know we are all about balance here at TFD.

That means I will never imply that in order to be good with money, you need to be a recluse living in a tiny house cut off from all society. But I'm also here to remind you that you cannot be the rich kids of Instagram either. So if there is one skill to indeed master to balance these two sides, it is learning to balance the interests of present you and future you.

And here are our seven tips for doing just that. Step 1. You have to believe that both saving and spending are important.

It is going to be very hard to find a balance between saving and spending if you do not see the inherent value in both. For example, if you see savings is just something that adults are supposed to do but you assign no personal further value to it, it's going to be very hard to stay the course on actually saving money. Conversely, if you think that spending is always sort of inherently morally wrong, you are going to have a hard time spending on the things that would truly enrich your quality of life.

But both spending and savings are true necessities for living a fulfilled life. Saved money provides a feeling of safety and comfort that I truly wish for everyone. Having money in the bank ensures that a small hiccup does not morph into a financial disaster, but saved money also creates opportunity and freedom.

Moving across the country, buying a home, walking away from a job you hate, starting a business, buying that super-hot but slightly too-expensive wedding dress, those things all require saving money. But with spending money, you can create joy and convenience in your life. You can use it to build a life that you love every day via the choices you make on your housing, travel, nourishment, and services that buy back your time, just to name a few.

In order to find the balance, you need to be clear on why you're doing both and what they bring you. Which brings us to our next point. Number 2.

Write down your life goals and then put an actual price tag on them. Hopefully, we are TFD have convinced you that saving money is going to be a crucial part of creating the life of your dreams. But you have to know what those dreams actually are.

Having a child, moving, starting a business, owning a home, all of these are valid and none are better than the other. But they all do have some kind of an actual tangible price point. So figure out what those things will actually likely cost, whether year to year or all at once.

And it's likely that for some of them you will be a bit shocked at the actual cost of these things. But it's better that you confront them ahead of time than be unprepared for them when they arrive, or not be able to enjoy them at all because you don't have the resources. So once you've selected the goals that are most important and you've determined their cost, start to put them on a savings timeline, maybe 24 months out.

And each month you are putting toward an account that is for that specific goal. What you're likely to notice pretty quickly is that you simply cannot save for all of these effectively at once. You're going to start have to prioritizing these goals in order of importance to you.

And you may also find that in ordering the importance of some of these, that you can get away with something you really enjoy for some of these goals at a lower price point. For example, a $50,000 wedding might not be in the cards. But you could find a way to make a $15,000 one just as special.

And step 3 is building a budget with these goals in mind. We've already spoken in this series about how to build a budget that actually works for you. But few budgets are likely to work at all if they are not giving you a reason to work for them.

A well-constructed budget represents a good balance between your current and future selves and instant versus long term gratification. But what is that budget actually working towards? I personally think that it's helpful to think of a budget in terms of a game.

You've got a certain amount of money coming in, and your job is to maximize the absolute hell out of it. And what you're likely to find is that you're going to have to make certain sacrifices in order to get all of the puzzle pieces to fit. But once you've got a good concept of order of importance in terms of your spending and your longer term goals, it will get easier and easier to make the sacrifices that need to happen.

A really easy budgeting framework to use is the 50, 30, 20 Budget. The goal is to spend 50% of your after-tax money on necessities like rent, insurance, and transportation, 30% on fun spending, and 20% going to savings goals. And while it's very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the budget, keep in mind that the real focus here is the 20% allotment for goals.

If you're saving enough, it doesn't really matter how the rest of your money is allocated. Step 4. Proactively manage your debt.

Contrary to how it might seem, finding financial balance is actually pretty advanced in terms of money management. So if you're watching this and feeling like none of it applies to you because you're bogged down by debt, I hear you. And that is OK, because not everyone is going to be able to turn around and suddenly save 20% of their income.

For you, a more immediate proactive step could be finding a more intentional way of managing your debt. What exactly this entails will depend on your situation. It could mean ramping up your monthly payments from the minimum, looking into refinancing or different repayment options, or even just really writing down and understanding all of your debts and where they stand so that you can start to take a hold of them.

Which is, in and of itself, an incredibly powerful move if you've been hiding from your debts. Don't feel bad if the part of your life that you're in right now is going super-hard on your debt versus ramping up your savings. That is not only extremely admirable, it's also a crucial first step to making sure that you can reach these higher-level goals.

Step 5 is learning to cherish the things that you already own. There is simply no way to have a conversation about living a balanced and fulfilled life without also learning how to appreciate what is already in that life. On the one hand, I want to believe that we are all on some level savvy enough to be impervious to all of the various influences of marketing and social media and all of the various dynamics that are constantly bearing down on us and encouraging us to spend money.

But on the other hand, even I-- many times-- have fallen prey to buying something because it was marketed effectively to me, or I was envious, or I felt insecure about myself, or simply because I was bored and thought that online shopping would resolve that. Which it never, ever does. I know what it's like to want material items to fix boredom or insecurity.

And because I know this feeling firsthand, I believe it is essential that we are frequently taking stock of what's in our life and being actively grateful for those things. Doing inventory of our own wardrobes and, for example, challenging ourselves to do an entire month of outfit combinations we've never made before with the things we already own. And other practices that make really proactive use of what is already in our lives are good ways to combat the feeling that you are simply one purchase away from feeling like a better person.

Step 6 is developing free hobbies. I do beat this drum quite a bit here on TFD, but it's because it is a truly life-changing way to approach your day to day. Part of spending, as we mentioned, often comes from boredom.

And part of boredom is, frankly, from having time with which we're not really doing anything that relevant or enriching. And it's a shame. Because now that we have the internet, there is basically a limitless amount of free, interesting stuff and like-minded people that we could constantly be filling our time with.

We have libraries, museums with free days, parks, meet-up groups around basically every hobby you could want. Now you can find tons of groups online and via Zoom with which to share interests. You can learn basically any skill for free on the internet at this point.

And even just committing yourself to exploring a new part of your city can be a very valuable way to spend an afternoon. The point is, making sure that we are as much filling our time with things that are enriching but also not costing us money is both great for making our life feel better on a day-to-day basis but also taking away all of that bored free time which we might otherwise be filling with mindless spending or going out to get a bunch of margaritas we don't need to be drinking. Lastly, for the 7th and final step, automate like hell.

If you are someone who generally feels exhausted by the day-to-day tasks of life, and the idea of actively managing your money in any substantial way makes you feel incredibly fatigued, the answer is to automate as much of it as possible. And that's not just a good way to relieve yourself of the feeling that managing your money is yet another task to put on your calendar. It's also a good way to ensure that you will actually do it.

As mentioned earlier in this series, one of the biggest hurdles to saving is often the act of taking money from one account and putting it to another, not only because it's an extra task you can easily forget to do, but also because you've already mentally incorporated that money into your spending. This means automatic transfers to places like your emergency fund or maybe your IRA-- if you have a 401k at work, your workplace might actually already be doing this. But there are probably several more ways in which you could automate the process of managing your money.

And ultimately, finding balance, financial or otherwise, is about making the most valuable use of every hour of your day. Because time is, quite frankly, the one resource we cannot buy more of. But we can make space for more of it by taking up less of our time with tasks that don't really serve us and don't need to be done manually.

So go out of your way to find that financial balance, because I promise you it will be worth it. And as I mentioned, this video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments. They are here to help you reach your savings goals.

So if you're looking for a way to finally start investing what you save, check out Fidelity.