How To Manage Your Money: A Beginner’s Guide

For many of us, money can be a major source of stress, with shockingly little taught to us in school and by our parents who grew up in a different time and don't quite grasp our lifestyles. And with so much lingering taboo around speaking about money openly, it's easy to be left wondering if we’re the only ones that feel incompetent when it comes to managing our finances.
The truth is, most of us have some kind of hangup when it comes to money, whether it's related to saving, investing, spending or not knowing what the hell is going on with our super funds. So to aid in lifting the lid on all things personal finance, we figured we’d point you in the right direction with some of our basic tips on becoming more confident with your money.
Read on for the Refinery29 guide to the most common personal finance woes, courtesy of people who are still figuring it all out too.



Even if you’ve never been particularly great at saving or setting yourself limits, that doesn’t mean that a budget can’t help you. It’s all about laying out your comings and goings so you can keep an eye on the bigger picture and set yourself up for the future. But since we all have different incomes, expenses, lifestyles and needs, it can be hard to pinpoint just what kind of budget is right for you.

Managing your spending

A lot of the money advice out there seems to ask you to just stop spending. But personal finance is exactly that: personal. It's about managing what you earn and ensuring that your hard-earned dollars are spent wisely, not living as frugally as possible to maximise savings. Cutting out spending altogether isn't realistic for some, but there are some ways we can ensure that when we're getting the most of what we buy, and shopping wisely as to not let it spiral into living beyond our means. There is such a thing as healthy spending, and it's a good idea to shift your thinking to be more realistic, so you can avoid any impulse buys or the dreaded 'withdrawer's guilt'.
Read our full guide on how to save money when shopping.

Weekly saving tips 

Probably the biggest takeaway here is to pay yourself (i.e. Future You) first, before you even pay your bills. Did you know that cutting down on takeaway coffee, or opting for a prepaid phone and homemade lunches a few times a week can save you hundreds? Probably. But what you might not realise is just how easy they are once you get into the habit of tracking your savings — something that makes the cuts actually satisfying.
And there are actually plenty of other things you can do to cut costs when saving for a big-ticket item (like that holiday you definitely deserve) or even just trying to reach a new personal goal, such as setting up an emergency fund.

Love & Money

Avoiding the 'single tax'

Money worries are real, no matter your relationship status. But unfortunately for people that are single, couples are statistically likely to save more money because they usually get to share expenses. To get ahead of what we call the 'single tax', we put a call out for the savviest singles to get real about how they manage to save money.
From sharing streaming service fees with pals to meal-prepping hacks, read all about the advice we received to save money as a single person.

Divvying up spending in a relationship

Finances can be a complicated subject for couples. One may have copious debt or sit on the lower end of the salary spectrum while the other may have come into a lucrative pay rise or have a substantial inheritance. Either way, open communication about where you stand on joint accounts and all those other nitty-gritty details are vital to a healthy relationship, particularly if you're at a stage where you're considering living together or are already sharing a lot of expenses.
Read our full guide on how to divvy up spending in a relationship, as well as the best ways to bring up the conversation.


Negotiating a pay rise 

You talk a big game in your head. You know exactly how hard you work, how you’ve gone above and beyond your job description, and how much money you should be making. But when it comes to actually asking for that raise, you need more of a game plan than whatever impassioned points you’re hitting in the group text.
There are so many factors that go into successfully asking for more money at work, but the good news is, most of them are within your control. Everything from timing to the way you frame your ask to how you enter the room can affect your boss’ decision.
Remember that timing is everything, and that data, and testimonies speak volumes. Head over to our guide on how to ask for a raise to find out more.

Lifestyle creep

After the honeymoon period of your newfound salary growth spurt, your increased spending habits might start to feel right at home, and things that were once considered luxuries are now necessities. Welcome to lifestyle creep, also known as lifestyle inflation.
This phenomenon sees the gradual increase of your spending along with your increased pay increase. That $10 bottle of wine you usually reach for might turn into a $30 bottle. You might swap your high street purchases for something a bit more luxurious. It might even mean a new car or a new apartment. An upgrade to our salary often goes hand in hand with an upgrade in our spending habits too.
Of course, there's no harm in celebrating the wins, but in order to stay on top of your overall financial security, it's best to be wary. Read all about the trap of lifestyle creep, as well as our tips for not letting it consume you.


Consolidating your super

Your super is money that is designed to be a nest egg for your retirement. If you’re earning more than $450 a month, your employer must pay a portion of your income into a super account of your (or in some specific cases, their) choosing. Currently, this rate is set at 9.5% of your annual salary. But since a lot of us will take on jobs at a young age that take super contributions out of our salary without any oversight from us, it's important to be across where and what your super is doing.
Unless you're one of the rare few who has worked in one business your entire life, chances are that your super may be all over the place. More super accounts mean more fees, and consolidating them all into one account is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for financial stability in the future. Not only will you save on fees, but it's just too damn complicated keeping up with more than one membership login so you might as well, even just to save yourself the headache later.
It sounds complicated but it's actually pretty easy to get it sorted. It's essentially just a matter of logging into your myGov, heading to your super settings and then toggling with the management. You can read more details about getting your super under control here.

Making your super work harder

We get it: retirement seems like a ridiculously long way away. However if you start looking at super as the money that you'll likely need to dip into when you're older, you might start to look at it a bit differently. Let's say you're 25 now, and making $60,000 a year. You don't take a career break (to have children, for example) and you retire when you're 70. Including the age pension, you'd be looking at retiring with around $41,462 each year, according to the government's calculator. If you live in a big city and don't own your home, you can imagine that you'll have to say goodbye to all the extra little things you might enjoy right now, like takeaway meals or going to the movies. That's why your super matters. You'll still be you when you're older.
If you reckon you're a little underinformed when it comes to super and what it should be doing for you, head to Moneysmart's guide on understanding super here.

Additional Resources

Apps & podcasts to help you manage your money

As we don't always have the attention span we'd like to these days, sometimes it's worth diversifying where you look to get your financial advice from.
Check out the best podcasts we look to for advice on navigating work and money, from the experts who have mastered the art of getting what you want, to the ones who remind us that we are humans that require rest.
Whether you're after a quick way to get into micro-investments, or just looking for a place that keeps track of your finances in one place, here's our favourite apps to help manage your spending, investments and expand your financial knowledge.
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