(BPT) - Whether you're graduating from high school or college, chances are you're becoming more independent about handling your own money. While finances can be stressful, they don't always have to be — which is why a new initiative from Secret Deodorant focuses on providing young women with access to free resources to help them kickstart their financial journey. Through this program, Secret has partnered with five highly renowned female finance experts to offer advice about increasing your financial know-how, posting financial literacy discussions on social media through #SecretMoneyMoves to explore the ins and outs of budgeting, negotiating your first salary, understanding your credit score and more.
"Managing your finances can feel overwhelming, especially when you're becoming financially independent for the first time," said Carmen Perez, Founder and CEO of the budgeting app MUCH. "But with access to the right tools, this milestone can be an empowering next step into adulthood."
Here are some tips to help empower you on your journey to financial wellness.
It's all about that budget
Better money management begins with one simple tactic: budgeting. Tracking exactly how much money is coming in (like your paycheck) and how much is going out (everything you're spending) is essential to learning how to decrease debt and start saving.
"It's important to know how much money you're spending every month compared to your monthly paycheck," shares Perez. "If you're spending more than you're bringing home every month, it's time to make a change — or you could end up in debt."
Take a good look at your expenses to see where you could cut back. Which of your costs are essential, like rent, utilities, groceries and debt repayment, and what can you trim (going out to eat, non-essential purchases)? Finding areas where you can cut down on expenses will help ensure that you don't rely on credit cards — which can lead to more expenses when you have to pay the interest.
Some financial experts swear by the 50/30/20 rule: aiming for about 50% toward essential living expenses, 30% for flexible spending (entertainment) and 20% toward goals such as savings. If you're seeing more than 30% going to entertainment, you may need to cut back.
Start an emergency fund
As soon as you're sure you can keep up with necessary bills and expenses, it's important to get in the savings habit, even if it's a small amount each month. Consider setting up an automatic deposit of a few dollars from each paycheck into a separate savings account — then leave it alone.
If you do have an emergency later (like an unexpected car repair), you'll be glad you have your emergency fund.
Pay down debt more actively
Another goal to work toward is paying down your debt as quickly as possible, to reduce the amount of interest you're paying. Start by paying just a few more dollars than the required minimum payment each month.
There are two schools of thought on paying down debt: one is to identify the credit card or loan charging you the highest interest rate to pay down more aggressively first, which can save you the most money in the long run. Another is to pay toward the smallest debt you owe first, so you'll have the satisfaction of seeing one debt completely paid off sooner — which can inspire you to keep going. Either approach will get you started on the road to better money habits, so pick one and stick to it.
Don't be afraid to talk about money — and get help when needed
While many people are reluctant to talk about money with their friends or family, you can learn a lot from others if you're willing to have an honest discussion. You may also be able to get help from them when you need it, whether in the form of a loan or just some timely advice to help you manage your money better.
"Talking about money may feel uncomfortable at first," added Perez, "but it's a great first step toward feeling more confident about handling your own finances."
Learning how to successfully budget, manage debt and achieve your financial goals is within your grasp. Take control of your financial journey today and visit Secret.com/MoneyMoves to learn more about Secret's financial empowerment initiative, financial experts and how to get access to free educational resources.