Congratulations, 30-somethings: After spending your 20s getting acclimated to adulthood, you finally have your sea legs.
Perhaps you are married with kids. You may have a house. With any luck, you make more money than ever.
Regardless of the particulars of your current life, here are some money moves everyone in their 30s should make during this decade:
1. Revisit your retirement savings
By this point, you should have a retirement fund, such as a 401(k) or an IRA. If you don’t, getting one set up should be a priority.
If you already have such an account, look at where your money is invested. Over time, a retirement account can fall out of balance. Maybe you’re taking on too much risk — or too little.
2. Increase your emergency fund
In theory, creating an emergency fund is another money move you should have made earlier in life. If you don’t have one, putting money aside for a rainy day is another big priority.
If you already have such a fund, it might be time to add to it. Your emergency fund should have enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. Add up all your current monthly expenses and see if your fund falls short on covering them.
3. Rebalance the budget
Revisit your budget at least once a year or every time you have a major life change. If it’s been a while since you crunched the numbers, sit down and do a thorough review.
Does your budget support your current life goals? If not, revise it.
4. Track your spending for a month
Track your spending for an entire month. Keep tabs on every penny. That sounds like a lot of work, but if you use your debit card or a credit card for everything, it’s not so bad.
We tend to idealize where our money goes. (“Oh, I never eat out!”) But once you start tracking, there’s no denying that you hit the drive-thru once a week or go on a spending spree at the mall once a month.
Compare your actual spending with your budgeted amounts. Depending on where the numbers land, you’re going to either need to rework the budget or rethink your spending.
5. Pay off your debt
Of course, we all wish we had never gone into debt in the first place. But there’s no use in rehashing past mistakes: Now is the time to take action and correct them.
Cut up the credit cards, and then go read about how to tackle big debts fast.
6. Perfect the fine art of haggling
In your 30s, you’ll likely make some major purchases. You may also have more discretionary income to buy the things you want.
Stretch your dollars by learning to bargain like a pro. There’s no reason to pay full price when a little negotiating can help you save money on purchases big and small.
7. Consider starting a college fund
For those of you who have become parents, your 30s are a good time to set up a college fund for your kids. Don’t wait until they hit high school to make a plan for higher education.
Options range from 529 plans to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts and prepaid tuition plans.