For many of us, thinking about money is at best an unwelcome chore, or at worst, a source of ongoing stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Mellisa Ma, co-founder of financial literacy enterprise Moneygirl.

“Money is not a goal. It’s only a tool to reach your goals,” says Ma. “I think that mindset brings more happiness and takes away some of the stress when it comes to spending.”

Together with co-founder Mariam Mohammed, the pair set out to demystify financial literacy with a six-week program focusing on young people and women. Classes are available online, with in-person workshop facilitators based around Australia. Moneygirl aims to make money matters engaging and relevant, with a focus on personal happiness rather than statistics.

With that in mind, Ma shares five simple ways to start taking money seriously.

Prioritise value-based spending
Value-based spending is about prioritising spending based on your personal preferences – but with perspective, to avoid regret later on. For Ma, this meant noticing that she was spending too much on clothes, which weren’t giving her enough satisfaction to justify it.

“Make conscious decisions about what you spend your money on,” she says. “Confront your money habits and budget, and comb through all the transactions you make. It’s about putting your money into areas where it will benefit you in the future.”

Make sure your career is right for you
The pandemic caused many Australians in a position to do so to question their career choice. “Finding something that motivates you is super important,” says Ma. “It makes you happier now and might increase your earning potential in the future, because you’re naturally more focused and proactive with something you’re passionate about.”

She points out that there are more options for diverse careers than ever before, including working from wherever you might live. So, it can’t hurt to scout around.

Set up an emergency fund for a rainy day
We never know when an unexpected financial situation might pop up that means spending a lot of money in one go. That’s why starting an emergency fund is wise – and it can be as simple as setting up an automatic transfer into an interest-based savings account. Even $10 a fortnight could help down the track.

“It’s a little insurance policy for yourself,” says Ma. “If something unexpected happens in the future and you need a big chunk of money, you don’t have to turn to loans or credit cards. Think about how long you could live if you didn’t have a job. Having an emergency fund will give you peace of mind.”

Sort out your superannuation
It can be hard to start thinking about retirement when it seems so far away, but you don’t want to be caught unprepared. “Super is something most people don’t think about until it’s too late,” Ma says. “So many Australians get to their fifties or sixties and haven’t thought about what they’re going to survive on in their retirement. Make sure you know what super fund you’re with. And if you have multiple super funds, see if consolidating them is a good option for you.”

Don’t be intimidated by investing
Like super, investment might be something that seems like a decision for later in life. But doing it sooner is always your best bet, and there are many platforms and services for investment these days. There are risks involved though, so it’s worth seeking advice from a professional who can assess your financial circumstances.

“A lot of young people don’t think about investing, because it seems so daunting,” says Ma. But like with most things regarding your finances, doing a little research makes the whole thing seem a lot loss scary – and a lot more doable.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Bankwest. See Bankwest’s online money management guides for more ideas to get the most out of your money. The information in this article is of a general and educational nature only. You should consider your own financial position and requirements before making a financial decision.