Personal finance is tricky. Trying to build a savings and plan for your retirement can be overwhelming, and if you’re in debt, it can seem impossible. For millennials, particularly those who, like myself, are carrying significant amounts of student loan debt, personal finance is a nightmare.

It frequently feels as if there isn’t enough money to cover rent, utilities, and groceries–and never mind having any extra money to join your friends for dinner or to catch a movie.

I know firsthand what it’s like to turn down plans because you just don’t have the resources and to give up on a dream because you don’t think you’ll ever be able to afford it.

After years of feeling financially hopeless, I decided that it was time to get creative and start taking steps towards improving my overall financial health. Without a doubt, I knew I needed a new budget, but before I could create one, I needed to get a better sense of my overall financial picture. This meant writing everything down on paper–debt, expenses, income-everything.

Confronting my finances it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

The most surprising thing about laying it all out was the relief I felt. There was no more ambiguity. I knew what I owed, what I earned, and what I had saved, and even though I was disappointed by my financial picture, I didn’t feel hopeless anymore.

Don’t underestimate the impact that pen and paper can have on your finances. If you’ve been struggling to create a budget, begin by laying everything down on paper; this is a sobering experience and just may serve as the inspiration you need to get going.

When you see all of your debt and expenses clearly laid out next to your income reality will quickly set in and creating a budget won’t seem so bad plus knowing where your money has to go will make it easier to ensure that it gets there. If you want to improve your financial health, this is a good way to get started.

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