Money pro tips: A Q&A with licensed adviser Patrick Bell

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Money pro tips: A Q&A with licensed adviser Patrick Bell

Every week, we ask our personal finance experts at Policygenius (and beyond) for their money pro tips. They spend all day helping people with money, so we figured they could share the wealth (PUN INTENDED). Want a sneak peek? Sign up for the Easy Money newsletter to see their answers ahead of time. Plus, you'll get a weekly dose of financial advice.

This week's expert is Patrick Bell, licensed adviser for Policygenius.

Last thing you resisted buying: A candy bar at lunch.

How did you resist it? I decided I can save my money (and be healthy) by having a snack in the office instead.

Last thing you splurged on: A massage.

Why’d you OK the splurge? Sometimes you need to treat yourself!

Current money goal: Save for retirement.

How you’re working toward it: Minimize spending and increase contributions to my 401(k). I am also researching additional accounts (high-interest savings and an individual retirement account are two options).

Money thing you’re most proud of: Paying my own bills, living on my own, accruing an acceptable emergency fund and still saving money only two years out of college.

No. 1 money tip you give to people: Being frugal doesn’t mean you need to be cheap. Spend your money on the right things. Also, if your parents let you live at home after college, do it!

What would you do with a $1 million windfall? Pay my parents back for helping me through school, then put the rest away for retirement. I’d invest some and save some.

How do you budget? I have a detailed budget of my monthly expenses, including when they need to be paid. I also set a specific amount I will put into savings each month and I stick to it. Anything left over is spending money. For certain months (like around the holidays or for vacation), I adjust accordingly. I also tracked my spending to the dollar for a few months to understand my spending habits and see what I could cut back on.

Best money you ever spent: Grad school. Still ongoing, but will be worth it in the future.

Worst money you ever spent: Valentine's Day dinner four years ago. Tried out a newly opened restaurant with no reviews yet, but I learned very quickly that’s not the best night to experiment with new restaurants. Cold food, unattentive service and a hefty bill. But at least I have a story to tell!

Credit or debit? Ideally, cash. Otherwise, credit to earn points. Plus, I don’t like using my debit card (It’s a lot worse to have your debit card stolen than your credit card).

Most common question people ask you about money: How do you afford to live in New York City?

Answer to the most common question people ask you about money? I was lucky enough to be able to live at home for close to a year, so I was able to save a lot of money. I spent a few months building a budget to understand what I could afford. Now, I only spend money where I need to and take advantage of what is free (snacks at the office is a big plus and a good example of this). I am frugal, but I’m not afraid to spend money on enjoyment. But, I pick and choose when, where and how. I wouldn’t say I am cheap or a stickler with money. I just try to make smart choices.

Image: Nastia Kobzarenko