Hello, it’s your friendly inconsistent blogger here! Did I mention I have a new job and I suck at math? I did? Okay, cool.
I’m back today with the second installment of being a baller on your own budget, and I’m ready to talk money. And for the record, these tips are helpful even if you’re not struggling with money. In fact, a lot of people that have it, are the ones that are most careless with it!
I’ve never in my life thought too much about money, (hellooooo, art major) until I struggled to make things work. To be clear, money definitely isn’t everything, especially if you find yourself spending it on unnecessary things. But, it is important to have some funds set aside for a rainy day, a worst case scenario, the opportunity to help a loved one, or even so you can have some fun!
DISCLAIMER: I’m by no means an expert on this topic, but I do have a few years of banking experience under my belt (including dealing with credit cards for a small community bank). I live with the best saver I’ve ever met in my life, my mom was in banking for like… 30 years (?? wow), and my dad is perpetually concerned with HVAC systems failing, cars breaking down, and general your house and life are falling apart situations, so if nothing else, “the fear” is deeply rooted within me.
It should also be noted that I am no stranger to retail therapy, splurging on things I don’t need, and desperately trying to be Buddy the Elf for the holidays. No one is a perfect money spender/saver, but it does sadden me that so many young people I know and read about are literally living paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes deep into student and credit card debt. It’s truly a scary feeling to fear getting in a fender bender, having to visit the doctor for the flu, or having a power outage that could spoil all your food and effectively, cause you to miss a phone bill or something. I’ve been there.
HOW ON EARTH DO WE FIX IT?! Well, I have a few helpful tidbits:
- OPEN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. It blows my mind how few people I know have a savings account. Do I have a huge savings account? Hell no. But, I hope to someday have one, and the only way for that to happen is to HAVE A SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Stop at your bank on a weekend or a day off, or check to see if you can even open one online, through your bank. The sad truth of our modern time is that they earn next to nothing, but what can ya do? Any bank these days will set up an auto transfer for you, or you’re able to set one up yourself on your online banking. What do I mean by this? Set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking to savings on payday every two weeks, and don’t pay too much attention to it. Start out small, maybe even ten or twenty dollars. Over time it adds up! Try not to touch your savings account unless you absolutely have to. A backup plan. The mindset that works for me is that I consider my contribution like a bill I have to pay. An obligation. ** Watch out for fees though. Make sure you’re opening an absolutely free savings account, and be sure that you won’t be penalized if you do have to withdrawal funds someday! Banks are tricky.
- Think twice before you say yes to that credit card that will save you 15% on your purchase today. Retailers are tricky bastards. I know so many people my age who are in Buckle debt, or Macy’s debt, so on and so forth. Try to resist that urge. Unless you’re making a hefty purchase, (I’m talking Home Depot, Best Buy kind of things) or you’re a frequent shopper at said retailer, it is likely that the pitfalls outweigh the benefits. For most everything, your run of the mill credit card from your bank should do the trick. Not to mention, so many things affect your credit score. From too many inquiries, (checking your credit or applying for credit cards) to having cards you don’t ever use, all of that can mess with your credit score, and ultimately your finances. Keep your number of credit cards to a minimum. That will take all the temptation away from dropping 300 dollars on jeans in one go. Ya feel me?
- Create a budget. By now, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I hate Excel and am not particularly tech savvy. When I say to create a budget, I mean to do so in a way that’s most efficient and comfortable for you. For my husband, a perfect Excel budget is the dream. For me, I’m more of a write stuff down and be able to refer to my list kind of person. I actually found my favorite budget specific notebook at Dollar General a couple years ago, but this one is super similar. Or, just write out something like this: On each pay day, document your total account balance, subtract from this balance what you’re putting into savings, your bills, some entertainment, gas, and food. The number you come up with, that’s what you have left, duh. But then, challenge yourself by trying not to deplete that. I know it’s so much easier said than done, but as someone who’s recently struggled a lot with money, I’m here to tell you that if you consciously make the decision to pass up your Starbucks, (I hate Starbucks, but I know you don’t) eat something at home rather than go out, and use some of your grocery coupons, you will absolutely see the difference in your bank account.
- Figure out your 401k options. If you’re blessed enough to have a 401k option from your employer, get the most out of it. I should definitely take my own advice here. Thank goodness for my type A husband who helps me with this sort of thing. If you don’t really understand how it all works, ask your boss or coworkers and find someone who knows their crap. Don’t break your paycheck with contributions, but do your best to optimize your options. Your future self will thank you ten times over for considering this now.
- Cut corners and find savings where you can. These changes will be super specific to your lifestyle, but I can give you a few examples. For instance, last summer it occurred to me that my phone bill was stupid expensive. Even though unlimited data was a godsend for a time when you paid for each individual text over 10k you went, it is no longer efficient. My phone bill is now much cheaper, even if I go over data. Today, we bought a new printer because ours bit the dust, and would you believe that Best Buy will not only take your old printer off of your hands, but they’ll offer you 15% off a new one on the spot, or pay you that 15% if you bring your old printer with you on your next trip? Also, I have definitely been embarrassed about even the concept of using coupons before, but now that I’m an adult with a fully developed brain, I realize they’re awesome! (When not taken to an extreme. If you’re one of those people who somehow gets paid when you go to buy things, and yes that’s apparently a thing, just don’t take me with you. That’s mortifying. And you don’t need 60 cases of applesauce.) Places like Kroger and Meijer actually print coupons based on your purchases, so they’re relevant to you. Look for ways to save on both your necessities, and thing things you want!
- Take care of your student debt. When I tell people that my student loan is paid in full, (and has been for like three years) they are floored. I was especially blessed to have college mostly paid for, but we did have to manage paying for a ton of art supplies, my housing, a few gallery exhibitions, trips to NYC, and the humdingers were summer classes and my study abroad. I ultimately did have to take out a loan. Definitely not as hefty as most, but enough to kind of freak me out. So, how did I pay that off in two years? Well, I got a shitty full-time job that I full-time hated, I moved back in with my dad, and I eventually committed to not getting food on my breaks at the mall, and packed my food instead. These three things were tremendous successes for me, as I was able to put like 75% of my pay toward loans every month. I fully realize that these are not valid options for everyone, but the moral here is if you prioritize payments (and overpayments!) and make some sacrifices here and there, I believe you can power through any and all debt.
Also, yard sales really help. Huge fan of yard sales.