Part of being an adult may include frequent bouts of bill paying, pay checking, tax paying, and credit scoring. There will be moments when you wake with a start at 2AM because holy crap did I forget to pay my credit card?
You will look at your pay stub and smile, look at your savings account and shrug and then look at your credit card bill and reconsider how much you really need in order to live inside or eat food.
Money is a tough thing but like so many grown up issues its better if you tackle it day by day rather than skating by until you have a real problem.
Like your health.
Or your automobile.
Or your inability to give up Greys Anatomy.
So, here you have it, ten things: budgeting edition.
I once tried to help a friend in a rough financial spot create a budget. Oh, man.
I kept asking “how much do you usually spend on…food/clothes/transportation/etc” and she responded “well I could spend less, I don’t need to spend anything actually, I just won’t spend money”
You are going to spend money. It’s going to happen. I’m sorry but you can’t avoid it.
Starting with a budget is like trying to eat better. If you give up everything delicious and only eat lettuce, you will fail.
If you try to go from a $200 eating out budget to a $20 one, you will fail.
Start by just watching how much money you spend on things, then set a budget a bit below that and go down from there.
Have a Credit Card or Two
Credit cards scare most people because they either got themselves in trouble with them once before or they know someone who did.
My dad put his bachelors degree on credit cards because he had no other options.
Don’t do that.
Find a card with some decent rewards and terms, use it throughout the month and pay it off regularly.
Use it, just don’t abuse it.
I use mine to buy groceries, gas, and all the other things I would buy either way. That way I’m not just splurging on my credit card, I’m buying what I need and building up my credit score.
Or something like it.
I like Mint because it keeps track of my accounts and assets and manages budgets using email and/or app notifications.
Im always a little concerned about giving my account or personal info to anyone outside of my bank* but Mint has been around for a while and has a solid history.
Have a Savings Account
When I got home from Peru I had to open a new checking account and with it I went for a savings account.
Have a separate account that’s not for essentials and try to put money in it. Even $10 every now and again can add up.
This can also serve as an emergency fund. It sucks to have your savings wiped out by surprise car trouble or dental work or computer replacement, but it’s better than putting that all on a credit card and having to pay it down over several months.
Make a List
No matter how much money you make, there is space for the non essentials. Rather than impulsively buying things every few weeks because you just want something new, make a note of all the little things you want and how much they cost.
Every once in a while check that list and ask yourself “do I still want this?” and if you do start saving for it.
Decide If It’s DIY
Some things are more economical to hire someone to do. Plumbing, for instance, is not my forte.
Other things are worth learning to do yourself. Consider your skill set and then use resources on the Internet.
Can you learn to change your own oil? Do cool pedicures? Alter clothing? Make fancy coffee drinks?
I learned to make my own almond milk recently and it’s saved a decent amount of money and isn’t super hard.
There’s a whole world (wide web) of info out there, use it.
Carry On as a Broke College Student
Once upon a time you were probably really good at living on less than $500/month, because that was the only option. Just because you’re likely making a bump more than that now, doesn’t mean you have to act like it.
Yes, you can trade in Cup O’ Noddles for Organic produce and meat. Yes, you can go out to dinner that’s not a fast food chain. Yes, you can buy clothing that you are the first person to wear. Be happy, be comfortable, but remember that going out does not have to be lobster dinner just because it can be and your never-before-worn clothing choices don’t have to be diamond encrusted.
Live well, but hold on to that thrifty kid who knew how to stretch a dollar until it screamed uncle.
Know What You Should Be Paying
Shopping around is important for everything. You don’t have to be the kind of person who goes to six different grocery stores to find tomatoes for 20 cents less to find a good deal.
It is worth checking weekly flyers at bigger grocery store chains (now also available on their websites) to see if you can get a good deal on lettuce or toilet paper.
For many retail items, Google’s shopping search and Amazon can help out, showing you a side by side comparison of stores near you and online companies.
On the housing side, RentoMeter can help tell you if you’re paying too much for your apartment or house. It calculates average prices depending on your area and factors where your rent falls on that scale.
Universal healthcare has made it possible. Annoying, yes, but no longer impossible. Stop putting it off because surprise medical bills. You don’t want those.
Have a Fund for Something Special
Growing up my extended family did this awesome thing. We all lived several thousand miles from each other and were of average means, so seeing each other was hard.
Early in my life, my family created an account where they would all put money each holiday rather than buying each other gifts so that every two years we could take that money and use it to see each other.
Each family only had to pay their way to a location (picked by smaller family units, we traded off) and the expenses would be paid for when they arrived. This meant I never got birthday presents from extended family but I got to see my cousin grow up. Not a bad trade off I’d say.
This could work for anything; seeing faraway friends and family or even just saving up for a trip you’ve always wanted to take or a hobby you love.
Squirreling away a bit of money when you think about it can be exciting and it doesn’t have to be a lot, a few bucks here and there can mean a really fun time.
Was that ten? I think that was ten. It’s been a long week (she wrote on Monday). Anyway, I hope those tips help, let me know what you think.
Best of luck!
*cough, target, cough