Have you ever gotten to the end of the month and wondered where the hell all your money went? This little mishap becomes a problem when it turns into a regular habit. It’s scary how easy it is to lose track of your spending. $10 subscription here, $2 there, makeup trip for, WAIT $200?! Hold on, I’m spending $100+ a month on…coffee? (thanks Starbucks)
When you’re accustomed to not worrying about where your money is going, the thought of creating a budget can feel terrifying.
People have the misconception that budgeting your money can feel as restrictive as a no-carb diet, and in turn, produce a sense of missing out.
On the other hand, some people (like me at one point) would rather avoid looking at how poor their spending habits are.
The truth is, budgeting your money doesn’t have to be a daunting or limiting task. If you overspend regularly, then you might feel a little limited when first working on your spending habits.
If thinking about your finances produces a feeling of anxiety, then you DEFINITELY need to keep reading.
What forced me into budgeting:
There was a point in my life when I was working in a corporate sales job, making decent bonuses AND bartending on the side for cash. I should have had my whole student loan paid off, but instead, I was left after months bartending + corporate work wondering where all my money went.
Hopefully, you won’t have to make as foolish of a mistake as me to start budgeting your money wisely.
I decided to stop reading about financial investments that I was in no position to start contributing to. I took a step back and I went back to the basics.
I taught myself how to budget my money and studied how to incorporate better spending habits and practices.
I had plans to quit my job and pursue a more passionate career from scratch, so budgeting was a MUST, and I didn’t have much time left to figure it out.
The below tactics allowed me to make a THIRD of what I was previously making and get by, which was something I did not think was possible. The below tactics also gave me the ability to sustain that income level for 10 months before I started making actual money in my new career path.
Pay yourself first, and no less than 10%
I stick to 25-30% when I can, but NEVER contribute less than 10%. I implemented this habit in Junior year of high school, and I experienced countless life scenarios where I was more than grateful for having that security bucket to back me up.
The trick is to put it away AS SOON as you get it. If you don’t, you’ll find a way to spend it. If you put it away immediately you’ll adapt and learn to live without it.
One of my bosses in my previous corporate life convinced me to increase my 401k contribution from 7% to 15%. She had financial burdens I could never imagine having the responsibility for, and she told me: “if it’s not there, you’ll figure out how to make due without it.”
I thought… if she can manage that, then there’s no excuse for me. Treat your savings just like your 401k contribution and put it away Immediately. Pretend it doesn’t exist.
Set a budget and watch your spending: Mint changed my life, but fair warning: it was scary at first
As soon as I got over the avoidance, checking Mint greatly impacted my spending, and I got much better as the months went by.
It made such a drastic difference in my decision making because I could see all my finances, all in one place, at a click of a finger.
Every month’s budget is different
When budgeting, remember to consider birthdays, holidays, traveling on the weekends (summer), etc.
It’s a common budgeting mistake to treat every month the same, then in November, December, and January peoples’ budgets are hurting.
If you tend to overspend, implement the ‘cash is king’ rule
There’s a reason for the age-old saying, it works! It’s so powerful because when you run out, that’s it. That’s the mindset we need for debit/credit cards too. If you don’t have that mindset for your cards and you tend to carry debt, then try using the cash is king rule to discipline yourself.
In relation to credit cards, the sooner you implement this, the better: if you don’t have it, don’t buy it.
If you can’t pay it off before interest accrues, then you can’t afford it yet. Stop giving banks and credit card companies all their money through paying interest on purchasing things you couldn’t initially afford.
Get pissed off at the fact that they’re taking advantage of your poor habits and stop letting them take your interest.
Take 60 seconds each day to check on finances
This comes right from Alexa von Tobel, the CEO of LearnVest. She believes that taking a simple 60 seconds each day will help you immediately identify problems, keep track of your budget, and set a tone for your spending the rest of the day.
Life can get hectic, and it’s easy to forget about the goals you wrote down when you were motivated and fired up to make financial improvements in your life.
Taking 60 seconds a day to check your finances is a powerful daily reminder of your bigger financial goals. It will set the tone for your day and will mentally keep you on track (even if you don’t feel like it that day).
Create a buffer in your budget
When creating your budget, leave extra space in each category. You never know when an unexpected event might come up within one of your budget categories, and if you give yourself extra room each month, you won’t have to go into your emergency bucket to handle the extra expenses.
Cut the comparisons
You already have more than you realize.
If the social accounts you follow make you feel a sense of lack, then unfollow them.
If shows you watch make you want to go out and buy things, then stop watching them.
If you spend money on cosmetics you can’t afford, then stop spending it.
You are enough as you are, and you’re living in a time that’s doing EVERYTHING IT CAN to convince you that you need to spend money to be loved. Awareness of that fact is sometimes all you need to break the spell.
No idea where to start? 20/50/30 rule is your perfect starting point:
20% of your income should be spent on financial necessities
- emergency fund
- high-interest loans
- paying yourself
50% of your income should be reserved for essentials
30% on lifestyle choices
- eating out
- clothes, etc
First things first: emergency savings & pay off high-interest debt, THEN increase regular retirement contributions, THEN set additional savings/investment goals
A common issue with young adults coming out of school is that they can’t manage to spend a full 20% of their income on financial necessities because of the level of debt they come into the real world with.
Those who are a bit older and didn’t implement this rule early on can’t fathom working this rule into their personal finances.
If you can’t manage a full 20% of your income allocated to financial necessities, then start smaller. Put 10% or 5% or 2$. Just start somewhere and work your way up.
What are your high-interest loans? Start contributing as much as you can to the loan with the highest interest and work your way from there.
Do everything you can to stick to the minimum of paying yourself 10% first, and then pick a manageable percent to put toward your financial necessities- even if its 2%!
Start somewhere and work your way to the 20/50/30 rule.
Give yourself a grace period
Expert Dave Ramsey says it usually takes 3-4 months to adapt to regular budgeting.
You might not get it right in the beginning, but don’t give up. It will be a habit that you thank yourself for later.
You might also like
How to get what you want: here.
Four money lessons our parents grew up with that we didn’t: here.
Why you should pay off your student loan debt before investing: here.