Anyone that knows me even remotely well knows that I of all people am in no way qualified to write an instructional list of "how-to's" for saving money. In fact, my lifestyle reflects the very opposite. I frequently find myself tapping into my barely-there savings account towards the end of each pay period, hanging on by a near thread until pay-day. I've found that living a life of financial uncertainty definitely isn't ideal, therefore I'm taking baby steps to living a comfortable & modest lifestyle. I mean, a girl's gotta make her way up the financial ladder of success sometime, right? I figure rock bottom is a good place to start.
Growing up the youngest in a family full of girls (sorry, dad) has made me who I am but it has also pushed upon me a few habits that aren't my shining ones. For instance, shopping is most definitely my "hobby" and looking put-together head to toe everywhere I go is a non-negotiable. I was raised with the mentality that seeing something I want to buy can automatically be rationalized with the simple phrase, "I deserve it" despite what my current financial situation is or what the ridiculous price tag says. I am no stranger to the guilty feeling of impulsively buying a fabulous dress or to-die-for shoes that are all resting peacefully on their hangers and shelves in my closet, their shameful tags still dangling off of them. Sure, one day there will be the perfect occasion to pull out all my stops but to be honest- I'd rather be the girl who has more money in her bank account than she has hanging in her closet. Sorry, Carrie Bradshaw.
I've been accustomed to living a lifestyle full of "I want it's" when I should be saying, "I don't need it."
With that being said, after surfing the internet for the past six months (sometimes bearing a tear-stricken face while eating Ramen noodles out of a cup), I've scrounged up a few money-saving tips for the girls like me who have the very best of intensions but can't help herself when she sees a sparkly dress hanging on the rack! I so totally feel you, girl.
*Disclaimer* I am the absolute furthest thing from a financial advisor. Take these tips with a grain of salt. But rest assured, by doing the following I have cut-down on crying post-grocery store purchases (definitely a low point) and I no longer have to eat Ramen for dinner (unless I have a craving, in which case- yes).
- Pay yourself first. Always. After you get paid and your allotted money goes into your different accounts you should always set aside a small amount in a little account titled, "All for me." In this just for you account, you can deposit how ever much you can afford whether that's $10 or $100, but you should always make a point to do it. Think of it as another bill, except all the money comes right back to you! You need a cute dress to wear to a spur-of-the-moment dinner date? Easy. You got an unexpected flat tire? No problem. You decide that you and your friends want to buy last minute concert tickets? Done. It's reassuring to know that a little bit here and there can definitely go a long way.
Remember, life's unexpected moments like car troubles or the uncontrollable temptation to buy something new is not for your savings account.
The All for Me account allows you to budget your money, save without taking, and provide a small cushion for things that come out of the blue but could very well put you in the red.
- Give the Envelope Budget a try. I've still got quite a ways to go with this whole budgeting thing, but this lovely envelope trick has helped immensely. When you get paid, go to the bank and take out the amount of cash you've allotted yourself for groceries, social things, and any other type of miscellaneous category such as gas or nails (yes, I budget out money for my bi-weekly nail appointment- what about it!). Then, separate them out into different envelops with their titles on the front. When you go to the grocery store, bring only your grocery envelope and leave the debit card at home. If you've budgeted out $100 for groceries and you only have $100 cash with you at the store, there is a 0% chance that you will go over budget. Math! However, if you bring your debit card and find that your cart is filled with more than your budgeted amount... bye bye budget. Using cash for daily spending is also really helpful solely because you can actually see what you are spending. Dropping $50 at dinner after getting 3 glasses of wine, dinner, and dessert may not seem so bad when we're simply swiping our debit cards, but noticing our wallet getting significantly thinner upon leaving the restaurant is a lot more powerful.
- Don't get a credit card. I know most well-respected adults have credit cards, and chances are sooner or later I will bite the bullet and get one myself. I was lucky enough to have a good paying job in college and a lovely little allowance from my parents (bless up!) so I was able to build myself a small little cushion in my savings account per entering the cold, harsh world of adulthood full of bills, high expectations, and no weekly deposits from mom and dad. However, though these past few months of living paycheck-to-paycheck have been rough to say the least, I feel relieved to know that no matter how broke I may feel- I am in no type of hole. My mom was a loan officer at a credit union for 9 years and she told me something a very long time ago that's always stuck with me:
"If you don't have the money right now, you aren't going to have it later."
Credit card purchases are almost never accounted for in your budget, so you might as well just forget it. Sure, I may have reeeeally wanted to buy that gorgeous pair of Steve Madden suede booties the very second I saw them sitting on the shelf all by their lonesome, but are they worth getting an extra bill in the mail a month later after they've been worn countless times and closely compared to the other 3 pairs I own? Absolutely not.
If you're able to set aside the cold hard cash the minute you get home from swiping that troublesome little piece of plastic then perhaps a credit card isn't so bad. They are a great tool for earning yourself some credit, and you should only hold the ones with great perks and low interest rates. But... if you're anything like me and are weak in the presence of brand names, then I'd hold off. At least now with my checking account I can make the conscious decision right there in the moment if I want to spend my last $70 on groceries or shoes. Unfortunately, I'm going to go with the groceries. (Although believe me, I have chosen the shoes before. No better way to make yourself feel like a total failure than when you have nothing in your fridge to make for dinner while you're prancing around your apartment in a sparkly new pair of pumps!)
- Get a weekend job. Just because you work a full-time job doesn't mean you can't bring in some extra cash on the side. Get a waitressing or bartending job on the weekends! Serving is fast-pace, fun, and teaches you the fundamentals of working with people. Oh, and the money can not be beat. The restaurant life is grueling, but the friendships you make are priceless! Not sure a weekend-gig is your thing? Try driving for Uber on the weeknights where you don't have any plans or on the off-nights of your favorite TV show. Talk about easy money!
Hopefully you can take these tips mixed in with a few of your own ideas for some refreshing motivation to make 2017 your best year of adulthood yet! Luckily for me, I'll still count this as year one...
Cheers to being the financially stable, saving-savvy gal that Carrie Bradshaw never was!