If you desperately need financial advice, there’s a good chance even the mention of money just caused you a minor heart attack. Even if you don’t desperately need financial advice, if you’re anything like me, there’s still a good chance your face is twitching because budgeting is always The Sucks. So before we begin, here’s some nice music, photos of beaches, and encouraging advice: Calm down, captain. YOU GOT THIS.
Now. It’s business time.
While I ain’t no Warren Buffett, I’d like to think I have some experience with saving that skrilla. In college I endured a couple years of total survival mode (we’re talking having to ration cans of beans, people) and after I got on my feet, I enrolled in a study abroad program only 8 months before its start date due to a graduation credit mixup. Loans fell through, so I had 8 months to somehow come up with over $10,000…while going to school full-time, volunteering, and paying for food, rent, and life in a town that has a ridiculous cost of living. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful–it was, and I was no fun to be around while I figured everything out–but I did it, I’m proud of myself for it, and what I learned about budgeting will help me for the rest of my life. Use these tips to plan that trip you’ve always wanted to go on or to just stay afloat. Even if you’re doing fine at the moment, keep them in mind–you never know when things will change, and besides, having extra cash in your pocket is always a good thing.
1. Get motivated
Is saving money fun? HELL NAW. Why would you do it unless you had a specific, concrete goal in mind? On the flip side, doing fun stuff is pretty fun… but there’s at least a thousand percent chance you’ll need a little money to git ‘r dun (…ugh. Sorry). The more motivated you are, the more successful you’ll be: comparing the cost of your impulse sandwich to a day’s bicycle rental in China is a powerful way to weigh your priorities.
2. Write down your expenses
With your own hand. On a piece of paper. ALL OF THEM. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Even crap like the 99 cent gummy worms you bought for lunch because #YOLO. I say write them on paper because if you’re anything like me, when you do it on your phone or in a spreadsheet it won’t have the same effect. With a spreadsheet I could put $500 in the gummy worm column and still be like “teehee, numbers!” but if you write it with your hand, you’ll understand what you’re seeing more. Write down every single expense for a week and you’ll be shocked by what you spend. Saving is a lot easier once you know where you’re coming from. On that note…
3. Be brutal with axing superfluous expenses
Brutal, you hear me? BRUTAL.
This goes hand in hand with motivation. Of course you want to go to that show. Of course you’d love a latte and it’s so easy to convince yourself that it’s a special treat, you’re spending money just on this one thing, that you’ve been working so hard lately and you deserve it. DON’T LIE TO YOURSELF. It will just hurt you more later. You and I both know that if you treat yourself to a coffee today, you’ll probably treat yourself to a coffee tomorrow too and that stuff adds up real quick. Take an honest look at what you spend money on and decide on what you actually need (hint: not much). You don’t need beer every night of the week, even though it might feel that way. Depending on your saving needs, make a goal to treat yourself only once a week or once a month. Stick to this goal no matter what. I’m sorry, man, but hardcore saving will make you boring for a little while and there’s no getting around it.
4. Be honest with yourself about your budget
So many of my struggles through college were born from straight up denial. I knew I was broke. I knew that a Chipotle burrito was almost an hour’s worth of work at my crappy job. I knew I couldn’t afford to go out with friends but I did it anyway. Not having any money (or, having tons and not being able to spend any of it) isn’t a fun feeling, so sometimes it’s easier to just pretend like you can shuffle all the Jacksons you want. When a bunch of bills go through you might not even want to look at your bank account, like if you close your eyes and plug your ears the problem will go away. It won’t. Eventually you’ll end up deeper in the hole than you were before, and you’ll probably also be mad at yourself for not doing what you should have. Take a deep breath and check your bank balance. Power through the punch to the gut and feel good about knowing, because now you can plan around it.
If you’re doing fine and just trying to save for something this applies too. Look at your calendar and see how much time you have before the big event arrives, whatever it is. Bump the deadline up a month and calculate how much money you’d have to pull in every day to make it. Factor in your paycheck and every single one of your expenses like I freaked on earlier. However! Sometimes, no matter how hard you think you can, a goal just isn’t attainable, and that’s fine! Save up for next year or do something equally awesome but cheaper.
5. Talk to your friends and get support (emotional, financial, or otherwise)
When you’re broke or saving, money worries fill your head 24/7. Not even sleeping (if you can get to sleep…) will help you – I’ve had nightmares about not being able to buy food or pay for rent. The stress can really wear you down especially if there’s no end in sight. That’s why reaching out to your friends is so important. If they can’t lend you money, they can at least boost your spirits and take your mind off things for a while.
Talking to friends about money crap is also important because sometimes they are the biggest drain on your finances. Don’t you have that one friend who never even has to worry about this stuff? I fricking do, and I love them, but they keep inviting me to things I can’t afford because it doesn’t occur to them that money is an object for some people. Telling friends you can’t go out because your pockets are empty is never a proud moment, I know, but if you have good friends they should understand and not judge you for it. Besides, unless they know what’s up, they’ll keep on inviting you to shindigs at the Gates mansion, then you’ll get pissed, they’ll get frustrated, and you’ll have to explain your bitchuation anyway, except with probably more yelling.
6. Be nice to yourself throughout
Don’t tune this out as New Age-y, y’all. Having and meeting long-term goals is difficult work, and even more so if they involve money! Depriving yourself of little pleasures really wears you down over time and sometimes it feels like you’re never going to make it. There will be slipups. Some days you will cave and buy a drink. Do your best to not beat yourself up over it–that doesn’t do anything productive and will make you even less motivated to stay on track. Make sure your mistake days don’t happen too often but forgive yourself when they do. Just think about how good it’ll feel when you’re boating in Thailand, or you have your very own elephant, or you have some next level computer shit that is super nice (I clearly know a great deal about computer hardware). Most importantly, remember: YOU CAN DO IT. Press play on this lil gem and go kick some butts.
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