Adulting was much more fun when it was aspirational. Now that I’m leaning on the latter end of my twenties and am a full-fledged grown-up by momma’s standards, I can wholeheartedly say this life ain’t what my adolescent self imagined, specifically when I log into my bank account.
Jobs, car notes, student loans, groceries, gas, a happy hour fund (which is totally necessary) and financing my hair product addiction which apparently is a pre-requisite to being a member of #TeamNatural, life adds up. Oh, and heaven forbid I want to buy myself something nice. Target shoe aisle, here I come (before you clap back, this is by no means shade to Target, but there are times you should think beyond the bullseye). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not broke by any means. If I come out of my feelings for a second, I’d actually describe my life, financial status included, as very blessed. But I want my red bottoms and I want them now! Sadly, because that bi**h Sally Mae insists on monthly visits to my checking account, and I’d prefer not to reside at a bus stop, shoes will have to wait.
So, for every girl who dreams of vacations in Saint-Tropez and life in a debt free lane, here’s a few tips to jumpstart your journey to financial freedom.
Get a Sugar Daddy
Assess Your Debt
It’s hard to know where you’re going until you know where you are. Step one is admission, so take a deep breath and open the calculator app. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not fun, but taking a close look at your total debt is certainly worth the hassle (if you’re prone to being severely freaked out by large numbers, it may be worth taking out the Henny as well). An in-depth inventory of your finances will provide you with a snapshot of your current financial situation and is the first step to creating your roadmap to a fresh financial start. You may notice you’re outgoing expenses are more than what you’re bringing in, or you should be saving more money. So open every credit card bill, pay stub, student loan, banking account statement and take a look. Consider this the “before” to you making it rain on the Department of Education.
Thrifting circa now is basically a bougie way for broke people to stay on trend while pinching pennies. So put your pride aside and venture to a Goodwill near you for a little DIY discount couture. If you tell yourself “Saks is whack” long enough, it may click. Also, consider off-season shopping. While the weather outside may be a little frightful, now is the perfect time to stock up on swimsuits, tanks and other summer must haves. Become good friends with a clearance rack and try stores like TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack that offer designer finds at lower prices.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Good things take time and planning. Think of budgeting as a bi-weekly inventory of sorts for your funds for fun versus bills ratio. Free apps like Wally and BillGuard are great for tracking your weekly and daily spending. Also try taking out a set amount cash for the week instead of frequent swipes of your credit card. If it helps, do like grandma and write it down in your checkbook. Remember, there’s no shame in saving. To help you stay true to your budget guidelines, experts recommend setting clear boundaries between your wants and needs. “Get out of the mall and say, ‘If I really want this, I’ll come back tomorrow,'” said Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
Plan for Major Expenses
Christmas is the same date each year. So if your BFF’s birthday and your annual girlfriend getaway. Begin your year by identifying key financial dates and begin your prep. Consider having a separate account with money automatically deposited each paycheck. Another helpful trick. Consider buying a $25 gift card each (or every other) paycheck and consider that your play money when the time comes to spend.
Get a Credit Card Strategy
Give yourself guidelines on when and how you will use your credit card. Is it for big purchases or daily expenses? Do you pay it off as soon as possible or once a month? Whatever your answer, just know it and stick to it. Make sure to pay the minimum on your card and don’t be late, as this will impact your credit score. Years ago I remember watching Suze Orman on The Oprah Winfrey Show help a married couple erase nearly $100,000 of debt. Her advice, if you have more than one credit card with a balance, pay off the card with the highest balance first. I don’t know why this stuck with me, especially since I was around 13-years old at the time, but it did and it works.
When the first card is cleared, direct your payments to the card with the next highest interest rate. Keep doing this until you’ve zeroed out the balances on all your cards. Also, make sure to know your credit score and assess what may be causing any major drops in your score.
Do an Expense Inventory
I will argue to the death of me why gel nails, eyebrow waxing, new Toms each spring, Mac foundation and my $28 Miss Jessie’s Curly Meringue are musts to live, but for the purposes of this article I’ll just say do these sparingly.
Apparently, Go Green
Who knew living a sustainable lifestyle could be financially friendly. Money whiz Suze Orman suggests making your home energy efficient to reduce your monthly output. Attach a draft-blocking guard to the bottom of any external doors; add caulk or weatherproofing material around drafty windows; put low-flow aerators on your shower heads and faucets; and replace burned-out bulbs with compact fluorescent energy savers (they’re more expensive than conventional bulbs but last much longer, saving you money in the long term).
Save, Save and When You Think You Saved Enough…Save More
Remember when you were 5-years old and saved every penny in that ice cream piggy bank. That same rule applies today. Set aside a fixed amount to be deposited into your savings before you get used to spending it every month. Setting up a direct deposit into a 401(k), IRA or emergency savings account will help to reduce the temptation. Also, experts recommend having a separate emergency savings account that can cover at least eight months of living expenses. For us ladies, apparently we need a little more. Keep a personal savings account that can support your lifestyle for at least three months, because you never know. Also, try money savings app like Digit that automatically store small increments of money into a separate account.
Consider a Side Hustle
Find something you really enjoy doing and use it as a means of additional income. Knit sweaters for friends, start an Etsy page, babysit on the weekend, teach a night class. Things like this allow for more flexibility than a second job and in theory you should also enjoy doing it.
Get Your Friends Involved
There’s no shame in tightening your wallet and believe it or not, those close to you will likely understand and admire your discipline. So make it fun. Try clothes or product swapping with your girlfriends, car pool or take public transportation to work. Throw at home shindigz versus hitting the club, and make bae take you out to eat if your palette is feigning for something more than a frozen meal (we’re entering cuffing season so this is a completely reasonable request). Do a financial fitness challenge with your pals or incorporate fun ways to save like “Mo Money Mondays” into your lifestyle.
Saving money isn’t always fun but neither is living paycheck to paycheck or having your mom as a roommate. With a little discipline and one less Michael Kors bag, we know you can do it.
Weigh in! What’s a financial tip that works for you?