I’ll never forget the exact moment I experienced life as a broke-a$$ for myself. It was my sophomore year of college, my friends had all gone home for the weekend, leaving me alone and snack-less, with the appetite of a line backer, an empty gas tank and $5 to my name. Sitting on my twin size bed eating a $0.40 container of Ramen Noodles, careful not to consume the entire portion, as the latter half was intended for tomorrow’s dinner, I thought, “so this is what grazing rock bottom feels like.”
Adulting was much more fun when it was aspirational.
Car notes, student loans, groceries, gas, a happy hour fund (which is totally necessary) and financing hair product addictions, just living life can be expensive AF. To jumpstart your life in a financially free fab lane, we’ve partnered with our friends at The Side Hu$tle, Anna Sanyal and Molly Ryan to bring you a few money managing tips.
Limit your eating out. Try to eat out only three or four times a week, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eating out is probably a big part of your social and professional life (networking, lunches and coffees add up), so we don’t want you to completely eliminate that, just be strategic. Try to commit yourself to a dollar amount for each meal and stick to it. Eat an appetizer OR a side salad, and a side instead of an entrée. Don’t get a drink; water’s free and delicious. If the weather permits, picnic outside with a friend instead of going to a restaurant. Lastly, inform your friends of your resolve and encourage them to join you on the endeavor. You’d be surprised at how many friends are interested in saving some dollars too.
Budget. We’ve all made budgets in theory and then wondered where all that extra money you supposedly have was really going. If you really want to figure it out, we recommend grabbing some pen and paper and writing down EVERYTHING you spend, every day, for two weeks. It works, promise (just like a food diary for a weight loss regimen). You’ll really figure out what areas you are overspending and where you can make some quick changes.
Invest early! Investing is a daunting topic to tackle in one go. There are so many questions. Stocks? Mutual funds? What’s a Roth IRA? Should I get a financial advisor? While you start figuring out what strategy is best for you, start squirreling away money every month. Be it $25, $50 or $100, start with whatever your current budget allows and start increasing the number as you go along. No amount is too little. If getting into the stock, ETF or mutual fund game is too intense right now, at least put your savings in a money market fund where you’ll get a nice interest rate while you make up your mind regarding investing strategies. Here’s a great beginner’s article to start formulating your opinions on what kind of investing is best for you.
Know your benefits. Employers provide all sorts of nice perks (401k matching; health care dollars for getting your physical; free fitness coaching appointments) that are hidden in the fine print. Or maybe they’re not even that hidden; you just haven’t read over the benefits manual that is provided to you every year or had a chat with your HR rep. In any case, make a list of questions and schedule an appointment with your HR rep. You’d be surprised at what you might find. Having a hard time thinking of questions? Check out this article.
Treat yourself. Though you’re trying to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pamper yourself, simply readjust your expectations of what that “pampering” means. Instead of impulsively dropping $200 on shopping or an expensive meal, have your friends over for a wine and a movie night. Instead of buying expensive makeup, perhaps research good dupes. Consider cool road trips to places in a nearby proximity versus flying domestically or internationally. Saving money doesn’t have to be painful if you think a little creatively.
The Side Hu$tle is a collection of thoughts and ideas from women who approach life with the same goal in mind but each executes that goal slightly differently. While one of us may pick up another part-time job (the true side hustle), another might whip up a spreadsheet to figure out how to free up an extra $100 a week (the indirect side hustle). Learn more at TheSideHustleBlog.com.