Only a few months ago, you were probably thrilled to close the chapter on your college years and enter the working world. In retrospect, you might be realizing that some aspects of it aren’t as glamorous as they once seemed. Given the intense economic climate and after effects of COVID-19, it's even more challenging.
The good news is that you are now (hopefully) earning an income and learning how to budget your new financial resources and leverage your hard earned dollars appropriately.The bad news is that it’s up to you to make sure that money lasts you until your next paycheck and beyond. It’s entirely possible to avoid plunging yourself into a pit of despair about going broke month after month... it just takes a little planning.
I grew up with parents who loved to instill lessons about saving and budgeting and they've served me well as I've accumulated resources and started to save. Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind as you start Independently managing your money:
1. When is PayDay?
First, use your pay structure to determine when and how to spend your money. At my first job, I got paid every other Friday.
t my current job, I get paid on the 15th and the 30th of every month. Once you know which days are paydays, you can figure out roughly how much you’ll need in your account in the days in between, plus on the day when you pay your credit card bill (more on that below).
2. Map out your budget
It’s tedious, but looking through your bank statements and adding up how much you spend on things like food, drinks, Ubers, movies, clothes or travel can help you figure out where you have room to spend more or where you need to pare down, all in relation to how much money is coming in every month.
There are a bunch of different ways to do this. Apps like BillGuard, Mint, Fudget, Level Money and GoodBudget exist to track everything for you. Some banks like CitiBank also automatically give you a handy breakdown of your spending. If you’re old school like me, you can just use Excel.
3. Savvy girls save
If possible, try not to assume that every last penny you make is money that you should spend. Getting into in the mindset that you should be saving a little something every month, even if it’s just $50, will take you a long way. It’ll mean there’s something to fall back on if you spot the shoes of your dreams or if you finally decide to take that vacation you’ve been thinking about. It’s also great in case of emergency, like an unexpected hospital visit or surgery, or if you want to invest in starting your own business or initiative.
On the saving note, I would also recommend not ignoring your 401K contribution. Putting away a little money now will go a long, long way later. If you work for a company that matches your contribution, go ahead and choose an amount to contribute that doesn’t dip too much into what you need to stay afloat every month. I have friends who work for tech companies that don’t match their contributions, so they prefer to not put any money into their 401K accounts and instead just invest what they’d normally be contributing.
If you’re a savvy investor that’s an option to consider, but be warned that it requires a lot of time, knowledge and energy.
4. No shame in side hustles
A lot of us work in industries that are fulfilling and stimulating – but not especially lucrative as we work our way to the top. There’s no shame in picking up some side work to make extra cash. And these days the options are pretty much endless. Just make sure it doesn’t detract from your primary source of employment, or drive you to the point of insanity.
5. Avoid credit card debt. Period. You're going to have to establish good credit history for the future -- emphasis on good (at least 700+). One way to do so is by having a credit card. However, don't get sucked into every sale or beautiful item that magically appears in your social scroll that may cause you to not be able to pay off your card completely at the end of each month. If you can't immediately pay it off come the end of the month, leave it on the shelf.
If you're going to get a credit card, why not opt to use one that accumulates points and rewards?
There are tons of credit cards geared specifically towards young people who don’t yet have much of a credit score. You can start small and build your way up to a card that may have an annual fee but that gives you stuff like 50,000 bonus points and 2 points for every $1 you spend. I book flights using the miles that I’ve accrued from using my credit card. It’s genius.
Disclaimer: Make sure you read up on how credit cards actually work before you get one.
6. Enjoy your twenties
Now that I’ve spent all this time freaking you out about adulthood, I should probably remind you that it’s really not as stressful as I’ve painted it to be. Budgeting and saving is part of becoming a contributing member of society, and while it might seem daunting at first, you get the hang of it after a while. While putting in some time to sort out personal finances is unavoidable, don’t shy away from interesting or fun opportunities just because you think you can’t afford them. Proper budgeting should ensure that you’re able to seize any opportunity that comes your way!
p.s. Make sure you check out The Savvy Girl's Guide to Post-Grad Success for more information on how to manage your finances!