Going out into the real world with a college degree taught me one really big life lesson: your bank account does not magically change. It still looks just as pathetic as when you were juggling school with a minimum wage part-timer. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just not right away. Here are some quick tips to help you manage that sad bank account like the “adults” we all are…(there may be a time where I stop using the word “adult” like a funny joke. Maybe not. Stay tuned.)
#1. Write out a budget. Stick to it.
There are so many free tools available to make this easy. From apps like Minted to websites dedicated to what should be standard percentages of your income to specific categories like rent or groceries. I used these as a basis to start my own basic budget. I created an Excel sheet with incomes, expenditures, and savings goals that are standard for me each month. Based on that information I was able to see what was left over for the fun things in life. To prevent over-spending, I stayed away from using my debit card for these purchases and instead gave myself a cash allowance. Like I said, “adult” is clearly used loosely in my world. But seriously, try the cash thing. It works. You can physically see in front of you what you have as extra-spending money to buy that new lipstick you’ve been eyeing or grab the Iced Carmel Macchiato (boring, but addicting none the less). When the cash is gone then your fun spending is done for the week or month depending how you set it up, and your grown-up finances are still in tact. No late fees this month.
#2. Pack your lunch.
I am embarrassed to admit the percentage of my income went to eating out in 2014. There are people who spend their careers studying the psychology of our purchases. They can explain it better than me. But basically we don’t give second thought to anything under $20, especially for items like food. We rationalize it because food is a necessity and it makes us feel so good. There is no winning. $10 a day for lunch turns into $200+ a month on a normal work schedule. Do you want Panera today or do you want that super cute pair of pumps you’ve been eyeing in the shop window, Taalor?! Priorities, girl.