Yes, I know, it’s that part of the series that many of you have been waiting for. The part where I actually talk about the principles that helped me to learn how to manage money in a responsible manner so that I could get through each month without a lot of issues. Yes, I used these principles on a minimum wage job, and I used them in order to get by when the going got tough.
See my tips and such after the break!
Make a full budget for a six month period of time. When you sit down and make a budget, do not make a monthly budget. You want to have a budget that goes out six months; obviously, you will split it up by month so you can see the smaller pictures, but by knowing what you have to budget for every six months, you have a big picture that you know to shoot for. The reason I use six months? A car insurance payment is in there (since most people pay for their car insurance twice a year). You can do a whole year too, but I find that stresses me out more.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you say that this hint makes me sound entitled, you’re a jerk. Just saying. If you need help with something one month, you need help with it. Ask a family member or friend, go to your local religious institution, or If you need food stamps in order to make your monthly budget, then utilize them. Do not take advantage of services or help if you really don’t need them – but if you’re truly in need, get the help you need.
Always give a portion. This sounds absolutely ridiculous to some people, especially if you are not of a faith where tithing is a regular part of your life, but you should always give a portion. I’m not saying you have to go by 10% either; if you give, it helps you to remain thankful for what you already have. Even if my giving was buying a hot cocoa for one of my teenagers, it was still giving in my eyes and it helped to maintain my generosity – being able to be generous doesn’t only provide thankfulness, but it helps you remember we’re all in this together, too.
Pay more than you can, when you can – but if it causes you a burden, don’t do it. If you can pay an extra $5 or $10 on your phone bill, go for it. If you can pay a double loan payment, go for it. If you can’t, because it will cause you financial burden, just don’t. Don’t ever forgo your living expenses just so you can “get ahead.” But if you can get ahead, do it! It will help you in case you have a rough month later on.
Saving is saving, even if it’s only $5. Put something away. For the longest time, the only “saving” I could do was putting coins into a spaghetti sauce jar. If you have something saved, even if it’s only a few dollars, it will help you to feel as if you’re making it – it’s all about reducing your stress.
If you have nothing left at the end of the month, don’t beat yourself up. This is something that a lot of people have problems with, including myself. I hate when I have nothing left at the end of the month, because it makes me feel kind of stupid, but don’t feel that way. You are trying to take care of yourself, on your own, and you will have bad months. It doesn’t make you bad or sucky at finances; some months are just different than others.
You may have to take on debt, and taking on debt is not “un-Godly” or “frivolous.” Those people who tell you that are idiots. Now, if you are taking on debt so that you can be frivolous, that’s dumb and you need to stop that. But if you need to take on debt in order to go to school, or in order to pay for something that you need, that’s not frivolous. Sometimes, we just need to do it, and that is absolutely okay. It’s preferred that you don’t, but the reality is, we usually can’t.
If you’re too strict with yourself, it will bother you. I’m not saying that you need to blow your life savings. You’re an idiot if you do that. But if you decide that you want to go get a half-priced drink at Sonic while you’re out getting groceries, do it. Being able to spend a dollar on a double cheeseburger because you’re in the mood for it is perfectly acceptable, and it will help you feel more comfortable with your situation.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. I’ve struggled with this before because I am literally surrounded by people who are much better off than me. Much, much better off than I will likely ever be. I live in front of a development that is full of well-off people. I go to a church that has more than its share of people who are well-to-do. Is that bad? Not at all – if you have resources and are well off, that’s great. Good on you! But as someone who is in their 20’s and getting by and barely making ends meet, you cannot compare yourself to other people. If you do, you’re just going to feel bad and you may want to give up.
If you can, live with other people. This is the thing that I regret the most about my 20’s. After I graduated college, I was going to move in with someone. I lived there for two weeks, had a bad panic attack/meltdown and got kicked out. I could have gone up north, but my support system was here. I should have found a roommate (and attempted a few times), but then most of my close friends got hitched. The issue with intending to be single my entire life is that I’m probably stuck like this, and our government doesn’t take care of singles too well. I would be a lot better off if I’d found roommates or whatever. If you can go home after you graduate college? Freaking do it. If you can find roommates to help you pay the bills? Freaking do it. It will make your life much, much easier.
These seem like common sense to some people, but this isn’t the stuff you’re going to get from Dave Ramsey or other budgeting professionals. Do you disagree with some of my tips? Do you agree with some of them? Even though they aren’t directly “budget” related, they can help guide you in your decisions when it comes to money. If you have other thoughts you want to include, head over to Facebook or post them here. I can’t wait to discuss it with you!