There are very few things out there that match the feeling of having your own money.
After years of being frugal and making the most out of whatever money we got from our parents, earning and being in charge of your money feels like a different ball game altogether. But if you’re adulting, you know everything fun comes with a price.
And the cost of being in charge of your money is a simple one - messing up your spending habits. Going broke as soon as you start earning isn’t on anyone’s list, but is surprisingly common. Heard about financial imposter syndrome? Finance gurus have done us a solid and named that habit where you spend more only because you’re now earning more. The end result is pretty bad, either you’re broke or are barely making any progress in your savings.
If you aren’t able to stop yourself from spending or find yourself barely getting by till the next paycheck comes - remove the rose-tinted glasses of employment and see what you’re losing. Your financial stability in your early years of working will build habits that might stay on for a lifetime.
Truth is that none of us looked at wants and needs after fifth grade. It’s time to categorize the things you plan on buying into these simple categories. You’d be surprised that your gym membership (which you use thrice a month) is actually a want and not a need.
Let’s not forget to include paying yourself first. Each month, when your paycheck comes in, pay all your bills first and put aside money for monthly expenses. Then look into what is essential for you to shop, and what can be held up for later in that month. Try to break down the things you’ve held up for later and set aside a timeframe to purchase them, rather than immediately.
Everyone out there is going to tell you that this is the biggest financial mistake you can make. And they’re right. Spending more than you earn doesn’t necessarily look like crippling debt, it could also be having a near-zero bank balance by the end of each month.
If you really want to know if you’re spending more than you earn, add up all your monthly expenses and compare them by the hour with your direct income. The easiest way to spend more than you earn is through credit cards. Before you know it, you’ll be paying bills till the middle of each month, overspending to compensate, and getting stuck in this loop. Forget planning investments, you’ll hardly have any savings if you overspend each month.
Having a budget doesn’t necessarily mean tallying up each expense of yours in a notebook and calculating your spending by the day. It could simply mean breaking down your budget into percentages, where you set aside a cluster for savings, one for wants, for needs, and for bills. You might not know the exact amount you’ll spend, but you’ll have a range of spending and your money will sit comfortably in that range.
Obviously, each month will come with new challenges, emergencies, or plans. Know when to be flexible on your budget and when to be stringent. For example, buying a new appliance because your current one is a hazard is something you can be flexible about, but going out five times a week is something you could try to restrict.
I know most of us think that sales are a sham without actual price reductions. But if you’re an experienced shopper, you know when the right sales seasons are. Online shopping also gives you the flexibility to browse multiple websites with similar products. Finding high-quality products for lower prices is time-consuming but totally worth it.
Don’t forget to use coupons, discount codes and to try for freebies. While you’re at it, try to get a little thrifty with all those online thrift stores out there.
Quite often, shopping websites and malls urge us to shop immediately, even for the things we don’t really need. The next time you purchase something, keep a simple rule in mind - either think about it before or after. If you really need to buy something, take your time to think about it. Check out all your options and then make a purchase decision.
If you were just window shopping and found something you really like, take your time to think about it after. Don’t purchase it till you give it thought, browse options, and are convinced of your decision. Moreover, whenever you enter a mall or a website, try to go with a one-track mind or a priority list of what you want. Don’t worry to wait it out, those products are really not going anywhere.
To wrap it up, try to save as you spend. A simple way to do this is by having smart deposits which save a small amount each time you save. This amount can be customized by you and is put in a savings account of your choice.
Creating healthy shopping habits might seem like a buzzkill in your twenties, but your thirties self will thank you for it.