How to Deal: Budgeting
Adulthood is expensive. Adulthood is really expensive on an entry-level salary. Adulthood is really, really expensive when you live in one of the country’s top five most expensive cities.
Adulthood is expensive, but you adapt.
Over the last 10 months, I’ve finally developed a solid budget and have really honed in on how I personally can save money for the future (I'd like to travel quite a bit). As of right now, my bank account is huger than it’s ever been. While that might not be saying a ton, I still think it's worth celebrating. Yay!
Here’s my post-grad guide to budgeting:
1. Invest in a Costco membership.
The amount that I have saved on gas so far has totally justified the mere $50 annual fee. I also love to stock up on bulk bananas to freeze for smoothies, bulk boxes of almond milk ($9 for six boxes!!) and huge containers of vitamins. 100% worth the fee.
2. Limit eating out to 1-2 times a week.
For the first few months of work, I ate out all the time. I would get home with absolutely no energy to cook, late at night, and treat myself to Tender Greens or Chipotle, which adds up fast. Now, I use my Sunday afternoons to meal prep, so I have no excuse when I can just pop a meal in the oven or microwave. This rule is similar to spending money at bars – but limit that to 1-2 times a month.
3. Student Discount.
I unashamedly use my student ID (and receive quizzical looks of what a Vanderbilt student is doing in San Diego) all the time – don’t toss it when you graduate! My favorite stores/sites that accept student discount: Spotify, Madewell, J. Crew, Kate Spade and Squarespace. Most cycle and yoga studios also offer student discounts.
4. Set a financial goal.
I set a goal to travel to Europe for my 25th birthday. I estimated the cost of flights, hotels/hostels, food and everything in between and concluded I’d have to save just $150 a month until then. The idea of having this huge goal motivates me to stay away from spending on frivolous things. I know what I’m working towards, and I want to stay on track, even if it means missing out temporarily.
5. Create a monthly + annual budget on a budgeting app/website, like Mint.
I sat down in January and actually planned out a budget through Mint, so I’d stay on track and on top of my bills. Mint connects to your bank account and credit cards, while you input your monthly income and then set how much you plan to spend per month (or over three months – I set this timeline for shopping because it’s unpredictable!). Categories include rent, gas, auto payment, auto maintenance, coffee shops, restaurants, utilities, movie/music subscriptions, alcohol & bars, groceries, philanthropy, personal care, gifts, health, taxis, airfare and so on. When you update these numbers, it’s easy to see how much you will save at the end of the month and help you focus on areas where you can cut down to save a little more. Mint even notifies you when you go over your monthly budget and when your card payments are due. It’s also nice to visually see how a one-time payment/purchase affected your overall budget and how close you are to your goals (which you can save in-app). It also tracks investments and credit score…but, I’ve yet to explore those features.
Though, there’s always exceptions to these rules and I will admit I have gone over budget the past month or two, these five things have helped me deal with the huge toll that adulthood has taken on my bank account.