Somewhere between “I need to save money” and “You only live once, treat yo self”Song inspiration: Can’t Tell Me Nothing x old Kanye
Do you remember when you received your very first paycheck? How old were you and what was the job? Think about how you felt when you opened it up and saw the amount. Nine times out of ten you were probably geeked even if the amount was laughable. What did you end up spending your hard earned money on? I started working when I was 14 years old and was making basically no money at all, but I remember feeling so accomplished. You couldn’t tell me nothing! The feeling of being able to buy my own things with my own money instead of depending on an allowance seemed like a dream come true. I was finally able to answer a question that was as old as time: Yes mom, I actually DO have McDonald’s money! A while back, I had a conversation with one of my students about his job and he told me that a favorite pastime of his is to stay up late on payday to watch his account balance change when the direct deposit hits! I felt the same elated feeling when that stimulus check recently dropped (Can I get a witness?!).
How many times have you spent money on things you didn’t really need? It may be too many to count! Have you ever had a hard time balancing the fun stuff in life like traveling, shopping and dining with responsibilities like rent, car notes, student loans and other bills? Do you ever get a check and then days letter wonder where your money went? The feeling of payday is unmatched, but honestly what happens after that paycheck drops is the real conversation.
“Wait til I get my money right.” A hard lesson in money management
The hardest lesson I had to learn in money management was when I landed my first job out of undergrad. I took a job as a College Adviser making $32,000! As someone fresh out of school who was used to making minimum wage at an hourly rate, I was ecstatic! I thought it was my big break! Momma, I made it!! That year I was able to afford an apartment and a new car without a co-signer! At that moment I felt like I was my ancestor’s wildest dreams (A HUGE reach, I know-but I was really feeling myself). Soon after experiencing some of the best financial endeavors of my life, I hit some major financial snags that took me a couple years to recover from.
That year was the first year I did my taxes by myself and was able to claim a refund. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had filled out my taxes incorrectly (me trying to be grown and not ask for help) and actually ended up owing $1000 back to the IRS later that year. Additionally, the money from my College Advising position was tax free because it was a grant funded position considered an independent contractor. Of course I decided against doing the logical thing which would have been to sit down with a tax adviser and figure out how much money I would have needed to save per check in order to be able to pay my taxes off with ease come tax season. I was too busy indulging in the benefits of money at amounts that I had never experienced before. After taking care of my monthly rent and student loan payments, I would spend my money however and on whatever I pleased. Two tax seasons came and went and I ended up owing almost $6000 in back taxes. Yikes is an understatement! I spent two years after that first job out of college working to repay my debt while I managed being a full time graduate student with the obligation to keep up with bills. I literally set myself up for disaster. Like my mom would say, “A hard head makes a soft behind.”
I was blessed with the opportunity to live rent free while in grad school which reduced my expenses tremendously. My previous student loans were deferred and I was able to work while in grad to reduce my debt. When I graduated from grad school, I was fortunate enough to be able to retain three jobs- one full and two part-time. It was exhausting both physically and mentally but it worked. I had to sacrifice certain aspects of my social life, which wasn’t too difficult because in grad school you basically have no life. I also had to cut back on my favorite beauty regimens such as the nail and hair salons, opting to do them myself instead of spending the money. Over the course of those two years, each payday felt more like another opportunity to redeem myself. I had to start from scratch and learn the basics of money management in order to stay afloat. Thankfully, I was able to repay my debt and start fresh, but it did not come without extreme hard work and discipline and with helping hands from family and friends.
If you’re struggling to find that fun/responsibility balance, or would just like to practice better saving habits, I would suggest prioritizing and setting realistic goals for yourself.
- Create a monthly budget so that you can get a visual of where your income is going.
- Find a budget app! Budget apps are the most petty and helpful tools you can have. They help you save money while throwing a little shade when you’re about to buy something you know you don’t need. Many of them allow you to check your credit score for free!
- Make sure you’re taking care of the things that are needs (rent, utilities, car insurance) before your wants (salons/barber shops, travel, shopping).
- Find ways to reduce your cost of living without totally eliminating your self-care regimens by finding free/reduced cost alternatives to things you would normally pay for.
- If you absolutely need to, I would suggest picking up a second job. This is my least favorite option because it’s time consuming, both mentally and physically, but if it’s a temporary fix it can prove to be beneficial.
- You may need to sacrifice some of your leisure activities, but it is definitely worth it to watch your savings account grow!
I by no means have this budgeting thing completely mastered but there was definitely beauty in the struggle that I had to go through. I came out of that situation more conscious of my spending habits, and learned to be creative while still practicing self-care. Special shout-out to my bffs who kept me centered and made sure I was still connected to the outside world! Can you relate? If you’re down to share, tell me about a time or times where you’ve had a money mishap! How did you recover and what did you learn? Do you have any other money tips? Feel free to comment and share!
Yours in Authenticity,