One of the biggest fears I was faced with when I entered the world of adulting was money. Money is a scary concept because it is incredibly powerful. To some extent, our lives revolve around money; it pays for the roof over our heads, the groceries we put in our pantries, our clothes, our transportation…the list goes on. Up until now, I had relied on my parents for most of these things, but I had gradually begun to wean myself off of using them for each and every thing towards my senior year of college when I began working as a residential tutor and in my school’s security office. I actually enjoyed the sense of pride I felt when I paid for new running sneakers, the occasional grocery run to Whole Foods, and pieces to add to my growing workplace wardrobe. I felt a sense of ownership and it was exciting. Flash forward a year and I have my first job and my first yearly salary… and all of the expenses that come with living on my own. I began to panic because how on earth was I supposed to “survive” on X dollars a year? Would I have enough for everything I needed? Over the past four months, I’ve learned a few tricks to make the term “entry-level salary” seem a little less daunting, and I’ve begun to transition from surviving to thriving.
1. Own your money.
Take a long look at your financial situation and write that yearly/monthly income down on a piece of paper. Underneath it, make a list of all of your monthly expenses, both essential (rent) and fluid (groceries). I talked about this a little in my previous article, but this is really important. Don’t hide from that number. Own it, because this is where you are right now. Check your bank balance weekly to make sure the number in your head matches the number in the bank. Honesty is the first step; if you understand and embrace your assets, they’ll eventually seem a lot less scary.
2. Set a personal budget.
Remember when I talked about making a list of all of your monthly expenses? Subtract all of your essentials from your monthly income, and give yourself a little money each week to play with. Whether that be for an occasional coffee, a new immersion blender to make that soup recipe you’ve been dying to make, or a pair of tights when your old ones rip, it’s a little money that you can use to live. Just because you’re living the entry-level life doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, and having a weekly personal budget allows you to do that with ease. So, if I want a Gilmore Girls-scented soy candle from Etsy to complete the mood as I soak in the tub at the end of the week, or if I want to meet a friend from lunch, I don’t have to worry about making rent because I’ve already factored this money into my monthly expenses. Keep track of your weekly personal budget on your phone or in a little notebook so you don’t sweat the small stuff.
3. Goodwill, my friend.
Goodwill is amazing for so much more than finding inexpensive tshirts for a costume — it can be a total lifesaver and the key to saving a bit here and there. All of the lamps in my apartment, my coffee table, most of my artwork, frames, my patio chairs, and quite a few kitchen essentials came from Goodwill and you would be amazed at the deals you can score. Why buy something new when you can inherit someone’s gently used and much-loved pieces and help the environment, while also saving a ton? I found a great coffee table for only $20 and with a little Pine Sol wipe-down, it feels like it’s been mine all along.
4. Shopping hacks.
I have a lot to say when it comes to grocery shopping on a budget, but there are a bunch of ways you can make your day-to-day shopping work for you. For example, whenever possible, buy store brands! Whether it be toilet paper, almond milk, or hand soap, the store brand is almost always less expensive and just as effective. Next, look for lower-priced stores for your essentials. I’ve come to love the Dollar Store for things like sandwich bags, plastic containers, cleaning supplies, fridge magnets, and storage pieces, and I feel so accomplished when I walk out the door with everything I need…for only $10. Finally, buy in bulk! Rather than buying individual bottles of hand soap for the bathroom and kitchen, for example, which can cost about $4 each, buy a big bottle of soap for roughly the same price, reusable pumps, and refill as needed. Staples such as rice and beans are often found in the bulk bins and are much cheaper than individual portions. With just a few adjustments to your shopping habits, you’ll make a huge difference for your wallet and your peace of mind!
5. Make it fun!
Challenge yourself to save a little here and there and look for ways to make your paycheck go further. Instead of meeting a group of friends out for pricey cocktails and dinner, invite everyone over for wine (split the cost for extra points!), homemade pizza and a good gab session. Scour your local Groupon listings for inexpensive ways to get out and explore on the weekends. Go for a walk around your city or neighborhood to get fresh air, exercise, and a new perspective. Borrow books and audiobooks from the library instead of buying them. Find yoga and exercise videos for free on YouTube. The possibilities are endless!
Adulting is about so much more than making ends meet. Learn to save here and there and it’ll feel like second nature in no time, and you’ll feel in control of your finances and your life. Ready, set, go.