Bonsoir, mes chéries! Welcome to another late-night post of #12DaysOfBlogmas! Can you tell I’m hanging in there by a thread? 😅 If you’ve been keeping up with blogmas, you’ll know that a few posts ago I mentioned I was more Budget & Roughing It Out than I am Bouge & Rouge these days. That being said, this post comes with a sprinkle of irony which I will get into soon.
Since Black Friday kicked off the heavy shopping season (that does not ever end until post-holiday season sales are over), I have a feeling that all of us are a little lower in our bank account balances than we’d like to be which prompted me to add this into this year’s blogmas series.
As much as I whine about being “broke” to my friends or how I spend “too much money on [insert something here]” all the time, I actually hate talking actually talking about money with anyone other than maybe my roommate when we have to sort through bills and rent. I’m not sure if it’s just Asian culture or the household I grew up in, but I always saw money as something personal. If you involved anyone but yourself in your money, shit always seemed to hit the fan.
As a young girl, money became a very sensitive topic for me because of the issues I witnessed it caused; I believed that money can control people in terrible ways. Some of the problems were so impactful that by the end of elementary school, I vowed to myself to never be in credit card debt, always have a set budget, and make sure I save up if I could (which to be honest, I don’t always do…whooops).
I still hate talking about money. I still hate when people make perceived notions about others based on the amount in their bank accounts or the price tag of their things. But now that I’m financially dependent, I know managing money is extremely vital and something that does need to be discussed and can be discussed without making the conversation overly personal. Money is powerful, yes, but don’t let people who use money to gain power influence your view of money like it did for me, because there is nothing more amazing and powerful than being in a very stable and calm control of your bank account and how you spend it!
Please keep in mind that by no means do I expect this to apply to everyone else or believe that everyone should follow suit to what I do. It’s something that is working for me that I hope inspires you to find your own personal budget or financial process for yourself! With that, here are some things I do to budget realistically and (attempt) to spend money wisely starting from the most basic tip to the most important tip.
Create A Budget Spreadsheet
There are multiple apps out there that help you budget, like Mint. A few of my friends love it! I don’t use it because I personally dislike linking all my cards and accounts to one place; I’m definitely paranoid about hackers accessing every possible information about my finances in a single place. So, the most I do is link certain accounts or cards to my Venmo and Paypal.
Since I don’t use apps, I create a budget spreadsheet for me to budget each month out on. If you click on the link, you’ll see an example I created (I don’t actually know if any of the taxes or deductions are the right percentage, so please make sure you double check with your state and income bracket accordingly if you were to use this!) If you click around, you’ll see that I have the “Total Expenses” cell in each month’s column conditionally formatted to turn red if you exceed the allotted expenses for that month. Seeing your cell turn red will really alarm you to not dip into that month’s savings for anything excessive that you don’t need to actually buy.
I love my spreadsheet because it forces me to log in my daily spending and watch my expenses cell increase as my savings cell decrease. It helps you track your spending in real time. If you’re forced to sit down every day and log your expenses, you have a better idea of what you’re really spending money on and just how much.
Consider Utility Before Spending
I, like anyone else, can tend to impulsively buy something before I really think about whether or not that purchase is worth it. Something my Decision Science major taught me in college is that everything gives you a certain amount of utility, or happiness. We rank things that make us happy naturally. For example, I am not a chocolate person. So while some people may say chocolate makes them the happiest out of all sweets, I would say sour candy makes me the happiest and rank it above chocolate in my opinion.
When you’re buying anything, consider the utility. Is this purchase going to continuously make me happy? Or will the happiness I get from it diminish over time very quickly? How quickly? If it’s very quickly, is it worth the price or can I get something that gives me the same amount of happiness for a similar or even cheaper cost?
I have a nasty habit of buying eyeshadow palettes when I’m upset, because colors and playing with makeup often lifts up my mood. But after binge buying tons of palettes, I found myself in Sephora staring at yet another and saying “Will this palette really make an impact on my collection? Or will I just be very happy to own it now and soon find myself reverting back to the other old favorites and not caring much for this shiny new one?” After purchasing nine palettes in the past 4 months, I realized that some of my purchases had diminishing marginal utility really severely. I played with those shadows a few times and each time I cared less and less for them. I love all my palettes to death, but I do see how I could have lived without at least two of them and could have saved a decent amount of money for something else I am constantly wanting instead, like an All Saints leather jacket.
The only time I think it is worth splurging on something that makes you very happy is if it’s on an experience or a person/people you love spending time or money on (anyone ever watch The Suze Orman Show? You’ll know where this is from!) We will get into this in the last section.
Want vs Need, Staples vs Excess
This is a tough one. We all tend to blur the lines between wanting something and needing something. You need food. You need clothes. But do you need to go to Whole Foods every time if you can get a similar product at Trader Joe’s, like organic lettuce? Do you really need three pairs of similar black booties?
Don’t get me wrong: there is a difference between having staples and having excess. Staples are when you know that these items will literally be used so often that you will probably get every bang for your buck out of it. For example, my Steve Madden combat boots costed me about $80 but I wore them over 400 times (or more honestly) before I had to inevitably throw them out. At the same time I also had two other pairs of black boots, but I rotated each one that if I broke it down to how much each time I wore the item costed, it would come out to maybe $0.01 each wear.
Know what is ok to purchase even if the price tag is heftier: the things that you will never stop using or needing. Even if the boots cost $600, if you’re going to wear them almost every day, get them. It will be worth it.
Know what is not the smartest to purchase regardless of price (because all these things add up): the things you may not use as often that you can honestly make do without/ have similar versions of already.
This seems to contradict everything I just said, but you REALLY should treat yourself. I treat myself to a good meal at a fancy restaurant with friends once or twice a month followed by a drink at our favorite high end bars or speakeasies. September and October aside, I treat myself to one excessive item a month or save up money to splurge on something I’ve been wanting.
You should get just as excited saving money as you do spending. So have fun saving for something (or nothing at all) and don’t be upset when you get to exchange that sum of money for something that makes you happier than that lump sum!
NEVER Spend Tomorrow’s Money
You should always have an emergency fund for a minimum of three months in your savings account. This can be very difficult for young adults starting out, don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly just grazing lightly above that three-month mark. But nowadays you need to be safe rather than sorry. You never know what will happen, and you want to be able to sustain yourself comfortably for a bit if God forbid something happens.
That being said, don’t ever go into credit card debt. It is NEVER worth paying the interest rate. You will end up knee deep in money that you owe which will probably triple the amount you actually spent. Spend the money you have in your bank account NOW. Even if you know that you’re going to get a paycheck next month, remember you don’t have it right now as you’re swiping.
My personal way of ensuring I don’t go into debt is clearing my credit card balance at the start of every month so 1) I can see how much I’m spending each calendar month 2) I will never not pay my statement on time since it’s due in the middle of the month for my personal cycle.
Learn Something Instead of Buying Something
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend my disposable income on experiences more than objects. I think that as consumers we get trapped into wanting products and things. Next thing you know, we’re hoarding 60 pairs of shoes (guilty) or buying things we don’t even like or need! Instead, think of how great all that money would be if it went into something memorable and special, like an experience and a memory? Better yet, what’s better than investing in personal growth?
First, let’s start with experiences. I recently threw a bit over $200 for Odesza concert tickets. Do I think these tickets are worth $200? Definitely not. But I love Odesza and their A Moment Apart tour is something I’ve been really itching to see since their album came out. Since my friends are coming along, I decided that despite the fact I don’t have a concrete object from this purchase, I will have a lifelong memory of this concert with my friends that will probably make me so happy that it’ll be worth the $200.
I also recently dished out over $1000 in plane tickets/cruise tickets for the first half of the new year. Is that a lot of money? Of course! But I found amazing deals on places I wanted to visit and instead of spending $1000 on Sephora purchases, I get to visit Chicago, Boston, the Poconos, my alma mater, and go on a southern Caribbean cruise with some of my close sorority sisters. I will learn so much from traveling as I explore new cities, build on my friendships, and open my eyes to new experiences!
Now for personal growth. I’ve been researching classes in the city for the new year. I’m debating between signing up for a boxing gym, for dance class, or for art class. Currently, I’m using ClassPass to explore options. Essentially, I aim to sign myself up for classes that will develop my skills or talents in the new year. Nothing makes me happier than attending a dance class or a boxing session. Better yet, I will be able to learn new tips and tricks and grow as an artist/boxer/person more than a pair of shoes or an eyeshadow palette will. I might even make new friends at these classes! Who knows?
My point is this: invest in yourself and your mind’s growth. Whether that’s traveling, going to see Broadway shows or concerts, taking a dance class, learning how to code, or whatever floats your boat, you’ll find these experiences incredibly more rewarding than any object of the same price tag.
Well, you’ve made it to the end of my financial guide! I hope that the lessons I learned from my terrible spending habits back in college and the first few months of “adulting” help you manage your money better than I once did. Again, I want to reiterate that every person is different and by no means do I think every person should follow my advice. I just simply hope that by showing you how I manage my money helps one of you find the same happiness and powerful feeling I get when I feel in control of my wallet and what I spend my hard earned dollars on.
That’s all for today, mes chéries. Again, I apologize for the constant late uploads this second half of blogmas! I hope to see you all back tomorrow for Day 9. Until then, bisou bisou…