I am not sure as to when I started shopping like I had money, but it must have been way back in high school after I started my first job. I looked for deals, and not so good deals: whatever way I could get the look and brand that I wanted. Although I have worked through the better part of my life, I always found a way to not save money, whether it was a new bag, or a movie that I had to see: it was always the same story…maybe next time.
After I met my boyfriend, we finally realized how materialistic our lives had become, and set off on a journey of trying to save up for a future (key word: trying). It started off slowly, as we were in different countries, and I was living with my parents. I couldn’t seem to shake the urge to buy a new outfit every Friday, or a new makeup palette each paycheck. In hindsight, I was making up the excuse that since I didn’t have to pay for anything other than my coffee in the morning—everything else that I earned was fair game to be spent. Let’s just call this my immature stage. I started hiding my online buys from my parents, and racing the clock to get home before them so I could quickly dispose of the evidence. As for my boyfriend, he was buying items from 100 packs of batteries to a signed Oliver Khan jersey that went for a cool 100 euro. Clearly, we needed some sort of therapy.
Although I spent most of my time in school or working, I still find time to blow through my $500 paycheck every two weeks. A Sephora, Forever 21, J Crew, and Target trip were necessities every two-week period. Not to mention the amount of online purchases from ShoeDazzle, Etsy, and Birchbox that found their ways into my mail slot each week, too. By the time the Thursday before my paycheck came, I was counting up quarters in my car to buy myself a cup of coffee. Did I mention I wasn’t paying for my own gas, school loans, phone bill, or necessities? If I could, I would go back in time to give myself a good shake. What the heck was wrong with me? How did I manage to waste away thousands of dollars on items that I can’t even remember?
After a few close calls with not having enough money to get home from Manhattan, I quickly tried to change my ways. I asked my mom if she needed help around her office, and she offered to have me do her filing. Oh, how the mighty had fallen. I stored away the extra cash in an unused wallet, and tried to forget about it. Every now and again, the urge would creep up, and all my progress would crash down around me.
Fast forward to a year ago: my boyfriend and I were planning on getting engaged, I was living in Philadelphia, and I was still on my dad’s bankroll. I was miles ahead of my past self, but I was nowhere close to where I needed to be. I was living in my future parent-in-law’s house, and I was still depending on my dad’s gas card and EZpass to get me to work. I chose a career in retail, and as many know…that doesn’t exactly shout, “money.” I was always looking for a quick fix, when all I needed were 3 things. Three things that changed the way I thought about money, and has now allowed me to continue my career in retail, while purchasing a house, handling my own student loans, and never being late on a house payment.
- I never thought of money in the correct way. I always thought money was a gateway to a shopping spree, or expendable. I seemed to always be waiting for the next paycheck: I would mess up my “saving plan” by spending it all in Nordstrom, and I would say to myself, “I’ll just wait for the next time I get paid to start saving.” All successful savings starts with a little bit of self-control, and just a bit more of planning. Living paycheck to paycheck? Me too. With a little planning, your miniscule paycheck will seem doable. Sit down and calculate how much money you need each day. For me, I like a coffee in the morning, and that won’t change. Calculate about $2.95 for a Venti iced, and a little extra for a treat at work (if you can). Depending on how often you get paid, take the number of days in between paychecks and multiply your $5.00 per day by that number. That is how much you need for spending money. Afterwards, plug in your monthly costs: electric, water, or mortgage. As for grocery shopping, make sure to keep your receipts to see how much you are spending, and what your average is. Always add that into your monthly costs. Check to see if there are ways to cut the fat, and what is non-negotiable. I use the app Minted in order to get my finances in order. Although I tend to like writing down things on paper, I do like the ease of an app in order to take my finances with me! Minted allows you to see how much you spend, where money is being spent the most, and it even lets you set your own budgets!
- Utilizing credit cards and bank accounts responsibly. We all are in the same situation; taking out money can be a hassle. In this day? Who needs it? Everyone takes a credit or debit card, so why bother with cash? By taking out your paycheck spending money the day you get paid, it lets you envision your money being taken away from you instead of swiping a card. On bigger and necessary purchases, it is okay to whip out a Mastercard every so often, but make sure that you are not living beyond your means. For my husband and I, we pay off each purchase in the same billing cycle that is was made in. If your bank or credit card does not have an easy app to maneuver, I highly suggest moving your business elsewhere. I judge service of a company on how easy their app is to move around in. If I have to jump through hoops to find my balance, pay it off, or check out my statements, I won’t be staying too long. For my own bank account, I chose PNC bank. I have the virtual wallet account, and I cannot say one bad thing about it. The app is super easy, and customer service is out of this world. My favorite part? No minimum. The bank likes to give you a threshold to let you know when you are low, but I have gone under, and I was not charged a ridiculous amount of money. (Looking at you, TDbank.)
- No one hates free money, right? Every other website on the planet is banking that you will give them your email address and not hate the amount of spam that they send to you every day. Something that has worked for me is being a product tester. I got the hookup from a friend who was a science major at a local college. The testing center had gone to her school looking for product testers and she signed up. When she told me about it, she sent me the email. I filled out the survey, and I was called in to do the product testing! The studies vary from products to take home, while others take about a half an hour to do at the actual center. Many times the money is around $50, but other times, it can be around $100. That can be a quick fix for money if you are in dyer need!
Many times, people who look at money as a necessary evil, make money the enemy. Money, when handled correctly, is able to take a backseat to what is important in your life, and just be there when needed. After my husband and I got a handle on our finances, we were finally able to sit back, live within our means, and learn to make sacrifices. We can’t all have a Prada bag for each day of the week.