Tag Archives: Budget

Hello Mid-Twenties!

I am less than a month from my 26th birthday. You probably just rolled your eyes. For whatever reason, being in my mid-20’s sounds so…grown up. Don’t get me wrong, life is fabulous, I couldn’t ask for more. But things feel real now. Does that make sense? If not, oh well, that’s not the point.

As I normally do around my birthday, I reflect on the past year…the good, the bad, the in between. As I was reflecting on this past year, I started thinking of the highlights from the first half of my twenties. Some are all about having fun and others are valuable life lessons. Of course, it’s going to look different for everyone but here are my favorites:

  • Move out: Obviously, only do this if the timing is right for you. There is something so liberating about living on your own and making your own decisions. You also learn real fast how to budget and deal with other human beings that aren’t your family aka your roommate(s).
  • Know where your money is going: Understand interest rates on credit cards, what you’re being charged for rent, how long 401K vesting takes at your company, etc. It’s super important to understand your money so you can create a realistic budget. Companies such as Personal Capital have great, free financial software that can help you manage your finances and even plan for retirement.
  • Explore the world: There is nothing better than traveling and experiencing new cultures. It gives perspective on how people around the world live. I also find traveling to be a great source of renewal.
  • Go to the doctor: All of them, including your dentist and eye doctor. We tend to fling our health around in our twenties only to be disappointed when we suddenly have high blood pressure by 30. Be proactive and see your doctors regularly. Figure out your own health insurance too!
  • Dance it out: Grey’s Anatomy reference here. But some of the best nights were spent dancing with my girlfriends and screaming the Beyonce lyrics. You need those carefree, anything goes nights to remember who you are.
  • Date: This one is hard for me. But, go on dates, meet new people who make you laugh. Relationships can be worthwhile adventures. Don’t be too jaded; we all have those failed attempts from college and our early twenties. Also, don’t knock the online dating websites until you’ve tried them. Even if you’re in a serious relationship, make time for date nights that don’t involve leftovers.
  • Find a hobby outside of work: When you’re starting your career, work quickly becomes a big part of your life. Nothing wrong with this but everyone needs balance. Find something you love to do (volunteer, exercise, knit, doesn’t matter) and dedicate time to it. You’ll appreciate the balance you’ve achieved as you get older.
  • Make peace with your family: Everyone has family drama, but yours is unique to your family. Remember not all drama is your drama and you can love someone while also creating some space from them. Also, spend time with your grandparents/elders, you will miss them more than you know when they’re gone.

S&TC.jpgBottom line: Do whatever is going to work best for you. I’ve spend too much time trying to please people and live a life that isn’t mine. Your happiness comes first, everything else is secondary. Sharing one of my favorite Sex in the City quotes too as a reminder for all of us.

Let me know what you would add to list in the comments section below!

Stop Freaking Out About Your Future Finances

It’s almost the end of February so if you’re a responsible adult, you’ve filed your taxes. Now you’re waiting for that highly anticipated tax refund check. It’s probably one of the few times a year all of the 20-somethings in the world feel financially stable and like they rule the world.

Why limit that feeling to only one time a year? Your personal finances should not freak you out. If you have a good job with a respectable income, then money should not cause you anxiety. I’ll admit for a while money, credit cards, investing and budgeting were all things that stressed me out. I was paranoid that the money I saved would magically disappear. Guess what, there is not a money stealing fairy that takes all of your money in the middle of the night. You just have to be smart about saving for the future.

A budget spreadsheet should be your best friend. It’s a really simple way to track your spending. There are different apps out there that can do the same. Knowing where you money goes is the only way to reduce expenses and save more. Now how do you take your finances to the next level?

Investing. Yes, that big scary word that doesn’t really make scene to a lot of people. I am of the Carrie Bradshaw mindset: “I like my money where I can see it…hanging in my closet.” Fair point because at least Carrie (and others) know where their money is going. With investing, it’s a bit more ambiguous. You know what you’re investing in but aren’t sure how your money will fare in the market.

There are lots of resources that can help you figure out how to invest your money. One example Quandl, a centralized website that pulls financial and economic data together as a tool for people to use when investing. Their futures page show over 100 options for investing and provides data on each over a period of time. So before you put your money anywhere, you’d want to check out trends and historical data to make an educated decision.

Managing your money boils down to needs versus wants. As long as you maintain a balance between the two while planning for the future, you’ll be set. Add in some smart investments and you’re in a good place. I know it might not be as easy as it sound in this post. But if you remove some of the fear you might have about finances, it does make the process less painful.

The Credit-Free Summer

At the beginning of the summer, I made a promise to myself to not use my credit cards for the next three months. Yes, the joke is on me. However, I’ve limited my use and figured out how to better budget for the lifestyle I want.

I only have two credit cards but it’s amazing how quickly each swipe adds up. I was casually using my card all of the time, not realizing how much I was spending. Now that moving out is becoming a real possibility, this summer was the opportune time to start the proper savings plan.

So for the last couple of weeks, while it’s been somewhat challenging, I’ve figured a couple of tricks that have helped increased my savings and not my spending.

dollar sign

  • I made an actual budget spreadsheet that was divided into categories like transportation, fitness, food, etc.  Then I decided on a set amount for each of those categories as well as an amount to put into my savings at each pay check. I suggest using automatic online banking so the money is pulled right as you get paid. If you don’t see all the money, it feels like it wasn’t there!
  • I’ve tried to limit eating out to once a week especially in New York City. When lunch is ten dollars a day, it quickly adds up. It’s more economical to buy food in bulk or head to your local farmer’s market and make meals at home.
  • Gas continues to climb so be strategic about where you’re driving. Carpool if you can and have adult sleepovers if it’s more convenient! Your wallet will thank you.
  • When you do get a credit card, find one that has a rewards program. My American Express card has a great program specifically if you use your card for gas or at department stores. Some programs will let you use these rewards dollars towards your bill or you can purchase something from their rewards store. Usually, there’s a lot to choose from.
  • I leave at least one of the credit cards home every day. See no evil, can’t use the evil, it’s as simple as that.
  • You are allowed to SPLURGE, you’ve earned it! Just be smart about when and what you’re spending your money on. Also, websites like Groupon and Living Social typically have great deals on more expensive items or experiences like massages or fitness classes.

While it hasn’t been the easiest to limit my credit card use, it has certainly been worth it! The summer isn’t even over yet and my savings has increased. Feel free to share any other budget tips with my in the comments section!

 

Thank you Summer 2013

With most children starting school today, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on my summer. Obviously, I was pretty busy! The end of summer is just the right time to look back on what you accomplished and set new goals for the fall.

When I was a Resident Assistant at Temple University, at the start of the spring semester, we did an exercise called “stop, start, continue.” As a staff, we listed out activities or behaviors we wanted to stop, to start and to continue.  I thought I’d organize all I learned this summer into those categories.

Stop:

  • Spending money: While it’s perfectly fine to believe in the phrase, “work hard, play hard,” I have to limit how much I spend on extra things. I am still living at home so it’s the opportune time to save. The fabulous ladies at Levo League posted a great article about when to dip into your savings. Wish I had read this sooner!
  • Feeling guilty: More to come on this topic later in the month. But I’m learning to feel less guilty about having a good job, making money, spending time with my friends over my family and vice versa. My life, my time.
  • Freaking out about work: As important as a job is, it’s just a job, not a life. While I love my current job, it doesn’t have to be forever. As the perpetual over thinker, I have to stop obsessing over the future and just keep moving forward

Start:

  • Traveling more: I am fortunate to travel for work frequently but this is different. I want to plan weekends away with my girlfriends and cousins; to visit new places, explore and be curious.
  • Being confident: Expect a post about this soon as well. I tend to downplay my abilities both at work and in my personal life. At almost twenty-three, it’s time to own my awesomeness instead of shying away from it.

Continue:

  • Blogging: I thoroughly enjoy writing and updating this blog weekly. Over the summer, other things took up my time. However, starting now, this blog will be my area of focus. Writing and sharing my thoughts is something I am passionate about so I have to make it a priority.
  • Running: I started running back in March and completed two races. It felt great and I saw its benefits in my body and in how I felt. It’s time to restart and get back into the healthy lifestyle groove.

As you can see, I learned a lot this summer and am so glad I used those sunny Saturday afternoons to grow and better myself. What did your learn from your summer? Do you have any goals for the fall? Please share!

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