8 Things you Should be Budgeting For

 Photo by  Dan Gold  on  Unsplash

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

No matter how much you don't want to pay for that $100 toaster your sister has on her wedding registry or your cats' $300 vet bill, some expenses are unavoidable. It’s part of adulthood. Trust me, I'd rather take a nap with my blankie and have my mom make me dinner too. As an adult, it's easier to plan and budget for these bills and unforeseen events rather than sacrifice your fun money. I promise, you'll face much less emotional and financial trauma if you account for these expenses rather than let them sneak up and steal your wallet out of your back pocket. 

1. Car Repair

Eventually, you're going to need new tires, and brake pads, and then a transmission. Trust me, no one likes dipping into their savings account for an oil change. Put aside $20 a month so when your mechanic tells you it's finally time for a pricey repair you won't cringe and shed a tear reaching for your wallet. 

2. Weddings

We're at the age where more and more of our friends send us an invite to an open bar and expect a gift in return. Trust me, when it's your turn, you'll want the Ninja blender or an envelope full of cash. You'll feel a lot better about forking over $75 for a new set of silverware you'll never use if you've included it in your budget. 

Bonus tip: RSVP for the prime rib and make good use of the open bar, you deserve it.  

3. Pets

Take one look into your dog’s eyes and tell me that he wouldn't save for your unforeseen medical expenses if he could. Don't be a monster, save up for shots, vet visits, and future unexpected occurrences. Adopting a pet into your life is a large expense but has an even better payoff. Make sure you know the financial obligation before you take your girlfriend into the humane society and she falls in love with a furbaby that you cannot afford.

4. Donations

Don't be that asshole that refuses to sponsor a kid at Christmas or throw $10 into the food bank collection box just because you didn't budget for it. Keep your change in a jar and hit up a Coinstar when it comes time to donate. This way you're saving without feeling like you're sacrificing anything. You'll feel like a hero when you're able to give $20 worth of pocket change this year instead of your usual lint covered nickel.

5. Grooming

You need to get haircuts. I know they're expensive. I know it sucks paying $30 for a lady to talk your ear off for 20 minutes while your hair gets 1/8th of a centimeter shorter. No one is going to take you seriously with your split ends hanging in your face. Save up for these. Just go.

6. Birthday Gifts

Eventually, you’re going to forget someone’s birthday and scramble to find an acceptable gift. As selfish as it sounds, you don't want to pull from your vacation fund or beer money to buy a gift you won’t ever be able to use.  

7. Insurance

Every six months, my car insurance automatically withdraws from my checking account. Most companies will offer you a hefty discount to pay a lump sum such as an annual or semiannual rather than a monthly fee.  For example, Progressive offers this discount anywhere from $75-$120 every six months. Just for paying six months at a time? Yes. Save up. Do this. It'll save you thousands over the years.  

8. Technology

That laptop you bought before your freshman year of college? It’s probably pretty close to its last good years. Instead of treating yourself to that new shirt or buying that last drink at the bar, save that money and put it towards a new computer. You won't feel as guilty spending $1500 on that new MacBook if you've been planning and saving up for it. 

Long story short, if you save up for these events in advance, you won't be surprised and scrambling when they occur. It will be much easier on your wallet and your personal funds if you set a little aside each month to prepare.

As always, thank you to Zack Mathis for reminding me that puncuation exists for a reason. 

Couch to $10k in Six Months Part II

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

I figured out pretty quickly that the Dick's Sporting Goods life was not for me. Maybe waitressing or bartending would be more bearable? Idk, I didn't try it. But I promised myself that I wouldn't quit until I found another way to make money. Determined. Determined AF.

Passive income is the concept of making money with little to no effort. If that doesn't sound attractive, I don't know what will. I’ve been trying to figure out how to still get paid without actually showing up to the office for years. Let me know if you ever figure out how to do this, I’d love some insight.

I listened to podcasts, I asked around, I googled. I finally came across one episode of Side Hustle (best podcast ever, go listen) about a guy in Amsterdam who lives solely off the income he makes through Airbnb. We all know what Airbnb is, right? It’s the only way millennials can afford to travel since hotels have decided to be the most expensive.

All communication, background checks, and payments go directly through the website for security reasons. Basically, if there are hotels in your area, there is a possible marketplace for Airbnb. Some cities have certain permitting restrictions, but it’s pretty easy to get yourself signed up and registered. There are obviously safety precautions you should take if you look into this. I only allow female guests and also require the guest to write me a little blurb requesting to stay. You don't have to book anyone you don't feel comfortable with. There's a difference between feeling awkward and feeling unsafe, trust your gut here.

My apartment was definitely not anywhere as cool as Amsterdam, but it was definitely worth a shot. I was lucky enough to live alone in a charming two-bed room about a mile from downtown. Giving up my freedom was tough, but worth it for the extra income. So, I bought a cheap mattress and bed frame, had spare keys made, took a few pictures, and listed my space on the website.

The room was listed at a pretty modest price. It was targeted towards college students in lieu of short-term housing, and freelancers just passing through town. I guess I did something right, because I had constant booking requests coming in faster than I could approve them.

I had everyone from a Berliner in town to get some firsthand experience on just how obese our city was, to an international student taking summer classes at the local University. I hosted couples in town for a weekend wedding, girls in town for the jazz and wine festival, and a student for her summer internship.

While meeting new people constantly is always fun, hosting them isn’t always butterflies and rainbows. You can’t even imagine the amount of laundry and dishes between visits. I was constantly out of coffee or making sure they had a complimentary bottle of wine. It was a lot of work, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make for the extra income.

Renting out your spare room is just one way to earn extra income. Another way is to walk dogs on Rover. You could even try to build that app you’ve been pondering. Providing a budgeting/personal finance service to postgrads is another. See what I did there? If you get creative, the possibilities are endless here.

Start a blog, build an Airbnb empire, develop an app.  Slide in the DM's of that computer science major and ask him to help build that app you've had in the back of your mind. You might be surprised by how cute he is under those glasses, and even more surprised by how profitable your ideas really are. It doesn't matter what you do, figure out a way to make money by doing it. The more creative you are, the more opportunities you have. That's the beauty of passive income.

Special thanks to Zack Mathis for reminding me that I'm good at money, not grammar.

Couch to $10k in Six Months

 Photo by  Kari Shea  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

I have a rule; you aren't allowed to complain about something unless you are actively trying to fix the situation. This goes for relationships, financial situations, career choices, and even fitness goals. We all have that one friend who complains about how much weight she's gained since graduation but wouldn't be caught dead sweating in a gym. And everyone knows the guy in the cube over is forever complaining about not being financially stable but continues to spend his lunch break in the Burger King drive-thru. The point is, don't be the person complaining, be the person who is actively working to improve yourself.

I assume you have a list of things you aren't currently happy with about your life. You want to move out of your parents’ basement or even your hometown? You want to put a down payment on a car? You want to travel more? Guess what? All of these goals require you to have money. If you want it bad enough, and I definitely did, you'll need to make sacrifices and keep yourself on track to reach your goal.

Two years ago, I sat down with my budget spreadsheet and decided that I needed to save $10,000 over the next six months to be able to survive at least a month of funemployment and move across the country. You know how dieticians and trainers will always tell you to take your time and be patient to see results? They’ll advise you never to crash diet or make any extreme, unhealthy changes? This is the financial version of that. I could have been so much smarter and started managing my money better much sooner. But I didn’t, so here’s the crash diet version.

Step 1: Get Another Job

It sucks, I know. There’s no way you can save a shit ton of money by just lowering your expenses; you’ll need to increase your income as well. Most successful and wealthy people will tell you that they did not become rich by simply working one 9-5 job. They gained wealth from passive income, investment opportunities, and other forms of work.

There are 168 hours in a week. We'll assume you currently work 40 of them. This leaves you with 128 hours left. I pinky promise that you will not die if you sacrifice an extra 20 to build more income. If this seems completely unreasonable to you, we need to have a conversation about grit and complacency.

Yours truly chose to hit up Dick's Sporting Goods for a part-time job. Nothing good happens when your pride gets in the way. And I was definitely not above wearing that green lanyard for just above minimum wage. How bad could it be trying to sell overpriced workout gear on weekends? It was bad. Really bad. It's a special version of Hell being surrounded by high school students on a Friday night trying to figure out how they're going to get beer for after work. And it's all sorts of awkward trying to explain to acquaintances that wander in that yes, you do actually have a real job and are really using your degree, this is just for extra income. I was there at 8am every Saturday, in my yoga pants with my walkie-talkie, all ready to go. Was it awful? Yes. Was it worth it? I'm not totally sure. But I did it for 6 months. I was willing to sacrifice to reach my goal.

On top of that, I got ahold of people that I had previously worked for or with to see if they knew of any other opportunities for me. Don't ever be afraid to use your network, that's what they're there for. So, thanks to a previous boss, I was all set up to be his personal slave indefinitely. Kidding, thanks Gary. I made a few beer runs, ran some errands, took minutes for meetings, edited his writing, and helped him keep his sanity on a day-to-day basis. I was often greeted with an unfiltered wheat ale, a pile of receipts to reconcile, and hundreds of scattered thoughts to turn into a blog posting. I definitely recommend this type of income over any retail, but working 60 hour weeks isn't fun any way you spin it.

An unexpected side effect of working constantly was that I wasn't spending as much as I had in previous months. Instead of going to bars or out of town for the weekend, I was working. Not only was I building my income, I was also too busy to spend unnecessary money. I definitely don't recommend this long term for social reasons, but six months won't kill you.

Like any other goal, this will take sacrifice. If it were easy, anyone would do it. Six months will seem like no time if you reallllly want to save up for that month of backpacking across Europe, a down payment on your dream home, or maybe a head start on your retirement account.

Special thanks to Zack Mathis for reminding me that I'm good at money, not grammar. 

Fuck You Money

 Photo by  Leio McLaren  on  Unsplash

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Has anyone ever told you that you should have six months of living expenses saved up at all times? Just in case your car breaks down, you get fired, or have a medical emergency? If so, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, this is me telling you now.

Have you ever had a bad day at work? A day that not even the happiest of happy hours could reverse? A day so shitty that you begin to fantasize about the idea of flipping your desk and telling your boss to go fuck himself? Welcome to entry-level employment.

Remember all the times you brought your lunch? Remember all the times you suffered through the office coffee? This is where the “fuck you” fund comes in. This is where it all pays off.

I'll explain.

When I was 18, I was taking my '93 Dodge Intrepid (RIP) to the shop at least once a month to be fixed. On New Year’s Eve, I was driving it home from the Godsend of a body shop that I was now on a first name basis with, and it broke down again. With love, I said "fuck you" to my Intrepid and walked across the street to the dealership. A few hours later I emerged with a brand new Nissan and a sense of relief.

It was totaled eight months later.

That's not the point. I made an adult decision, the car loan helped build up my credit score, and I was financially independent.

Fast forward to a month before my college graduation. I was having a rough day at my internship. You know, fixing the copier and being someone's bitch. I pulled another "Fuck You" and bought a month-long backpacking trip through Europe. My future employer wasn’t pleased that I pushed my start date back. You know what? Who cares, it was my money and my vacation.

All of these rash decisions were brought to you by my "Fuck You" fund.

Hindsight being 20/20, could I probably have made better decisions? Yes. Did I make a few mistakes? Yes, but I have learned from them. Would I change anything if I could go back? Nope.

My parents like to call this an "Emergency Fund". Clever, I know. My more affluent friends like to call this a "Fuck You” fund.

I'm absolutely not advising you to quit your job and definitely not encouraging you to curse at your boss, ever. We're not here to burn bridges, we're here to build new ones.

Having a bank account you routinely set aside money in not only allows you to make large purchases regret-free, it also protects you if you ever are in an actual emergency. I know you've seen the commercials with the debt collectors and the people hiding from their landlines. The commercial may be dramatized, but the situation is very real. It only takes one unforeseen medical bill, a broken-down car, taxes owed to the IRS, or a forgotten student loan payment to create a domino effect into debt.

I know six months of expenses may sound like a lot. But a few life changes are 100% worth the peace of mind. Take a minute and write down every payment you make monthly, it might be less than you think.

Rent, utilities, subscriptions, car payments, gas? Student loans, I know you have them. What else?

I'm not saying this is something you can form overnight, saving takes time. That's why you'll feel badass when you finally have enough saved up that you can blow a portion of it on your dream car or the vacation you've been waiting for.

A coworker of mine brings a PB&J for lunch. Every. Single. Day. He also drives a Corvette that he paid for in cash. Another friend of mine works at least 60, sometimes 70 hours a week. He pockets the overtime and doesn't owe a single dime on his home.

 Me? I drink the stale office coffee and bring my lunch religiously just so I can vacation how and when I want. The money has to come from somewhere. What are you willing to give up now to benefit in the long run?

Start with what you can. Most banks don't charge extra for opening a new account, especially savings. Most of the time you can even do it online. Try putting $20 a week into this bank account. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll add up quickly. Try to increase your contribution each paycheck. 

If your parents hand you a wad of cash for Christmas or your birthday, put it in this account. The same can be said for your bonuses or overtime at work. Is it easier to spend this extra cash on bottomless mimosas at brunch or on that new Express sweater that you just happen to have a coupon for? Sure. But won't it feel a hell of a lot better if you don't have to pay $400 a month for a car because you could actually afford a down payment? 100% yes.

Try to stray away from the instant gratification lifestyle that is so popular among our generation. I promise you can put away $20 a week and your lifestyle will not suffer. This is the first step into the wonderful world of financial independence.

As always, thank you to Zack Mathis for reminding me that puncuation exists for a reason. 

Your Instant Gratification is Bullshit

 Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Saving money is not fun. There's nothing attractive about turning down plans and pinching pennies. Trust me, I would love to spend my entire paycheck on traveling, middle shelf merlots, and whatever weird shit you're buying because you're 23 and you can.

At age 12, you downloaded songs (and hella viruses) off LimeWire and onto your parents’ expensive Stone Age computer. You had to wait 36 hours for 2 songs, but that didn't stop you.

In high school, you handed in a hard copy of your essay or whatever busywork paper your teacher made you write. You waited until she had time to grade it properly and handed it back to learn that you failed it.

When you started college, you had to drink your shitty vodka and actually go to a party to hit on girls before bringing them back to check out the new fish tank in your dorm room. You couldn't just swipe your way into a hookup.

Delayed gratification.

If you wanted something, you used to have to actually put the effort in. So, what happened?

Now we swipe away on Tinder in the hopes that a 10 will just fall into our laps (read: beds). We stream literally everything. We even get fussy when the drive-thru line takes more than a few minutes. Do you realize how sad that sounds? Millennials are notorious for wanting everything at our fucking fingertips. We don't want to work for it and we definitely don't want to wait for it.

I’ll give us some credit, this is not always bad. We’re more accustomed to a fast-paced work environment, making us more productive than our more seasoned co-workers. We’re entrepreneurial AF, we don’t like taking “no” for an answer, and we go after what we want. Recipe for success, right? Eh, sometimes.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I absolutely hate hearing the word “no”. I like doing what I want, when I want to do it. Of course, I have my moments where I literally cannot even and have to make a purchase. It’s fine, in moderation.

Everyone has that one friend who seems to always be doing something. The friend that always has tickets to concerts and festivals, never wears the same outfit twice, and never misses a night out at the bar. So, how? This all looks peachy from the outside. Their Instagram game is flawless, but what does their bank account look like?

They are a victim of instant gratification. They see something and instead of thinking it through and saving up, they just buy a ticket or the new shoes or whatever. This will be the same friend who will be balls deep in credit card debt five years down the road. They don’t have the ability to step back and ask if they really need to be swiping their card for a burrito bowl or yet another vodka soda.

You can’t have it all. Balance and moderation are key. I’m not advising you to save every single penny you earn and I’m definitely not advising you to spend it.

I’m asking you to take a step back and think about your financial situation before you blindly swipe your card. You may have the money in your account now. But what if an emergency comes up? What if something better comes along? Will you be able to pay for those as well?

Every purchase you make is your own adult choice. If you want to go to that festival next summer, give up your $3 cup of Starbucks coffee every morning for 3 months. Cut down on your lunches out so you can take a real vacation. Maybe you don’t need 5 different colors of the same shoe, put it towards your student loan instead.

Give delayed gratification a try. Remember, good things come to those who wait.

Special thanks to Zack Mathis for reminding me that I'm good at money, not grammar.