1. I created a budget.
Let’s be honest: Budgets can be a little intimidating, but only so long as you ignore them. In college I didn’t establish a budget. But once I found myself gainfully employed post graduation, I realized it was necessary.
The thing is, implementing a budget is actually incredibly rewarding. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to have intricate spreadsheets or a calculator-powered brain. You can start out with a simple and flexible plan that works for you. Budgets are not one-size-fits-all.
As soon as I understood that, tackling my own budget became a lot less scary. And gradually, paying attention to my spending habits transformed me into a more financially savvy person.
2. I started taking my savings account seriously.
In college, my savings account was practically nonexistent. It seemed like something older people had—you know, people with families and mortgages and bills to pay. After graduating, I was lucky enough to land a full-time job with benefits. I decided to put as much as I could into a savings account.
At first, it seemed like a bit of a bummer. I was making some money! Why not spend it all?! Here’s the thing: Life is unpredictable, and being prepared for sudden shifts is a really smart thing to do.
When I started looking at my savings this way—as a protective cushion that positioned me to tackle anything that might come my way—I really appreciated the value of having money tucked away just in case.
3. I moved back home.
This is definitely not an option for everyone and I’m so grateful that I was afforded such a privilege. Not only did I enjoy spending quality time with my loved ones again, living at home gave me the opportunity to pad that savings account I mentioned earlier.
4. I began prioritizing my needs versus my wants.
Wants are the fun stuff. We want that new outfit. We want to eat at the trendy new restaurant down the street. We want to fly to Hawaii for a beach-y vacation. Needs require more thought. Some are obvious — water, food, things related to our health.
Sometimes our wants and needs overlap. But deciding what I absolutely need to spend money on instead of impulse-buying has taught me how to look at things and assess how necessary they actually are in my life.
5. I got a credit card (but only use it when I know I can pay it off in full).
I knew it was important to build up credit. I started off by using my credit card only for small purchases. That way, the balance on my monthly statements was a reasonable sum that I was always capable of paying off. I didn’t view credit as a ticket to extra disposable income, because it’s not! A credit card is a privilege and an opportunity to prove yourself to be a responsible adult.
6. I embraced the idea of a side hustle.
Everyone should have a side hustle. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. Even if you have a full-time job. It never hurts to find fun, creative ways to make a little more money and hopefully put it straight into savings! For me, it’s pet-sitting. I love being able to spend time with animals AND pack away a little extra cash.
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