Adulting is hard. I’ll admit that I struggle with it on a daily basis. To quote Britney Spears, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” I’m also bipolar, which makes me prone to overspending during manic phases. So, yeah, I struggle with money. But now that I’m dealing with paying rent, buying groceries, getting gas, and paying off credit cards to finally attain credit, and so on, I’ve had to grow up enough to remember to pay my bills.
Luckily, I’ve found a way to pay everything off without accidentally accumulating a plethora of late fees, and I’ve also figured out how to treat myself while keeping a budget. Here’s how I’ve done it, and how you can, too:
1. Create a schedule of when everything is due – utilities, rent, car payments, etc.
This is so important, because you might forget when certain payments are due. I’ve definitely racked up my fair share of late-fees for rent, and it’s not fun when you barely have enough to cover said late fees. So make an excel sheet and write in when you need to pay, how much, and when. It will save you from stressing out when you’re in class and remember your utilities were due yesterday.
2. Calculate how much money is required to get through the month.
Add up every bill and how much you normally pay for things such as groceries, gas, and deposits to your savings account. Don’t include any treats just yet, only necessities. Make sure you also include a little money for potential emergencies – my mother told me to always carry at least $20 in cash in my wallet, and this advice has come in handy more than once.
3. Divide #2’s amount by four.
This gives you your general weekly budget. In that excel sheet, create a column with the days of the week in separate cells. Across the top row, write weeks one through four, and include a “leftover” cell beneath the cell of each week. This will be where your “treat” money goes after necessities.
For math’s sake, let’s say your necessity-budget is $1200 a month. During week one, that Monday, you need to pay rent, which is $900. That leaves you with $300 over the month. Apply the rest of your necessities throughout the month in your excel sheet – let’s say $100 for groceries on Thursday of the third week, $50 for gas on Wednesday of the second and fourth weeks, and $100 for a savings account on Friday of week four (because saving money is important!) – and you’ve calculated all you need to and when you’ll need to pay for aforementioned necessities.
4. Decide what a “treat” is and indulge with your leftover money.
Now take any money you have leftover that wasn’t included in your “necessity” budget and put it in the “leftover” cell. Maybe it leaves you with $100 for the month and you can feel safe going out to eat a few times.
Realistically, you’ll probably be left with something closer to $10-$20 a week. (At least, that’s what it is in my case.) While that might not seem like much, you can use this amount of money for whatever you want. Want to buy that nicer brand of tomato sauce? Go for it, and write that you bought it on Monday of the first week, subtracting from your “treat” money that week. Or maybe you want to save it so you can have sushi every other week with friends. Is there a show coming to town next month? That money is yours to spend to see your favorite band — by not treating yourself the first three weeks, you have that $40 to pay for your ticket.
Excel has become my savior now that I’m on my own, and I’m happy to say that I no longer ask my parents for money because I ran out a week early. I pay my bills on time and save my extra money to have sushi each week with friends, and when I plan ahead, I skip sushi for another experience, like a concert with my boyfriend.
Planning ahead has helped me to avoid feeling like I can’t afford anything, and the relief from being able to treat myself and pay for everything I need without stressing is enough to quiet the FOMO voice in my head – and hopefully these steps will help you, too.