Money makes our world go round right? But when we don’t have it you feel how much the world slows down around you. It almost seems to go faster for others while you’re over here, counting pennies. As you live paycheck to paycheck, try to get into some of these habits to ease the pain of ballin’ on a budget:
1. Set up automatic payments
This is the easiest trick in the book. Now that it’s the 21st century, bills can be paid online. Even better than that, some can be auto-paid with a saved account. The trick to this of course is making sure you have that money in the account. Set your bills to be paid from one account, transfer the total needed each month to that account, and have your debit cards set to draw from another account. Once you’re in the habit of transferring the total of your bills somewhere you can’t touch, you won’t feel the sting as you see it leave the bank because you’ll have never had it burning a hole in your pocket to begin with.
2. Overpay credit card bills to cover interest
In the long run, it’s that percentage we think of as small that hurts the most. If you spend $1000 on your credit card but you have 10% interest, your bill will now be $1100. But no credit cards have that low of an interest rate so even that extra $100 charge is low. By adding the percentage the bank charges you onto each minimum payment, you’re getting a little ahead. And every bit helps if you’re as broke as most college, and even most post grads, are.
3. Buy dry goods in bulk
This is a great way to make sure you don’t starve. No, you won’t be eating like a queen but you won’t be starving like a peasant either. Those huge bags of cereal will last at least a month, buying 5 boxes of pasta when it’s 5 for $5 is a great idea, and getting the largest possible size bag of rice will have you covered for so many taco Tuesdays. Don’t forget about coffee either. Whether you are a fan of the grounds or have a Keurig machine, getting a bunch at once is the easiest way to cut down daily spending. When you make coffee at home, you save about $4 a day.
4. If you’re out to eat, order something you know you won’t be able to finish
My favorite life hack has saved me from starving many days at work. Leftovers are god’s gift to us lazy, and poor, humans. When you do allow yourself to go out with your friends, it’s important to stretch that $30 you spend. If it’s with your family, even better because it’s free! Get those apps, the meal, and the dessert! You’ll have a whole 3 course feast for tomorrow and you won’t even have to cook it.
5. Go to happy hour or prix fixe menus
Will power is a wonderful thing. Stopping yourself from splurging really is a hard habit to break but once you’re good at controlling your excessive spending, you’ll find that treating yourself is much more exciting! And treating yourself with a bargain offers an even greater sense of excitement. Use those happy hours after a long week to relax you. Suggest date night at a fancy place that has a prix fixe menu. Go to brunch where bottomless drinks come with the entrée. You can have all the fun for a fraction of a price!
6. Ditch unnecessary plans or memberships
We all love Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc. But is that $10 a month worth the stress over bills and groceries? YouTube is free and most shows can be watched online a day after they air. Gym memberships aren’t entirely necessary in the summer either; go do your cardio outside! Use your own weight as the amount you lift by doing push ups or pulls up! Drop down to a lower cell phone plan and make sure you connect to Wi-Fi at all times possible so you don’t go over your data usage. Taking out those little expenses will save you about $100 a month.
This is where all your fun will happen! Whether you take an amount of each check or use the amount you’re saving from all the costs you cut, you will see how quickly it adds up. These accounts can be set up so that you have to physically go to the bank to withdraw money; that makes it hard to touch now doesn’t it? You’ll be glad you skipped those Friday happy hours when you can pay for flights to Hawaii next winter.
Money is the cause of a lot of stress but it doesn’t have to be. Adulting after college is a learning curve so take these little steps one at a time. Going from living it up to trying just to live is a hard adjustment but you’d be surprised at how little one actually needs to live. Living in this day and age has us pretty spoiled but before wireless internet and 24 hour diners, people lived with a lot less and did so quite happily.