In my mind growing up, THE thing that established my concept of adulthood was financial independence. Other things – like marriage, kids, home ownership – I certainly had ideas about, but those became malleable over time. If I told my 16-year-old-self who thought that by 28 she would be married and having her first child, that actually at 28 she would be spending her free time lifting weights and doing seltzer reviews on her Instagram, I am unsure if she would be disappointed or proud (nonetheless, she would not be surprised). Regardless of kids versus seltzer, living on my own and being able to financially support myself was always in the plan.
Post graduate school, I was finally making a real paycheck and paying my bills and I was like “Self-five! I made it!.” Paying off my first car felt great, and I felt super thankful to be debt free (praise the old gods and the new). The realities of adulting and living solo, however, had a few extra expenditures than student living in rural Ohio. Additional unexpected life events popped up- car repairs, medical bills, any time I dare enter a Target- that racked a few things up. AND people my age are getting married every hot minute and want me to be there AND I, too, want to be the twenty-something on a glamorous vacation abroad that leaves my friends wondering “how the hell did she afford that and regularly buy every flavor of La Croix?”
To keep every penny from flying out of my pocket, I have used some of the following strategies:
My godmother is a financial advisor who I have been working with to plan for retirement. The first steps she gave me was to map out my budget and create short, mid-range, and long-term savings goals. This helped to both give purpose to how I was using my money and provide some timelines. Additionally, looking at how you spend your money, and then channeling it towards savings tied to specific goals is super motivating and can change some not-so-great spending practices. When making a purchase decision, like going in on a 10 for 10 sale on Polar Seltzer, I refer back to my short-term goal of having 6 months of living expenses stored away, and often* make the choice towards savings (*I say “often” here, not “always’)
Separate Your Ish
Take those above goals, and set up separate savings accounts for them that you set regular deposits into based on your monthly budgets. I currently have a savings for my 6 month living expense goal, a car account for a future down payment, and a “large-scale” expense account for the future like adoption, house down payment etc. Having diversified accounts helps me progress on multiple goals, gives my money a specific purpose, and helps prevent savings paralysis – yes, this is a thing that happens when you have a savings money mountain and you don’t dare touch it as you worry what will happen if you do not maintain the same level of savings (tough problem, amirite? geez). It’s been motivating to make progress towards multiple goals at once and alleviates the worry of having to make large purchases in the future, like a new car, because I know I already have money going there.
Credit Card Rewards
Tread carefully here, but investigate and use credit card rewards, ESPECIALLY if you want to travel regularly. There are a lot of resources out there for best rewards cards for travel and cash back. I recommend Nerd Wallet as they outline basic pros and cons and a “this card is for you if…” section. Not all points are created equal and some cards offer point bonuses if you reach a certain spending threshold in the first few months, so it is good to look into where you can get the most bang for your buck. I say tread carefully, because many of these cards have higher interest rates and some have an annual fee so you need to be able to pay off your card every month to avoid The Debt Wall and reap the reward benefits. However, using the rewards is great! I paid for a flight to London last year with the first set of points I racked up.
This app helped me save for Aaron’s and my trip to the UK and my best friend’s wedding festivities (this past weekend, what!) where I was the MOH. You link the app with your bank accounts and/or credit cards, set up special savings goals, and then choose rules that will be applied to your accounts to siphon money in the app towards your goals. The two I used were the Round-Up Rule, which rounded all the expenses coming out of my bank account to the nearest $2 and taking the extra to my Qapital account, and the Set It & Forget it rule, which pulled a set amount of money from my account every week into the app. They have a bunch of other rules, like the Guilty Pleasure Rule which pulls money into the app whenever you spend money at a place you are trying to avoid (for me: Starbucks, Target, etc) Setting aside money into a separate app was super helpful for these large events when the reservations needed to be made and expenses were adding up. I never blew my monthly budget as I had extra money I could transfer back into my account.
Just a few tips and tricks! I’m not always a savings master, but consistently reviewing my budget and making contributions to savings in these multiple ways builds up over time and assists with all adulthood expenses, big and small.
*Note: This post is not sponsored by any seltzer brands mentioned. However, I am open and available for future partnerships (wink)