My friends. Welcome to freedom.
For those of us too busy watching Netflix and scrolling Instagram to learn new ideas to better ourselves, you might, out of the kindness of your heart, want to share with them what I’m about to tell you. It’s a big one.
Money is really fucking important.
If you’ve been too busy on your phone to figure this out, I’m glad we’re finally getting this information to you now. Pass it along to your friends. This is important stuff.
See, money is important because you need it to live. We have progressed, at least in Western society, to the point where we pretty much don’t have to do anything we don’t like. With enough money, we can do anything we want.
Do you want to be able to do anything you want?
Apparently not. Because in many of my friends I see money being wasted all over the place, and worse, I see extreme discomfort anytime the green stuff comes up. For some of my friends, virtually every time they spend a dollar, it is an uncomfortable experience.
To help my friends out, I thought I would do some thinking on how to solve their problems. And since I have no friends, that means I am talking about you! I’m here to help you out.
Before we get to wasting money, let’s first solve the discomfort problem.
How to Regain Control Over Your Money
We feel uncomfortable about our spending, because we have no idea how much money we’re supposed to spend. We worry about every dollar, because we might not be supposed to spend that dollar. It is the uncertainty that makes us uncomfortable.
We fix this uncertainty by taking action. Before sharing this with you, I want to make you a promise. If you want to regain control over your money, simply reading some words on a computer screen isn’t going to do anything. If you want to regain control over your money, you’re going to have to work for it.
The key to gaining control over our money is to not make decisions about how much money we can spend every time we pull out our wallet. This could be multiple times a day, and certainly multiple times a week.
Instead, we’re going to make far fewer decisions, make these decisions better, and not rely on an endless supply of daily willpower. This is called budgeting. To budget, we take the amount of money we have, and we allocate it to different things, ahead of actually spending it.
We decide how we’re going to spend our money before actually spending it.
We are going to budget in a smart way, because we are smart people and think about how we live our lives before actually living them. Since 3 is my favourite number, why don’t we use a three step system.
From the total amount of money we have, we break this down by how many months we have to use this money for. With each month’s amount of money, we decide how much we get to spend on what.
But, before we get to decide what to spend on, we figure out how much money we can save.
Every adult ever wishes they saved more than we are younger, so, because we want to be smart about our lives, we are going to take their advice.
We want to save as much money as we can, because money is really important and we don’t want to waste it. To figure out how much we can save, we figure out how much we absolutely must spend on rent. Then, we figure out how much we want to allocate to food per month, and, if we want to make this number lower, we check out this article.
From what we’re left with, we have to save some, invest some, and spend some. I am not here to tell you how much to do with each. It’s your money, and your life, so you’re going to have to make a decision about this yourself.
I can share that the rule of thumb is to save at least 10% of what you make. Because of the below, this means 5% to save (for things in the future), and 5% to invest (for your retirement).
THE SINGLE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN TAKE AWAY FROM THIS ARTICLE IS TO START INVESTING YOUR MONEY TODAY.
This isn’t 10% of what’s left after food and rent, this is 10% of your total monthly allowance from the start. But, as a bonus idea, if you save 65% of what you make, you can retire in 10 years.
Once you’ve figure out how much to save and invest, you can spend the rest. It is extremely important that you feel comfortable with how much you’re allowing yourself to spend every month. If you think it’s unreasonable, then you’re going to need to get a job, or figure out a way to make more money.
The key is to set this and forget about it. If you decide you’re allowed to spend $200 a month on whatever you want, then you stick to that. If this number isn’t reasonable to you, you’ll spend too much in the first month, feel overwhelmed and ditch the whole system entirely.
Once you decide how much you can spend, and how much you save, you stick to these decisions.
This is the tricky part. Since making your plan of how much you’re allowed to spend each month, now you need to actually follow this amount. In my experience, it helps to divide this number by 4, and know your weekly targets for how much you can spend on food, and how much you can spend on everything else.
Notice how we don’t think about how much money to save on a weekly basis? In fact, once we complete this simple process, we don’t need to decide how much we have to save again. We make the decision once, and we’re set.
This is a radical change in our mindset. With an idea of how much we’re allowed to spend on food and everything else each week, spending money becomes a LOT more fun. This is because now, we’re in control of our money, we’re not letting it control us.
Let’s say you have $75 a week to spend on groceries and $50 to spend on everything else. Every time you spend money that week, you’re taking away from your allowance for that week. So, you only have to remember two numbers. If you buy a six pack for $10, then your everything else number becomes $40. So you remember $40 and $75. I use a notes app on my phone to track this, so I can review what I spend at the end of every month.
Of course, some weeks, you may spend more or less than your targets. In these cases, you have two choices. You can carry this money over from week to week, or you can save the balance. So if you only spend $50 of your $75 grocery budget one week, you can have a $100 grocery budget next week, or you can save the extra $25 for something awesome in the future.
If you’re courageous enough to create positive change in your life, and decide to actually try budgeting, I first must give you a round of applause.
PICTURE OF APPLAUSE
Because nothing ever works the first time, you probably won’t get your numbers right the first month in. I have budgeted for four years now, and have found that once you get off track, it’s easy to really fall off the tracks. You have two friends birthdays in one week, and this week’s and next week’s $50 budget gets eaten up. And then, you get sick from all the partying, so you have to buy expensive antibiotics that you didn’t expect, and all of a sudden it’s the end of the first week of the month, and you’re already three weeks out of money.
We have two options. The first thing is we can not go out for the next two weeks, until we have enough money for it. Remember, we already set enough money aside for food and a roof over our heads. So the everything else we must spend on is just cherries on top of the cake of life. By going a couple weeks without spending much money, we don’t hurt ourselves, we are just getting back on track.
If we find ourselves constantly running out of money, there are two problems we might be facing. First, we might be spending too much money. Chances are, you’re feeling entitled to some of the luxuries of life like restaurants and partying. Of course, especially as students, these things are amazing - and especially amazing to us because they are still so new to our lives. But, having someone prepare food for you, clean up all the dishes for you, and provide you an additional roof over your head, likely at a convenient location too - this is a luxury. You can cook your own food.
And, with regards to the partying, this is another luxury. When we’re young, it seems like partying is the most important thing to our happiness. It seems it’s impossible to be social or to dance without being drunk. It seems that if we miss one of the major bar nights, our social lives will probably be over forever. But this doesn't happen. There will always be more nights to go out.
That’s it my friends, a complete, simple system to help you regain control over your money. No more worrying about whether you can afford that candy bar, or a pizza night. No more worrying about whether you buy that cute top that will so totally go with those jeans you already have.
It will take some work. Budgeting isn't easy. But now, with a road-map to making a budget and sticking to it, the only piece left to this puzzle is taking action.