I wouldn’t say I’m known for being frugal. I’m not one to use a coupon or go out of my way to get the best deal. However, I am conscious about what I’m spending and as someone who is in their mid-twenties, I think I’m living the best life I can while doing it. I’m a teacher and my husband is an engineering student that works part time. We are by no means living a rich and fabulous lifestyle, but I sure as hell don’t let that stop me from living my best life. You don’t see me at the spa every weekend or eating at 5 star restaurants, but for what it’s worth, I think we do pretty well for what we’ve got. We’re able to go on amazing European vacations every year, live in a nice condo, go out with friends, and not be suffocated by debt. I’m going to give you some tips that I think really help me in budgeting, saving, and using my money for the things that I think matter most.
I’m not aware of how obvious or foreign budgeting is to most people, so I’m just going to lay out the system I use. The first step is finding out how much you make in a month. My husband and I make salary, so this is fairly easy for us to do. However, when I was a server, I knew it was a little bit trickier because my earnings varied from week to week. I used to average my weekly earnings and then for my budget’s sake, average a little less than I actually made. This is good practice because you’re high weeks will help even out your low weeks. The best type of budget is one that you don’t have to fuss with often.
Once you figured out how much you make, you need to figure out how much all of your bills are. I consider bills expenses that must be paid in order to survive. This includes rent, internet, phone bill, electricity, gas, groceries, car, etc. For things like electricity, gas, and groceries, I just take an average of what I normal would spend and then add a slightly higher amount to my budget. I don’t want to worry if we went over our electricity budget for the month and then have to take extra money out from somewhere else.
After all the essentials are taken into account, I figure out how much I can spend on “extras”. I find that a lot of people are really unrealistic with how much they need for “extras”. I think of “extras” as things like whenever I need my oil changed, when I need to get someone a birthday present, or when I go out to eat with my friends. This is the part of my budget that I really pay attention to and fuss over because it’s the part I can actually control. If I ever have extra money at the end of the week I have it roll it over to the next week in case one week is a little bit more pricey.
In order to truly life your best life, you need to be putting money away each month. When the rainy days comes and everything seems to go bad at once, you need to have some savings in order to stay afloat. My rule of thumb is putting away 10% of what I make.
The way that I keep track of all this budget mumbo jumbo is Google Sheets. This way I don’t have to worry about doing all my math right and I can easily keep track of what I’m spending. I have the Google Sheets app on my phone, so whenever I spend more on “extras” I can easily add it to my budget wherever I am. Being able to actually see how much I can spend on things really helps me think consciously when I’m making plans or buying things.
Here is an example of how I set up my Google Sheet for budgeting:
2. Go Grocery Shopping
To me, this seems just too obvious to handle, but I am actually baffled by how many people my age never go grocery shopping as a weekly routine. I know a lot of people who think it’s cheaper to eat Chipolte or Chick-Fil-A everyday then go to the grocery store once a week. I think eating out is probably one of the biggest money wasters that go unnoticed. Believe me, I LOVE eating out. On the weekends, I probably eat out almost every meal, but on the weekdays I’m pretty strict about packing lunches and only eating at home.
One thing that a lot of people don’t think about is where they are grocery shopping. I have about five Publixs super close to my house and it’s extremely convenient to shop there. However, when I shop at Publix I average about $100 per week. Now whenever I shop at Aldi, which is must say is a whole lot less convenient, I only spend about $70 per week. That’s saving me $1,560 a year.
3. Don’t Go Out Every Weekend
Going out to the bars is not a cheap weekend activity. I know that one can easily spend $50 on drinks and Ubers and probably a lot more. Instead of going out every weekend, buy a bottle of wine and hang out with your friends at someone’s house. It can actually be more fun and it really saves everyone a lot money.
4. Stop Shopping to Shop
One of my New Years Resolutions this year was to only buy used clothes. The main reason I did this was to minimize my waste and reduce my carbon footprint, but also because it helps me save money. I use apps like Poshmark and shop at vintage boutiques when I need something. Because of this, I don’t let myself be bored on a Saturday and walk around the mall and spend money on things I really don’t need.
5. Plan Vacations Well in Advance
I’m a big advocate on traveling the world when you’re young, but I know a lot of people feel like it’s not possible for them. For the past three years I have been going on European vacations and have not spent more than $4,000 for my husband and I on any of our trips. The main reason I’m able to do this is because I plan my vacations a year out. I spend a lot of time looking for the best flights and accommodations, and read a lot about how to save money in certain places. Some people might think that spending $4,000 a year on a vacation is a lot to spend, but if you are saving for it all year it’s definitely possible. For more information for how I saved money on my past trip click HERE or HERE.
I know a lot of these tips weren’t ground breaking and seem really obvious, but I do get a lot of questions from people my age and I know none of us were really taught this kind of information in school. If you have anymore questions about how I set up my budget or how I find ways to save money on things, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me.
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