Whether you’re pinching pennies to pay off your student loans or managing a larger sum, it’s always important to be smart with your finances. Although it’s not the most fun topic, managing your money is a very important part of growing up and becoming a successful (and independent!) woman. To make balancing your budget a little less daunting, I’ve put together an easy-to-follow guide for all of you savvy ladies out there.
Set a Budget.
The first (and most crucial) step to managing any amount of money is knowing exactly what your expenses are. You can start with the items that you know you’ll spend each month (rent, utilities, car payments, insurance, etc.), and then add in the costs that you’ll need to maintain your lifestyle (restaurants, entertainment, shopping, gym, etc.). There are plenty of free websites and apps that you can use to put together your budget, which makes things a whole lot easier. My personal favorite is Mint, so if putting a budget together terrifies you (you’re not alone), this is the easiest way to conquer this first step. You’ll also want to make sure to keep your budget up to date. If your rent increases, your cable bill goes down a little bit, or maybe you switch gyms, you’ll want update your budget accordingly.
Once your budget is set, it’s time to start keeping tabs.You should also make sure to stay up to date on your bank accounts. These days with online and mobile banking, it only takes a few minutes to check out your recent purchases and watch out for any suspicious looking charges. If you see any of these, you’ll want to call your bank ASAP and get to the bottom of it. Another way to keep tabs is to start saving receipts. If you hate having the paper copies floating around, snap a quick picture with your phone.
Pay It Off.
Getting into debt is never a good idea. Not only is it stressful, but it can also damage your credit score and impact you negatively down the road. While it might be tempting to buy that bag you’ve been eyeing instead of paying off your credit card bill or your student loans, it’s always better to be smart and make your payments before you splurge on something for yourself. When it comes to finances, you always want to think about the future. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later in life when you’re not knee-deep in debt. When you’re ready to settle down (if that’s what you want to do), you’ll be able to buy that house, take out a loan, or send your (future) kids to college.
One expense that is priceless nowadays is good, quality health insurance. You never know when an unexpected injury, illness or accident will occur. If you’re lucky, you’ll never really need to use your insurance, but it’s smart to always be covered. Even those of us who take our vitamins and eat our vegetables (or drink them!) get sick every once in a while, and you want to be able to get yourself checked out or fill a prescription if you need to. If you need to find insurance, head to Healthcare.gov and find the option that’s best for you.
Take a Beat.
Impulse buying is (usually) never a good idea. Nowadays, the ankle booties that you’ve been coveting are only one click away. And even if it doesn’t fit into your monthly budget, the handbag of your dreams could be yours with one swipe of your credit card. My advice? Think on it. If I really, really want something, I’ll give it an hour or two. Whether I’m shopping online or in a store, I do my best to resist the urge to get caught up in the moment and make an impulsive purchase. If I take a beat ane get my mind off of the item that I can’t wait to snag, I’m much more likely to make a smart decision.
No matter how young you are, it’s never too early to start saving for the future. Whether it’s starting a 401k, opening a savings account, or getting into investing, making sure that you have a safety net (and one day a nice little nest egg) is the smartest thing you can do for your future self. If the company you work for doesn’t offer a 401k, then a Roth IRA is probably your best bet. You can even set up automatic transfers from your checking or credit accounts, so each month a certain amount of money will automatically be transferred into your savings. Another fun way to save? Keep a motivational money jar. You’ll start to save up a nice little chunk of change, while staying in shape. Win, win!
I know we’ve talked a lot about saving, budgeting and avoiding impulse buys. But with all of that said, I think that it’s important to treat yourself every once in a while. It’s nice to reward yourself for all of your hard work, including successfully managing your money. While you can’t treat yourself every single day and stay within your budget, I think it’s important to do something little for yourself every now and then. Maybe it’s splurging for a massage, buying yourself that sweet smelling candle, or treating yourself to a shiny new piece of jewelry.