Adulting: How to Get Your Ish Together | Finances
Let's be real, finances are freaking hard. What is credit? What is rent? What is any of this adulting stuff?
I remember how lost I was when I graduated and was thrown into the real world not knowing much about money management. But I knew I wanted to start off on the right foot. Here's the steps I took and hopefully they will inspire you to get your finances under control.
0. Get a job, make an income, and negotiate your salary if you can. (Psst, read my blog on how I negotiated my starting salary here.)
1. Make a debt management plan
Like most of my 20-something, college-grad counterparts, I have some student loan debt. I made a plan on how to pay off my student loan debt by the time I turn 23 (#debtfreeby23), which is way under the estimated 10-year mark. So far, I have kept up with the payments and am on track to hit my target. Managing debt was my number one priority because having debt following me around makes everything else in a financial sense harder. Talk to people at your student loan company about how best to manage your loan repayments. I spent hours on the phone and it helped me understand everything.
Now that you have your debt managed, look at all your other expenses: rent, groceries, car/travel expenses, etc. Make a monthly budget where you can pay all of these and any other expenses you find yourself up against. Divide expenses into categories. Primary are the bills you must pay to live that month i.e. rent, car, groceries, etc. Secondary are expenses you should pay but it is not life-or-death i.e. student loan debt, savings, etc. Utilize banking apps to help with this. For example, I love my USAA account because it has a monthly budget and categorizes my spending so I can see how much in each budget category I'm spending.
3. Plan ahead (savings, IRA/401K, etc.)
This should be included in your secondary expenses. If your work offers an IRA or 401K matching program, do it. Why not? It is a little bit of your paycheck that is typically taken out before you get it so honestly you won't notice it is gone. Saving for retirement may seem like a far-off goal, but if you don't start now it will be much harder to start later (when you will notice that money is gone from your paycheck). I also set aside money each month for rainy day savings. Anyone know how it feels to have your car break down, phone crack or have to move suddenly? Yep, rainy day savings will help you when you need it the most. For brides-to-be (like me), I have two savings accounts, a rainy day one and a wedding one. This helps me set aside the money I need and keep it organized.
This one I'm still a bit lost at, but I have ordered a credit card, worked with my parents on how best to use it (i.e. use it to pay for gas and groceries and pay it off immediately), and I know how to check my credit score (go USAA, FTW). Make sure to start building credit early and attempting to understand how it works. (Any advice, please send my way.)
5. Health Insurance
I know that most people are fortunate enough to stay on their parents insurance until 26. And yes, my parents let me stay on using their insurance as my secondary insurance. While I was a bit bitter about having to get my own at 21 years old, I'm so thankful I did. I enjoy the freedom and responsibility of having my own health insurance so I can learn the processes and what to do now instead of being blind sided at 26. I highly suggest any 20-something year old to go ahead and get their own if they can because it will help you build knowledge and confidence that you can manage your finances and health.
Go file your taxes. Don't avoid it, don't wait until the last minute, just go do it. I was terrified but Jake and I made an appointment together at HR Block and they took care of the hard part. Taxes are not fun, but getting a potential refund is.
Now that you have your finances squared away, you have a bit leftover cash to treat yo' self. One of my favorite places to indulge is Sprinkles. Sprinkles came into my life after my friend and I were finishing up a wedding in Dallas and she suggested we stop by Sprinkles for a quick cupcake. I love cupcakes and I had heard about this place with a Cupcake ATM, but boy I was not anticipating how truly amazing the cupcake was! It was the perfect ratio of icing and cake, incredible flavor and the optimal moistness. My favorite is the Red Velvet and let me tell ya, this place does it best. I'm so glad there's one in Chicago!