Adulting is hard. And between balancing your checkbook and making sure the rent check for your apartment goes out on time, you're realizing that the real world is — well, "real." Coming out of college, you heard all about how you were totally in charge of creating your life now. With school and a degree behind you, it's now in your hands to make it all happen. You could make dinosaur-shaped nuggets for dinner, and land your dream job just the same. And the day you get that big paycheck might be the first time you make a budget so that you can plan your lifestyle a bit, too.
There are a few things to consider when you start handling your own money and contemplating credit cards and the like. You've watched enough chick flicks in your time — including Confessions of a Shopaholic — to know that there are limits. You're not quite as broke as you used to be (Thank goodness, to be honest.), but you're still balling on a budget and can't always just go and buy the shoes, even if they're on sale.
Figuring out your finances might honestly sound like a nightmare. And if you're anything like me, you've been avoiding math at all costs since that last exam you took in school. It can be a little scary, but it's also worth it when you're looking at the bigger picture. So, what seven things should you consider? Well, it's a lot simpler than you think.
1. Your Savings
Especially when you're in your 20s, you don't have to have it all figured out. But, it's important to consider your savings and what you might want to have in your bank account so that nothing's really holding you back. If nothing else, it's nice to know that you're not totally broke — especially when you're looking to live your life and not just exist in it.
Maybe you haven't moved out yet and are looking to hit a certain number before making any apartment commitments. Or maybe you know that there's a trip of a music festival that you've been dying to go to that'll take some funds in the future. Saving even just a little bit of each one of your paychecks for life's adventures is worth not getting takeout and making it rain every single Friday night.
2. Your Living Expenses
Life can get expensive, and you and your bestie won't be broke together forever. But, it takes a little budgeting to realize where your paycheck is really going. You'll want to make sure you're considering rent, utilities, and groceries. If you need WiFi and Food Network to survive (like most of us, you're not alone), then you'll want to count cable and such as a cost, as well.
Even putting gas in your car, feeding your pup, or that gym membership that you've had since high school counts as regular life expense. And the first time you make your budget, you might be surprised as to where your money has been going all of these years and even cut some unnecessary costs.
3. ... And What You're Spending Your Money On
Which brings me to my next point. The first time you make a budget, you'll no doubt be surprised to find how much you spend on things like food and clothes. It's truly amazing how many unnecessary costs we rack up over the month, and that's when you'll start placing limits on yourself.
Truth is, you always knew you'd spent a lot of cash on coffee, and that you were single-handedly funding your local Starbucks. But now after looking at your bank account, and where you want to be in the next year or so, you might consider brewing a cup at home a couple times a week instead. You don't want to let any of it go to waste.
4. Your Emergency Fund
We can plan for a lot of things in life, but sometimes the unexpected just happens. When you're making your budget, you'll want to set aside some money for a rainy day. These are the times when you unexpectedly have to buy a new tire because you got a flat, or you had some unexpected medical expenses. You couldn't have ever known that was coming, but having the funds to handle the situation make it that much easier.
Of course, if you find yourself unfortunately using the money in your emergency fund, be sure to replenish it a bit every month. This should be separate from your usual savings, and something that you honestly forget about until the time comes to use it. So, you never have to consider pulling a Michael Scott.
5. Your Side Hustle
This is your passion project. In this scenario, you're Sophia Amoruso collecting vintage clothes for Nasty Gal and being a #girlboss. (Any Girl Boss fans out there?) And you just can't give up that side hustle, and so it must become a part of your budget.
Truth is, you have to spend a little money to make even more money (or so they say.) Maybe you're an artist and need to account for paintbrushes or the occasional canvas, or maybe you're a photographer and looking to invest in a brand new lens. Those are expenses that are helping you create something out of nothing, but still need to be counted for.
On the other hand, your side hustle might be bringing in some extra funds. Be sure to count that when you're considering your first budget, too. Those sales are worth tracking so you know what you're making and where you're going down the road.
6. Your Current Stuff
What you own is part of your worth when it comes to finances. All of your assets, whether it be your car or just the clothes in your closet, have some value. You'll want to consider them as the more constant things in your budget.
One of my favorite things to do when I'm spring cleaning my life a bit, is to go through all of my T-shirts and the like, and look at what I really don't wear anymore. A lot of your assets you probably cherish and would never give away, but some of the stuff that you really don't need any more can be sold for extra cash or even just donated so you can free up some space. Consider what you currently own and what you can get rid of as part of building your first budget.
7. Your "Fun" Money
OK, you still have to live your life and make some memories. So, even if it's just five dollars that goes to something simple and sweet, give yourself a little cash to blow with every big girl paycheck. You'll have a lot of moments that make you feel like you're an adult, especially after college. And being able to find some "fun" in your budget will definitely be one of them.
Budgeting is important, and you'll find yourself getting more and more comfortable with the real world once you're feeling better about your bank account. But, life is also so about living, and you're saving your funds every month for a reason. Make sure you book that trip, buy that pair of shoes, or treat yourself just the same. After all, it's really all about balance — whether it comes to your checkbook or the little things in this new adult life.