The whole point of creating this blog was to not only document my traveling (which, let’s be real, isn’t nearly as exciting as many people who seem to traverse the world almost every other week), but to document my life of living to the fullest while being as financially responsible as possible. Everyone has a different definition of what’s “responsible”, but for me it is extremely important to put my financial freedom first and foremost. I wholeheartedly believe one can live a frugal and ~adventurous~ life without sitting at home being a hermit all day!
Obviously, all the experiences mentioned throughout this blog are only my life. I am aware that I am a privileged, highly-educated young professional, and have no fear of going hungry. Therefore, the financial views reflected in this blog are to my peer group only. My preferences are also my own – I hate being bored, and find little pleasure in sitting at home, getting takeout and watching Netflix the rest of the night. But, everyone’s life is different, and that’s totally okay.
With that, a little peak into my life of financially-conscious living.
Set aspirational goals. Never, ever forget them.
Well, duh! Everyone hears this almost every day – but what does it really mean? When setting long-term goals, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal and get sucked into the present. Most people want to be financially stable in the long run, for example, but it’s easy to push off attaining that goal when we’re so young, especially when we’re often expected to be struggling financially. My own three goals for my early twenties, before I allow myself to do ANYTHING else (including: getting engaged, getting a pet, buying a house, etc), as as follows:
Professional: obtain at least 1 promotion.
Academic: obtain one post-graduate degree (hence, my dogged pursuit of finishing my master’s degree 3 years earlier than usual, even when IT’S THE MOST TERRIBLE THING EVER).
Financial: obtain near-financial independence. The true definition of “financial independence” is getting to the point where your money makes enough money to cover expenses without any salary indefinitely. Obviously, I’m nowhere near this point. My personal definition for my early 20s is having enough net worth to be able to take off a year or two from work and not change my lifestyle, if I ever want or need to, and I have a set amount in mind I want to hit.
Get your priorities straight.
That week-long vacation with your beau to Maui is great, but if your parents are paying for your living expenses, I am wholeheartedly confused. My parents were immigrants who came to this country with approximately $10 between them, so perhaps this is the immigrant mentality in me talking: Forgo that vacation for a little while. Skip that $4 coffee. Wear an outfit twice instead of buying a new one. You can find cheaper, or even free, alternatives, and when you can actually afford that vacation without dipping into your savings or bringing your bank balance down to $0, it’ll feel so much better.
Cut your safety ropes.
Yes, we’re “young”. I am a huge promoter of independently living within your means, however. If you work in a job where you’re not getting paid at all, then it’s obviously much harder to cut your ropes. However, if you’re making a livable salary, then work within that livable salary on your own. Try to gain independence from your parents, even though they’re loving and supportive etc, in as many ways as possible. You should definitely open up YOUR OWN credit card, under your own name, as soon as possible, to build credit. Have your own bank accounts, even if the amount in it is less than $100. Take the burden of finding an apartment in your own hands if you can afford it – your parents will help, but you are a functioning adult at this point. Pay your own bills, if you choose to live on your own. Find ways to help fund your own post-college tuition.
Spend your discretionary money on meaningful experiences.
“Meaningful” has different definitions for everyone. After you pay for your adult expenses (bills, rent, transportation, classes, etc) and you have some discretionary money left, it’s time to figure out what to do with it! Finding ways to stretch my dollars is one of my favorite pastimes. Some little ways I save:
Set a limit on accounts. Every time I have over $2,500 in my checking account, I transfer the extra to my savings account. Then, every time I go over $5,000 in my savings account, I transfer all to my investing accounts and choose what to do with it there
Automate accounts. I automatically transfer 25% of each of my paycheck to my savings account.
Bring lunch every day. Meal prep is key!
Plan activities with friends instead of coffee or dinner. Make dinner yourself, go mini-golfing or kayaking or exploring with friends instead. Or make dinner together!
Every time I make a transaction out of my checking account (paying rent, using Uber, Paypal, etc), transfer $10 to my savings account automatically.
Set strict budgets for trips. No trip, even week-long international trips to Iceland or Costa Rica, can go over $600 since that is my maximum limit for non-continental trips. (This means I’ll have to save that trip to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding instead!).
Utilize work perks. I am on tuition assistance from my company, which saves me approximately $7,500 a year from classes. I buy movie tickets for $5 each instead of the theater’s $15. If I book a hotel, I use corporate discounts. Some of my favorite activities are going to the botanical gardens or any of NY’s museums – admissions are free with my badge.
Take care of health. Working out 3-5 days (I go straight after work, so no excuses), eating right, and taking care of vision saves so much money on health problems down the road.
The more you give, the more you get.
Even though it’s important to be frugal in my own life, my mother taught me to be as generous as possible to other people. I personally find great pleasure in gift-giving, and will take any holiday or birthday opportunity to give a thoughtful (perhaps not terribly expensive, but sometimes so) gift to my closest friends and family. It’s also incredibly important for me to carve out a chunk of my paycheck and donate to my various chosen charities. When people see the hefty levels for various philanthropic organizations, they cringe. But, a $1000 sponsorship of a homeless shelter means setting aside only $83.33 a month. Buy 2 fewer outfits, go out to brunch 3 fewer times, bring lunch for a week. If you’re not living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s highly doable, and will perhaps bring greater meaning into your life. When you find something you’re super passionate about, you find ways to make it work no matter what, and perhaps will scrutinize the rest of your budget with a more careful eye.