In the age where we are asked why “millennials aren’t saving,” or we are given these tips on how to save money that worked well for our parents and grandparents but are seemingly unrealistic for us, I thought it’d be helpful to have a financial guide from an actual young adult.
I have lived on my own for about a year. I pay my own bills, buy my own groceries, and whatever other basic essentials I may need. I won’t lie, I really did struggle at first but I got into the swing of things and found a system that really worked for me.
Since I work part-time and am paid bi-weekly, I really have to pay attention to which days I get paid and which days bills are due. At the beginning of each month, I mark my paydays and when my rent, electric, phone, and internet bills are due. This way I can account for each paycheck, and split the bills up depending on which payday is closest to the due date instead of trying to pay them all in one shot.
The best thing (in my experience) to do, is to pay whatever bills you need to BEFORE you spend money on literally anything else. Literally. Do not buy that sub sandwich because it’s payday and you’re hungry. Do not “treat yoself” until after you’ve taken care of your bills. I have made that mistake before and trust me, the panic is not worth it. Let your mind rest easy knowing all the necessities have been taken care of and you can spend extra money on luxuries with a clear conscience.
The next thing I do is fill up my gas tank. My car typically has great gas mileage and I can expect to spend around twenty-five dollars each paycheck on gas. It’s such a relief to know that your tank is full and will most likely last the whole pay period. If you know your tank empties a little quicker, account for that and work it into your budget. I always treat a trip to the gas station just like I would any other bill- as a priority and necessity.
After I pay my bills, I set an allowance for groceries. Usually fifty to sixty dollars worth of groceries can last me two weeks- until the next paycheck. My biggest grocery hack (obviously) starts with a list. I write everything down that I need and do a quick run-through of my apartment to make sure I don’t forget anything. Once my list is complete, I drive to the dollar store and buy as much on my list that I can there. If I can get something for one dollar as opposed to five, why wouldn’t I? Dollar stores are a great way to keep your account from quickly draining. They usually have things you can get at a Walmart or Safeway for a lot cheaper.
Now, if you’re like me you’ll probably get burned out on Ramen and frozen pizzas really quickly. Don’t buy into the falsehood that junk food is the cheapest. There are healthy alternatives to junk food that are also affordable. For example, in the soup section of a grocery store, you can buy packets of soup that you can mix up and boil at home for around three dollars a packet. It’s quick, easy, and you’ll actually have leftovers to last you the rest of the week! Just don’t forget you have them in in your refrigerator or they’ll go bad and that’s a waste of money! In addition to that, there are nifty ingredients you can pick up and turn into meals for under ten dollars!
After groceries are taken care of, I also check for whatever other basic necessities I might need. Toothpaste, toilet paper, makeup, cleaning supplies, etc. and then I buy whatever I need. Trust me, you don’t want to be without toilet paper when a time comes for you to desperately need it. You’ll thank yourself for that later!
The last piece of advice: I’d make sure you’re depostitng some money into a savings account, if at all possible. In case of a minor or major emergency, backup money is always a lifesaver.
It’s definitely not easy to be on your own on a minimal salary. There are lots of sacrifices to be made but at the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s all for the sake of a better life for you. And as an aspiring artist, I just want to say that you’ll make it someday and tight budgeting will no longer be a concern for you!