It’s not about how much you make but how much you spend.
The fear of being financially ignorant was ingrained in me since I can remember. I grew up in a very poor household in Lima-Peru, a beautiful developing country. Disposable income in our home was non-existent, going out to eat meant going to a Chinese buffet once a year and shopping meant checking out the Salvation Army. Don’t get me wrong, I never missed a meal or any necessities and for that I am grateful to both of my parents.
Living through foreclosures and bankruptcies at a young age pushed me to be more curious about personal finances. I majored in Finance in college and have attended numerous financial management seminars, but Life has really been my biggest teacher, even above a higher education institution. I’d like to think of myself as a wise financial person who is making the best with a modest income. I am a semi-strict budgeter who does not like to live in deprivation. Just like many women, I like to look good, I love new home decor and I enjoy traveling. I believe in balance and I am still able to indulge but I do it with great moderation. So, today, we will talk about the first 2 steps to financial wisdom.
- Budget: Live life on your terms: I am including a free document here Budget Doc, so you can see how I budget my expenses. I am a fan of Google Sheets but there are tons of apps and some just prefer good old paper; whatever works for you.
- First, write down how much money (after taxes) you are bringing in monthly from all incomes.
- Then, make a list of all your monthly expenses. Start with your fixed expenses aka non-negotiables (i.e. savings, rent/mortgage, student loans, cellphone, car insurance, car payment, credit cards, etc).
- Then continue with a list of your variable expenses aka determined by use (i.e. utility bills, groceries, copays, gas, etc).
- Finally, finish up your list and include all your other expenses (i.e. restaurants, makeup, clothing & shoes, hair salon, nail salon, gym membership, cable, games, movies, books, etc.). Add all your expenses and subtract it from your monthly income (Total Monthly Income-Total Monthly Expenses). If you have a positive number, we have disposable income and more opportunities. If we have a negative number, it’s time to figure out a plan and really decide what is essential from the other expenses list, this is where we can cut down unnecessary expenses so we can either save more or pay down debt faster.
Tips: Budget for at least three months, it will become a habit. Review it biweekly or monthly and make readjustments. Consistency is key. Be realistic and really understand what expenses are essential. I personally cannot give up my gym membership and workout at home instead because paying a monthly fee actually motivates me to go. I gave up buying coffee, not coffee itself, but my K-Cups cost 30 cents now compared to $2 (I was never a Starbucks girl). Giving up buying lunches was hard, I love take out and Wawa! (an amazing convenience chain store). It took time and preparation but now I tell myself I am not eating my money away. I was spending at least 200 monthly, just in lunches, and now I have cut that in half or more just by buying groceries.
- Pay yourself first, before you spend it on someone else: You may be asking why I consider savings to be a fixed expense as mentioned before. Well, I am a huge believer of paying yourself first while building an emergency fund; this should be a habit that will essentially create a foundation that can be passed down. I have read different articles saying you have to save from 5% to 15% of your take home income.
- I say, if all you can save is $20 per paycheck, do that, but be consistent and realistic. Look at the list above and be honest with yourself; if you are spending over $100 a month in recreational expenses and saving $20, chances are that if an emergency arises, you will most likely swipe the plastic (credit cards) and then you will accumulate high interests, pay only the minimum payment, and put yourself in more debt.
- So, pay yourself first as soon as the direct deposit hits and preferably put it in a separate savings account. I personally set up an automatic transfer from my checking to savings on every payday. I have my savings in the same bank as my checking but I practice a lot of self control. If you are afraid you will just access the savings when you are tempted to do some shopping therapy, then try to get a separate online savings account. This will prevent you from having immediate access to cash and hopefully the urge will disappear.
- Using a separate checking account for my bills has really helped me see where I am spending the most outside of my necessities. This helps me buckle down when I need to save extra to travel or buy an expensive item.
~DO NOT SAVE WHAT IS LEFT AFTER SPENDING, BUT SPEND WHAT IS LEFT AFTER SAVING~ WARREN BUFFETT.