How to Save in Your Thirties
I’ll admit it: I have never been a numbers person. Even when I was a little kid, I dreaded math classes—often getting caught daydreaming by my teacher. When I was in my twenties, my “number avoidance” didn’t improve much. Some weeks, if I hadn’t budgeted properly, I would find myself eating ramen for 5 days straight.
When I turned thirty, a decade of ignoring my finances began to frustrate me. I knew I needed to make better financial decisions. Over the last several years I have become so much better at managing my money. Here are 5 major strategies that have helped me:
The Little Things Add Up
How many times have you gone to a store to get just one thing, and ended up with nail polish, a new iPhone case, lip balm, flannel sheets and an adult-sized Chewbacca onesie? Answer: ALL. THE. TIME. I made a rule for myself last year. If I am going to the store to get one thing, I come home with just that thing. It takes serious self-control but it makes me feel so grown-up. Set goals before every shopping trip and stick to them
Budget Week Challenge
When I really feel the need to save, I challenge myself to a “Budget Week.” On Sunday, I withdraw $70 from my credit union account. I give myself a daily $10 budget for everything—gas, food and entertainment. While it is not easy, every time I make it through a Budget Week successfully, I feel like I’ve become a better adult. PRO TIP: Make it a challenge, NOT a necessity out of desperation.
After a long day of work there are many evenings when I just don’t feel like cooking. However, once I get all of my ingredients out and begrudgingly start chopping, dicing and mixing, invariably my mood lightens and I feel satisfied I didn’t take the easy (Steak ’N Shake) way out. Even if you’re not confident in your ability to run a stove, there are tons of beginner guides online to help you, and even more sites devoted to easy meals.
Deal with Debt
Somehow, I made it through my twenties without a credit card. This doesn’t mean I was never in the red. Like many college students, I graduated with a serious amount of student loan debt. I remember how shocked I was to see my first real bill. It was half of my salary for the month. No joke. This quickly set my wheels in motion and I refinanced my loans at a reasonable rate so that I could pay a sensible amount back every month. In 2014, I made my last payment. Yay me!
Keep Your Jealousy in Check
Sometimes when I peruse financial blogs aimed at people in their thirties, I feel many miss a crucial detail: not everyone in their thirties is at the same point in their career. As a career-changer myself, it’s tempting to envy the friend with “that-awesome-job-and-the-awesome-salary-at-that-awesome-company.” As hard as it is, stop comparing. Everyone has financial woes. Deal with what is in front of you, and build from there.
Remember, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” financial strategy. Experiment and see what works for you!