#ProtectTheCoins - Being Bougie on a Budget
One of the many names of this chapter in my life is "Why Does Everything Cost Money?", and I ask myself this at least twice a week. The longer I live, the more money I have to spend to survive. I'm gonna be a real adult within the next 6-7 months, so over the last few months I've been taking my financial habits more seriously. I have an aesthetic, and I definitely feel like a key part of that aesthetic is being bougie on a budget. I like nice things, but my budget doesn’t always align with my taste, so I have to do what I can for the time being. I'm still learning and growing in the financial area of my life, but I'm starting to find a good groove, and I wanted to share some things with y'all. One of my goals is to protect my coins while stacking and saving, so these are a few of the tools I use to help me accomplish that. Nobody said I can't be in my bag and on a budget at the same time. We love a Queen who can multitask.
One thing I've always done is budgets. Any time I know I have money coming, I make sure I plan my spending before the money touches my hands or my account. Part of this is because of my need to plan almost everything, and part of this is so I don't go crazy swiping. I usually do my budgets on my iPad in this app called Notability, and I do two different things. I'll make a list of what expenses I have coming up for the month, and then I budget all of the individual checks I have coming in to divide these expenses appropriately. For the individual checks, I do these budgets in chart form. The columns on the chart are: item/name of expense, the estimated cost, the actual cost, the due date (if applicable), and a column to check if it has been paid. I do my best to stay on top of these. If I budget for nothing else, you best believe I'm gonna budget my church money. Tithes, offering, and seed are something I always pay, and I do my best to pay these before I start to spend money on anything else. God gets His money first. Outside of my monthly subscriptions, that's the one "expense" that doesn't change. If I'm getting a check where the amount varies based on hours, I always make sure I estimate the total amount of the check first or check my pay stub ahead of time if it's available. In addition to doing the actual budgets, I always make sure to write the dates things are due in my planner and on my calendar so I don't feel like they snuck up on me, and I check them off the list after the money has come out of my account.
If there's one thing I love, it's shopping. Clothes, shoes, makeup, nail stuff, literally anything I find on Amazon Prime. I want it all. I like to shop to boost my mood when I'm sad. I like to shop to reward myself when something goes well. I like to shop to treat myself when I feel like I've done something worthwhile. I've cut back a good bit because I have a lot more going on this year, but there's nothing with doing any of this in moderation when I can afford it. When shopping online, I never buy anything the first time I see it. I'll usually add it to my favorites list or my cart and come back to it later to make sure it's something I really want. To maximize my purchases, I also try to make sure I can have multiple uses or ways to wear something so that I don't feel like I'm wasting my money. Sometimes I make sure I can't find the same thing I'm looking for on another website for less money, because a lot of these sites try to get us, and sometimes they succeed. Also, if I'm ordering clothes or shoes online, chances are I'm not paying full price. If I can't find some type of coupon code or student discount or it’s not already on sale, there's an 87% percent chance I'm not buying it. Google, Unidays, and Student Beans are your friends. Search (insert website name) coupon codes and look at the results to see if you can find anything that works. Always check before you checkout!
I'm not gonna lie to y'all. I was scared of credit cards for a long time. It seemed like everything I heard about them was bad, but I wasn't sure why. I'm learning that most of that is a result of people mismanaging them or taking advantage of them, so the fear I had surrounding them is gone. I wanted to wait to get one until I felt I was in a better place with my money so I could be responsible and not mess myself up before I really got started. I also knew that with graduation and the real word approaching, I was going to need credit in order to get an apartment or a new car when I get out on my own. After dong my research, I went with the Discover Student Card. I got it in May of this year and everything has gone smoothly. I'm still learning, but the things I always do are pay on time (or early) and pay more than the minimum payment required. I also do my best to keep my balance below a certain percentage of my credit limit, and only use it when it makes sense for me to (i.e. emergencies or for the rewards if I'm shopping at a particular place). So far I'm doing good, but hopefully I'm able to get better and my credit score continues to improve.
I have a folder of apps on my phone related to my finances, but the ones that help me stay on track the most outside the apps for my banks are Turbo, Mint, and Qapital. I downloaded Turbo when I got my credit card to help me keep track of my credit score. I like it, but it’s fairly simple. I just recently started using the Mint app after a mutual follower on Instagram told me about it. I'm still getting the hang of it and playing around with it, but I'm liking it. It also has a feature that tracks my credit score, but it can also keep track of my other accounts, bills, spending, and budgets, so it's more of a one-stop shop than Turbo. I feel like once I get more comfortable with Mint I might delete Turbo completely, but I'll see.
This isn’t really an app, but I feel like it falls under this category more than the others. I also wanted to mention a page I follow on Instagram called The Finance Bar. This is a company owned by the mother of a Claflin alumnus that's near and dear to my heart. The company has a website that features a lot of different things and it's gained national recognition, but I interact with this business by following their social media pages. They post different tips and financial advice on a regular basis that help keep me on the right track or read me when I need to be checked. For more information, check out the website at thefinancebar.com or on Twitter and Instagram @thefinancebar.
Another app I like to use is Qapital. It's basically like a digital piggy bank. You can create one or, if you're like me, multiple savings goals on there and set different rules for each. You can also set different savings rules for each goal. For example, I use the Round Up rule and the Set and Forget Rule. The Round Up rule does exactly what it implies. The app is connected to my checking account, so whenever I use my card to make a purchase, it will round up the amount to the next dollar and put the difference into that designated goal account. The Set and Forget rule allows you to pick a certain amount (right now mine is $5), and it'll add that amount of money to the designated goal each week. When I have more than one savings goal in the app, I usually have the rules applied to one of them and I'll add money to the others as I can. Another thing I like about this app is it won't take any money out of your account if your resulting balance will be less than $100. It's kind of like a built-in overdraft protection. It will send you an alert and an email letting you know your savings have been paused, but when the app can detect that your balance is above $100, your savings will automatically resume. I've been using this app for a few years now and I've never had any issues with it. When you transfer between your checking account and the app, it may take a few business days, but it always lets you know when your funds should be available in either account. Another thing I wanted to note is that because I've been using the app for so long, I think things have changed in terms of the cost. I don't think it's free anymore, but that's something you'd have to look into if you're interested. Like I said, I've been using it for years so it gave me the full membership automatically out of appreciation, but if you are interested, there may be other apps similar to this one that are free.
I'm no financial expert, so please know that everything I just shared is from my own experience. I also want to restate that I'm still learning. One thing I'm still working to get better with is building my savings, and I feel like something that helps with that is the fact that my savings account and primary checking account are with different banks. I can’t just immediately transfer money from savings to checking, so it encourages me to think and make sure I transfer because I absolutely need to or I'm doing it because it's worthwhile.
Anywho, I hope y'all found this post helpful and if there are any tips you can give me, feel free to share. Honestly, please share. Tips, books, all that. Financial stability is something very important to me, so I'm working on building healthy habits now so that I can comfortably afford the lifestyle I want when I become fully independent. As the same with my other posts, know that I'm rooting for you. I hope that as you each continue to live life, be great, and flourish that your finances follow suit.