One of the hardest things to learn when you become independent for the first time is living within your means. Of course, the obvious thing to think of is budgeting, but there is a little bit more than that. For the first time in our lives, we move out. And with that comes a bunch of responsibilities, some we are prepared for, and some that we had no idea would even be a thing. I swear half of being an adult is cleaning your kitchen while the other half is working to pay for bills with some fun sprinkled in there every once in a while.
I’ve written so much on budgeting for this website. ‘How to’ guides, cooking on a budget guide, and a few others. But what you should remember when it comes to budgeting is that it’s a tool to help keep track of where you are spending your money, not a rule that you have to follow. Also, just because you set up a budget doesn’t mean you will stick to it. Sticking to a budget takes discipline. And if you need some help setting up a new budget, check out Nerd Wallet’s Free Budget Worksheet.
I know for me, the reason I spent money when I knew I shouldn’t have was that my friends were doing something. For example, if they were going to a bar, I would want to go with them, and then I would lose all self-control and buy nachos and a beer or two. And while hanging out with your friends isn’t a bad thing, it can lead to unnecessary spending. I have one friend who, no matter what, would say no. If it weren’t in his budget for the month, then he wouldn’t come out with us. It sounds so simple but takes a lot more discipline than you think.
Meal Prep to Save Money
Uber Eats and Postmates have been my best friends for the last two years. There is just something about the convenience of ordering delicious food right to my doorstep that beats cooking food. It’s not even the cooking that gets me. It’s having to clean my kitchen for the thousandth time that week after cooking. And even though Postmates is convenient, the surcharges are insane. A $10 burger shouldn’t cost me $40 when everything is said and done. My rule of thumb for ordering out is Saturday is my cheat day so go nuts, and then I can order once during the week. I usually save it for those days where my brain hurts after staring at a screen all day. Nothing beats a cold beer and food made from someone else after a long day.
If you can meal prep on the weekends and make lunch or dinner for the week, you might be surprised how much you’ll save in the month. Of course, this tip only applies if you suffer from the same laziness syndrome that I do. Also, don’t be afraid to look for deals and coupons when grocery shopping. Groceries can add up in your cart if you don’t go in with a game plan. I go in for a few things and end up with a cart full of snacks I don’t need.
Prioritizing the Fun Stuff
No, I don’t mean that you should be prioritizing the fun stuff over bills. When I say “prioritizing the fun stuff,” I mean that you need to prioritize the fun stuff you want in order. We can’t always have everything we want. Some people love to travel, others are gamers, and some aren’t upgrading their cars. Whatever your hobby of choice is, you need to make sure that you prioritize that over the meaningless purchases that you make throughout the week. Maybe learn to make your favorite drink or snack at home and save some money there so you can add it to your fun budget. Just figure out what small or big sacrifices you are okay with to maintain the one thing that keeps you sane in your life.
Whether this is your first time out of the house or you’ve been out of the house for a couple of years, there are always new things to learn when handling money and living within your means. We get so used to a particular way of living growing up. We seem to forget that it took our parents a lifetime to get to that point in their lives. I would love to own a house and a new car, but I don’t have the income to support all that by myself. Your time will come. We have to put our heads down and grind at adulthood just like every other person did in their 20’s.
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