I met a young girl this week working in Walmart. While she rang up my purchases, she talked like every friendly cashier does.
“This is my first job,” she told me, then chuckled. “But I might need to find another one as well. I burned through my first paycheck in two days. I really need to learn how to budget.”
I wasn’t sure if this shocking information was said to pass the time or if she wanted advice, so I tested the waters. “Are you asking for advice?”
She shrugged and kept bagging. “Yeah, I guess. I don’t want to make the same mistake with my next paycheck.”
The advice I offered her I’m giving to you in hopes you’ll be wiser from the moment you begin your first job. And even if you’ve stared working listen up.
First, Save. Pay yourself with every paycheck. 10% is a good place to start, but the more you can stash away the better prepared you’ll be for the incidentals of life. And I mean crisis kind of incidentals, coming across a new pair of shoes if yours are just fine is not a crisis. Try not to dip into that savings unless you absolutely have to.
Second, prepare. Things like Christmas, vacations, car registrations can be big-ticket items, but if you plan on certain amounts and set funds aside per paycheck you won’t make the mistake of using credit to pay for these things.
Third, stick to your budget. If there’s only enough for $60 of groceries each week, don’t go over—go without. There are lots of groceries items you don’t need, like pop, and crackers & snacks, candy. Buy items like these only when you have the funds to do so.
Fourth, understand the difference between a want and a need. This is the one area where self-control is crucial and will be your saving grace if you’ll keep it reined in. If your life does not depend on it to survive, it’s a want (Example: shoes, haircuts. Even cell phones and vehicles can fall into this category if you already have one, but feel you have to run out a buy the latest version every other year.)
If not having it could possibly kill you, it’s a need. (Example: utilities, food, shelter) Budget and pay for all your needs first, then sprinkle in a few wants so life won’t feel too unbearable, but I would advise very sparingly.
This might sound like a fortune cookie, but you must either learn to master your money or it will master you. More money isn’t the answer. Always live well within your means and you’ll avoid the stresses that come from stretching yourself too financially thin. Nothing is harder than living paycheck to paycheck, with not a penny to spare. If you’ll be realistic about your finances, you’ll have a better chance of this not happening to you.