99 Problems but a bill ain’t one Tips for balancing your budget

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By Victoria Gray

When I was in my 20’s I was terrible with money. Now, in my mid-30’s I still feel the same as I did in my 20’s. I don’t feel like an adult. I feel like I should be an adultier-adult, but I’m not there yet. I’m still pretty unsteady in the financial waters.

I’m no expert, but I think I’m in an all right place and despite crippling student debt; I have achieved living within my means, for the most part.

People who have it all figured out seem to spend a lot of time and effort tracking this stuff and I just feel like that’s crazy. If you can strive to attain that perfection, please do, but I find that kind of tracking overwhelming and it makes me avoid the issue because, I can’t even.

So, here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to make budgeting and staying within your budget feel a bit more practical.

Make a rough budget — it’s not easy, but try to stick to it and overestimate how much you will need, so you’re pleasantly surprised at the end of the month.

Make sure you incorporate savings and really try to save. As much as I struggle with this, future you will really appreciate an extra $50 a month. On tight months you’ve got a built-in safety net. You need money because you lost your textbook and need to photocopy a friend’s? No sweat. You planned to save $50 anyway. If you save regularly and it’s budgeted, your savings may not grow that month, but they won’t shrink either, and that is a solid win in my books.

Download a banking app and set up all your bills and your landlord or building management company on it. You can check your balance regularly or on the fly. You can also pay bills wherever you are, which helps when you’re at the bar at 11 p.m. or in class at 8:30 a.m. and you realize you forgot to pay your hydro bill that is past due.

Anticipate your bills. Overestimate and pay all your bills when you pay your rent. If your phone bill is normally $67 a month, pay $70. The money accumulates, so you don’t have to pay as much on tight months. You also know exactly how much money you have to spend for the rest of the month on things like clothing, entertainment and savings. (PS: the actual adultier-adults in my life don’t support this method because I should have some kind of ongoing Excel spreadsheet of every bill and the date it was paid. Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

Get a credit card to build credit, but like every pro-adult will tell you, don’t ever carry a balance… I’m still not exactly sure what good credit can do for you, but I’m told it’s super important for effective adulting. I have good credit; I haven’t found a great use for it yet because, as a millennial, I don’t make enough money to get a mortgage, so, maybe it’s good for… getting more credit… or financing a car…? I’m unclear on this; go ask your dad. Dads know sh*t.

How to stay within your budget

Buy a travel mug and make coffee/tea at home to bring with you. Pro tip: if you are the kind of person who likes an afternoon coffee/tea, get two travel mugs. Boil water and let it sit in your afternoon mug for five minutes. Empty it. Fill with coffee. It will be still be piping hot at 2-4 p.m.

Make your lunch at home. It’s tedious and annoying. If you’re like me, you will often forget and end up wasting money on lunch, even though you’ll tell yourself that you won’t eat. A hungry student is not a happy student. On the days you do remember, you’ll be glad and way less hangry.

If you want to buy something, try to find it on Kijiji first. When I was a student I got a couch for $100. My old roomie’s mom still uses that couch (10 years later).

Join Facebook swap, trade and buy groups because other students are graduating and they don’t want to take their rice cooker. Trust me,  you need a rice cooker because rice is easy, cheap, and it will contribute to your lunches, and who doesn’t love tasty, tasty carbs?

Also, you can benefit from people who haven’t figured out how to adult like a boss, like you. Maybe Ashley bought a Coach purse last month, but now she needs to sell it cheap to pay her phone bill. It’s opportunistic and I feel bad for Ashley, but check out my new bag!