I moved out fairly early, when I was 17. I had the excuse of attending university which meant that I could have all of the positives of moving out of my parents’ home (most importantly FREEDOM) with few of the negatives (having to pay my own bills). (Sidenote: I’m incredibly, incredibly lucky in that my parents paid for my tuition and living costs throughout university, although I worked part-time throughout in order to start saving up.) Since then, I’ve learned a few important habits of staying in control of my finances. Five years on from first moving out, I’ve moved to Toronto on my own, gotten an apartment, and am now starting a new life here.
Growing up it felt like teachers and parents were constantly telling me the importance of budgeting and saving my money, however, no one was teaching me practical skills of how to go about doing so. Although I was learning trigonometry in school, I never learned how to budget. Growing up in a single-parent, immigrant household, however, my mom was always very firm in the belief that we should never be frivolous with our earnings. And the stereotype that Indians are frugal, well that’s one hundred percent true in my case. Both growing up with a single-parent and being raised in a culturally Indian home, I feel that I was inadvertently taught the importance of budgeting and keeping track of my finances at a young age.
However, since no one explicitly sat me down and taught me how to budget, I decided early on I’d teach myself. Learning these techniques while I was in my teens and practicing them while I still had the safety net of my mom helped me develop my financial habits. Safe to say, keeping an eye on my spending and staying in control of my finances has allowed me to travel for months on end and also to move to a new city worry-free.
Here are my tips and best practices when it comes to finances:
1. Create a monthly budget
Creating a monthly budget is like creating a plan of attack. It helps create a framework of the predictable things you’ll be spending your money on.
My monthly budget includes: rent, the internet bill, phone bill, monthly bus pass, gym fees, grocery budget, Netflix, and Spotify.
These are all the recurring bills I’ll have to pay for each month, every month.
2. Spend on your credit card, collect all your receipts, and record where you spend your money
Some people are wary of using their credit cards. I, personally, much prefer using my credit card than cash. For one, it’s much easier to account for where I’m spending my money when I can refer back to receipts. Secondly, I tend to be frivolous with cash whereas I’m far more mindful with my credit card. Thirdly, using your credit card often and paying it off in full helps build up your credit. So, when you apply for a loan or mortgage you can point towards years of responsible credit card usage as a reflection of your financial intelligence.
When I use my credit card I always take a receipt. At the end of the week I record all my receipts in the ‘Finance’ section of my planner. Thus, I can easily see patterns in my spending and if I need to alter my spending habits I can pick out where to cut costs.
3. Adjust your budget according to weekly spending habits
Some weeks you’ll end up spending more than other weeks. Say an unexpected cost comes up, like you dropped your phone and have to replace the screen. Or, it could be the holidays or a friend’s birthday and you’ve got to drop some extra dollar bills. If you know you’ll have to spend a little extra one week, try and cut costs down in another week. Maybe for-go eating out one week to make up for extra costs the next.
4. Pay off your credit card bill weekly
If you record your receipts weekly like I do, it’ll be easy to pay off your credit card bill weekly. Also, if you record your receipts there won’t be any surprises when you pay your bill.
Paying your credit card bill off weekly also helps build your credit more easily than paying it off just a few days before your payment is due.
Do your best to pay your bill off in full before your due date–this is essential in building up your credit!
Adjusting your budget is a necessary evil. Life happens and unexpected, and expected, costs arise far more often than we’d like. Even if you create a monthly budget, it’ll never be full-proof. That’s why it’s important to save on the side and ensure you’ve got some sort of safety net in place.
When creating a budget it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Make sure you account for all your monthly essentials: recurring costs and bills that you’ll have to take care of each month. These include rent, monthly subscriptions, and bills.
- Keep in mind special occasions like the holidays. This doesn’t just include Christmas, but special occasions like Halloween and the necessary costume or Thanksgiving and budgeting for your festive contribution. Birthdays, concerts, and festivals are also events you’ll have to dish out for. If you know you’ll be spending a bit extra one week on special occasions, try and limit your spending in other weeks to make up for it and stay within your budget.
- Lastly, for those who don’t have an annual salary and are scheduled shift work it’s important to keep in mind how changing seasons can affect your income. For example, in the service industry some servers or bartenders make their most in the winter while others make their most in the summer. Accordingly, if you make a ton of money in the winter but not in the summer you’ll have to alter your spending habits to account for the change in your income.
Although getting into the habit of budgeting and keeping track of your finances can be difficult, the positive outcomes far outweigh the tedious efforts. Keeping track of how you spend your money can help make saving easier, by cutting out repetitive costs, and you can indulge in the things that are important to you, be it clothes, travelling, concerts, whatever your heart desires! Building up your credit is also incredibly important in the long run.
These are the practices that have helped me become financially independent, hopefully you’ll find them useful too!