ne of the goals I set for myself for 2016 is to be better with money. To save, to learn about investing, and not to waste (or spend money I don’t have) on things I don’t need. This goal came about in two ways. First, I went to the bank, and was served by a very handsome teller whilst broke (a sad bank account is never cute, ladies!) And second, I read this article about compound interest, and was shocked to find how much money can grow if I start saving & investing it early.
As a student, I will be broke well into the foreseeable future. So I’ve had to ask myself how I can look good and save on a very limited budget. I’m still learning how to answer this question, but here’s what I’ve learned so far.
1. I need to change my expectations
Sometimes (read: a lot of times) I forget that a lifestyle like the ones I see on social media aren’t my current reality. Dressing like a never-off-duty model isn’t affordable and it isn’t practical, especially when I’m carrying around a backpack, riding public transit, and sitting in lectures and libraries for hours at a time. I’ve already written about learning to value simplicity in style (here and here), but in a nutshell:
I need to recognize that (1) I don’t need to look like my idea of perfect to be well dressed, and (2) I need to expand my fashion horizons to appreciate & learn from styles that I wouldn’t have considered before.
My style ideals have no practical application in my life right now, but there is a happy middle ground between my fantasy wardrobe and Oscar the Grouch’s trash bin, and I need to find it.
2. I need to budget
Budgeting for me means dedicating my money to things before I get it. It means training myself not to give into urges that make me want to spend when I’m not sure if I can afford something (or am sure that I can’t), even when I can convince myself how cheap, cute, or beneficial to my life it is. It means being patient.
In order to do these things, I am doing the following:
Paying myself first. My grandmother used to do this. Before she paid anyone else, she made sure she could cover her expenses. I’m currently spending or put away money that I need for necessary expenses before I do anything else with my money. My grandmother was a wise woman: this is working well so far!
Saving 25%. My mom & I both read somewhere that saving 20% will make you wealthy. So, I’m going a little further and taking 25% of whatever money I get and putting it into my savings account. I’m reserving that money for emergencies. I don’t know if I’ll actually end up wealthy because of this, but it feels very good to see my savings account growing and to know that in an emergency, I can help myself in some way. I also think that this is good practice for when I’m finished with school and have more money coming in.
Allocating 10% to debt repayment. I’m putting aside 10% upfront, because it’s easy to ignore my balance and find something more fun to spend the money on.
Donating 10%. I’m more likely to donate/give away money if it’s given before I spend it on fun things for myself.
Turning my wants into projects. I don’t usually have a lot of money left over after I’ve paid myself, saved, paid my debt & donated some money. So instead of putting something on a card to pay later (and get in more debt now), I’m trying to save a bit of my “fun” money to put towards what I want.
I’m learning to see my wants as something I slowly & consistently work towards having, rather than a craving I rush to satisfy right away.
Not spending all my leftover money. I never know what will happen, whether it’s as serious as a missing textbook or as frivolous as a Zara flash sale, so my balance should never be zero. I’m hoping this will also help me to keep my emergency savings for true emergencies.
3. I need to curate what I buy
Simple clothes can’t hide behind interesting patterns and stunning colours. As a result, I have noticed the huge different that things like fit, cut, fabric, and fine details (like buttons, zippers, knit direction, etc) make on any item of clothing. These things will determine how good something looks on my body, and whether something makes me look put together or plain. Because it’s very difficult for me to evaluate these things online, I’m realizing that I need to physically go into a store and try things on.
I won’t lie, this is frustrating and very slow at times, but in addition to being well-dressed, it’s important for me to be financially responsible, so here’s to gradual put-togetherness, basic financial security, and the future!
What do you do to dress well while broke?