Budgeting Doesn’t Work, So Try This Instead
An expert guide on how not to overspend this summer.
Published Jul 15, 2018 5:10 AM
Congratulations! If you’re reading this article it means you’re (very likely) a real life adult looking to get some tips on how to best use your money. But before we dive in, our resident finance expert and founding partner of Stash Wealth, Priya Malani, suggests you think about exactly why you feel the need to budget.
We get it: The warmer months often bring more opportunity to splash the cash. From rooftop bars, to weekends away, entertaining outside, and so much more, it’s hard not to overspend. We tell ourselves, “Okay, I’m not going to eat out so much this week,” or, “I’m going to treat myself to this excursion, but next weekend I have to stay in.” It feels like a constant need to balance, when in reality, we just end up spending willy-nilly and stressing about it later.
But before you go worrying about if you’re failing at #adulting, we have a point of view for you to consider: stop compromising.
According to Malani, budgeting doesn’t always work. And she has a valid point. Life is unpredictable and budgets are not. Since there is no “typical week” in your life (one that doesn’t include last-minute plans, friends from out of town, weird weather that will require more Lyfts, etc), it’s always going to be hard to plan what you’ll be spending down to the dollar.
Budgeting is a great idea in theory: map out your spendings in an effort to monitor where your money is going and then (hopefully) have something left over to put into savings each month. Yet the reality that plays out is often us finding ourselves living paycheck to paycheck, with little to actually put away. What “nest egg?”
Don’t worry though: Malani wants you to be able to enjoy your money and not think twice when you buy stuff. And she’s got a solution to help you.
Enter Stash’s advisory process of Reverse Budgeting™, which we think is pretty genius. Ahead, we’ve outlined how you can get smart about your saving and spending. Listen up, people—it’s not as hard as you think.
First things first: Get real with yourself
It’s time to take a good long look in the mirror and find out what’s important to you when it comes to allocating your hard-earned cash.
The morning-after-shopping hangover is sometimes a great reality check. Don’t be afraid to return stuff if you realize you don’t really want/need half of what you bought,” Malani says. “Don’t fall victim to mindless spending only to be filled with regrets later. And if you feel like you’d rather live in a really nice apartment decorated with not-Ikea, maybe you decide to entertain at home more than go out to expensive restaurants—and vice versa—if your apartment is just a place to sleep at night, you might have more money for rosé happy hours and boozy brunch. It’s all what you care about!”
How much should you save save?
General rules of thumb:
- If you don’t have debt, your goal should be to save 20 percent of your paycheck for short-, mid-, and long-term goals (including retirement)
- If you have debt, your goal should be to save 10 percent of your paycheck for short, mid and long-term goals (including retirement) and 20 percent to debt pay down
- Whatever’s left is for life!
Figure out what you’re saving for
Set up a separate savings account at an online bank
Whatever your goal, Malani advises settting up a separate savings account at an online bank (her preferred choices are Ally and Marcus) and then nicknaming the account in accordance with your saving for. “We like that the online banks actually let you nickname the account, so rather than an account number you see ‘Cabo Trip’—so much more motivating!” she says.
Set up an automated transfer from your main checking account to your newly created savings account
Finally, let the beauty of automated banking take over for you. Seriously, what did people do before mobile banking? Malani says your best bet is to set this transaction to trigger the day after payday.
Better to get that money out of your account before you accidentally spend it.”
Be aware of mindless spending
It’s all too easy to get into a habit of brushing splruges off to worry about later, but we’d urge you to take a look at your purchases and be more intentional about what you need.
“We are all guilty of adding extra things to our Amazon cart (or stocking up on bulk orders to save a few dollars),” says Malani. “But this can really throw off your monthly cash flow. When I’m shopping, I have a game I play before making a purchase. Let’s say I see a dress that I ‘must’ have. Before I look at the price tag, I decide what I think it costs (essentially, what it’s worth to me). Then I look at the price tag; if the dress costs less than the number in my head, I’m feeling good about the purchase. If it costs more, I really have to decide if it’s worth it to me (most likely it’s not).”
Credit cards are not meant to support your lifestyle
Be realistic about what you can can’t pay off.
If after saving 10/20 percent of your paycheck, you find that you’re charging more on your credit card than you can pay at the end of the month, you’re living a lifestyle you can’t afford. Period,” says Malani. You may need to get a roommate or find other ways to spend less or earn more.
Don’t use your friends as a proxy for what you can afford
Malani cautions against the pull of social media: “Your friends appear a lot richer on social media than they actually are! In a world of Instagrammable moments and treats, tune out the noise and get honest with yourself about what you actually value spending your money on. Your friends who are taking the lavish vacations are likely in credit card debt. Trust me, I see it!”
The moral of the story is simple: Enjoy your life (and your money) by taking advantage of the tools available to you. Automated savings may just be the most simple way to save, and the best part is the way it takes the burden off you. So say goodbye to crunching numbers, sacrificing brunches, and tallying your spendings at the end of month. This is the real world, and deciding on what you value and what you don’t is both basic and necessary. As with anything in adulthood, it’s a constant learning process, so setup your new accounts and enjoy the ride.