Money talks, but don’t let it talk for you.
Before I became a flight attendant I had a goal to become financially healthy and stable. My financial journey started with me as an average consumer which means I had my fair share of credit card debt, student loans, car loans, and personal loans/payment plans.
I was working four jobs to stay afloat and it had been my routine for so long that I didn’t even realize how hard I was working just to pay off stinking debt. The kicker was that most of it was debt for things that I had already enjoyed in the past and that were short-lived. In fact, besides school and my car, I couldn’t even remember exactly what I had spent it all on.
I had gone skydiving and had a few amazing adventures which I’m happy about. I also made a few worthwhile purchases such as my computer, but most of it was just fleeting moments that I don’t remember, clothes that I never wore, things that I eventually threw away or donated and a whole lot of empty calories.
When I actually sat down to map this all out, thinking about all of the wasted money and time made me so freaking frustrated that I felt literally sick to my stomach on a daily basis. I was working those four jobs and I could NOT gain traction which was making me even more upset.
THIS right here is where a budget changed my life. The problem was not that I wasn’t making enough money, the problem was my mindset and that I thought I knew more about my spending habits than I actually did. My money ruled my life when I should have been the one in charge. In reality, it wasn’t even my money.
The simple fact that I have debt means that theoretically I’m not entitled to keep or spend my income how I choose until I don’t owe anyone else a dime. That’s disgusting to me. If I work for my money, I should get to decide where it goes, but when I owe someone, that debt decides for me. So my new main life goal was to pay off my debt and my budget has become my best friend.
It sounds really tedious and I’m pretty good at keeping track of my money anyway, so why bother?
So what’s the point of a budget?
It sounds really tedious and I’m pretty good at keeping track of my money anyway, so why bother? Please, allow me. A budget matters because where you put your money matters. I mean every single dollar. People like me and you want to enjoy life. I get it, believe me, but hopefully, we have a lot of life to live. When we get to the age where we want to slow down, we’ll only be able to do so if we have planned and prepared for it starting now.
I’m a flight attendant and I love my job, but if I end up working into my older years, I want it to be because I choose to, not because I have to and there is a difference. Retirement is one of those things that is put into the “I’ll figure it out when it comes” category of our lives, but if the average person knew how much actually cannot just “fix itself” when it comes and the turmoil that could have been prevented or prepared for, they’d be sick with themselves for not exercising a little more self-control and being more responsible with their budget. Retirement is a whole subject in itself that we can get into down the road, but for now, let’s stick with this budget talk.
A budget is not telling you “no”, it’s giving you permission.
I love to travel. Duh… I’m a flight attendant. I don’t want to spend priceless years of my life just paying off debt and abiding by a strict budget so that I can retire well. I want to have experience now and enjoy my life as I go. I’m sure you’ve had the same thoughts and it’s true that we are not guaranteed more time so that we can go on our dream trip next year.
Financial health is a journey where balance is key and it’s important to learn how to use it responsibly. So let me help me you. I know this may seem backward, but the stricter your budget, the more freedom you truly have. You need to tell every single dollar that you earn where to go before you get it. THAT is a budget.
How many times do you get to the end of the month and wonder where in the world did my money go? You will be surprised at how much money you actually have to use when you know where it’s going! Decide before payday how much you will spend on groceries, gas, eating out, etc. If you want to go to Thailand, then you need to budget for it. That money doesn’t just magically appear and if you use credit, you still have to pay it back and then there’s a little resentment towards yourself and that vacation that you shouldn’t need to deal with after an amazing experience.
If you need $2,000 by December for your trip and it’s currently January, you need to set aside at least $167 every month. That’s not hard if you make it a choice and guess what? You have now given yourself permission to go to Thailand using your budget. Guilt-free.
Now for the “Hot Five”. (Because all of this is pointless if it’s not applied.)
I have a challenge for you. This may take some time and self-reflection so grab your computer, a piece of paper and a pen. This could get hot and messy. 😉
- Write down how much you make every month. My income changes quite a bit from month to month as yours might, so just make it an average or use last month’s numbers.
- Write down all of your bills in a column. This includes debt payments that are required to be paid every month along with rent, utilities, car payments, etc. Don’t add in groceries or gas yet, we want only exact numbers here.
- Total all those numbers up and subtract from your monthly income. How much do you have leftover? Is it a lot? Just a little bit? Are you negative?
- Now, pull up your bank accounts. All of them. If you use more than one checking account you’ll need the numbers there, too. You’ll also need the numbers from any credit account that you use on a regular basis to make purchases.
- Look at last month’s numbers from these accounts and total how much you spent to the dollar.
- Where did you spend it?
- Add your totals from step 4 and 2 together and subtract that number from your total from step 1. How much do you have leftover now? At least a little bit less for sure. Maybe some of you are still in the positive, but you might be in the negative and this is a big problem.
If you are not where you want to be financially there IS something you can do about it. I want this to feel personal to you. What do you want? Where do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish, see and experience? Most importantly, how do you want to feel?
Financial health is complicated
As you look over all your personal spending and think about how many hours you work- do you feel that your money is well spent? If not, I hope that it makes you feel sick enough to be motivated to make some changes to start your own financial journey alongside me as I continue to figure things out, myself. Financial health is complicated. It can also be daunting and annoying as I’ll get out.
Sometimes you’ll want to give up.
Sometimes you just won’t care.
Sometimes you’ll cry because you’re so frustrated or angry and feel like you’re slipping backwards, but keep going. Because sometimes you’ll cry because you paid off your last credit card and you’ll catch a breath you didn’t know you had been holding onto for years – and it will just feel so exquisitely good.
Comment below if you have tried these steps or have any questions! Stay tuned for more from Nichele and other guest posts each Friday. If you are interested in writing for us check out our contributor information page.
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