a young professional’s guide to figuring out finances: free budgeting template + money saving life hacks

There’s just something about money that has the power to make you or wreck you, huh? Especially as a young adult – you’re just graduated, probably drowning in student debt, trying to find your footing in this professional world while trying to maintain your sanity. But that feels hard to do when more experienced adults constantly say “it never gets better.” I wouldn’t know, but I’m assuming they’re right – there are always going to be new bills, new expenses, new financial surprises as time goes.

If there’s anything I feel like I’ve learned from listening to people talk about finances, though, is that a lot of your financial peace + stability comes from the habits you’re forming now. Do I really have the fool-proof answers?

Heck nah, fam.

The truth is, I really don’t have a ton of wiggle room. But I make it work – I have a roof over my head, I have my puppy, I have enough to make payments on my student loans, to adequately feed myself, etc. I might not have a lot of money left over to spend on myself, but I can live comfortably; and right now, that’s all that matters.

So while I admittedly do not have all the answers, from one young adult to another, here’s what I’ve learned/what I’m doing to make myself feel more organized + at peace with my finances.

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FINDING PEACE WITH YOUR FINANCES

BUDGETING IS KEY. This really isn’t a foreign concept, but finances can feel a lot more complicated and stressful when you don’t have a plan. I would try and outline my budget in my planner, but it would usually turn into a lot of erasing or white-out whenever I needed to reallocate money to certain funds for a paycheck. It wasn’t until I started using Excel that I really felt more in control because it was so easy to plug numbers in and rearrange if need be. Here’s a FREE download of my budgeting template!

Free budgeting template - the southern soonerDOWNLOAD THE SPREADSHEET HERE: The Southern Sooner – Budget Template

How to work the budgeting template:

  • Adjust the date to your paycheck date
  • Adjust paycheck amount. I get paid biweekly, but if you’re on salary and get paid the 15th + last day of the month and it’s not always consistent, I suggest always low-balling how much you think you’ll get on that paycheck. It’s easier to assume you’re going to make less than to assume you’re going to make more. Make sure you have enough to pay for your necessities! If you get more money than you were expecting, you can just add it to existing expenses, save it, or treat yourself a little bit.
  • Amounts in the “actual” column will automatically calculate in the “total” and “remaining” rows.
  • Simply copy + paste the budget part (not my notes) down a few cells to budget in advance (especially if you know of any upcoming expenses)

USE A CASH ONLY PLAN. You could do the same thing but as a cash-only plan or “envelope” plan. Being able to visibly see your money and how much you have for a particular category will help keep you from overspending. Money that’s left over in each budget at the end of the month is yours to keep, whether you want to spend it, save it, or use it to pay off any debts. The choice is yours, but make sure you’re choosing wisely. I personally would use this method if it wasn’t for the fact that so many things these days are taken straight from my bank account (a blessing and a curse, truthfully).

FOCUS ON GETTING RID OF DEBT. To put it simply, debt sucks. Especially when it’s in the form of loans or credit cards that accrue interest. That interest is money that should be yours – and the longer you wait to do something about that debt, the more of that money that should be yours to keep is going to someone who’s not you. Boo. And I mean, overall, that amount you’re having to put towards that debt in the first place is money you could be keeping – whether it be in savings or something fun you could be doing for yourself. The sooner you get it paid back, the quicker that money is yours again, and the less money you have to throw away on interest. If you have the funds during the month to be able to apply more towards the payment than just the minimum, take advantage of it.

SAY “NO,” AND REMEMBER IT’S TEMPORARY. I went to a young adult retreat with my Lifegroup in September where we had breakout sessions about topics young adults generally take interest in. I attended one that was about finances – and the biggest take away for me was that sometimes you have to say no. If you know you don’t have the budget left to go to Starbucks, say no. It might suck and take a lot of will power, but the strength comes when you remember that it’s temporary if it’s a matter of you getting your debts paid. When you get those debts paid off, that money becomes yours again.

HAVE A “GIVING” BUDGET. One of my favorite quotes is “no one has ever become poor by giving.” I haven’t been the best about giving in the past, but this year I wanted to change that. I set aside a portion of my paycheck that can go towards a variety of things – church, people, investing in friendships (either monetarily or simply feeling financially able to give my time to someone), gift giving – I don’t really put a cap on it in terms of what it can go towards, as long as it feels appropriate. I don’t believe in giving for the idea of receiving something in return, but I do believe honoring the fact that God is the one who blesses us with our incomes in the first place and investing into His children provides a lot of freedom in terms of our finances. Plus, it truly feels good to give, assuming our hearts are really in it and for the right reasons.

MONEY SAVING HACKS

  • GROCERIES + TOILETRIES

Use this to your advantage, y’all!!! Whether you actually want to order your groceries or simply make your list, this tool allows you to make a list and see how much you’re spending before you spend it, and that way you can make adjustments accordingly so your grocery list can better fit your budget.

I personally do the majority of my grocery shopping through Walmart, but now even Sprouts (omg you have no idea how much I loooove Sprouts!) has a list builder so you can compare costs between stores and figure out which combination will save you the most money!

If you’ve never done grocery pickup through Walmart before, you can save $10 on your first pick up using my link – yay for savings!!! And no

My referral link: http://r.wmt.co/h1PKY

  • REBATES: IBOTTA

iBotta is a cool little app you use to get rebates on items. They’re not instant coupons, but as you save + use rebates, they save your amount on the app, and once you hit a certain amount, you can either transfer that balance into your bank account or onto giftcards. It’s great because you can either funnel it back into grocery funds or use whatever you save up to buy something fun for yourself – whatever you feel like doing! It takes time to build it up, so it’s not going to be very instant gratification, but when the time comes to be able to get your money back, you’ll feel that sense of accomplishment!

Each month there are challenges that you can do to earn a few extra dollars – they’re either done on your own, with your team (aka your Facebook friends that are also signed up on iBotta), or both. AND – using my referral code, get an automatic $10 bonus when you redeem a rebate (I believe it has to be within a week of you signing up, but that might have changed.

My referral code: wywnjxd

  • GAS

Okay so it doesn’t get you the most massive savings but these days I almost ALWAYS put my gas money on a Walmart gift card because when you use one of their giftcards at the pump, you’ll save 3 cents/gallon! Don’t spend all your savings in one place lol

  • PETS: BARKBOX, PETCO REWARDS, + EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Y’all, I love being a dog mom but it can be soooo expensive. Food, treats, toys, grooming, you name it. If you’re like me, you’ll do a lot to try and find ways to save money on your fur baby.

The first thing that’s helped me is Barkbox. I signed up during a time when they had a promo for an extra toy in each box, so Arlyn gets 3 toys, 2 treats, and a chewy each month for only $25 (for the 6 month subscription). The boxes have adorable themes and the treats are all made in the USA with actually good for your sweet baby. I save so much money with Barkbox!

Get your first BarkBox for free using my link! http://www.barkbox.com/r/QLIJS5HWSA

I also use Petco Rewards. I initially tried using Chewy to order Arlyn’s food, but with Petco Rewards you receive discounts on repeat orders, and get a $5 bonus every time you hit 100 points ($1 = 1 point, earned both in-store and online). It might not be an “every time” savings, but it’s a nice relief when you get to save some money on your pet’s necessities every once and a while. Plus, your orders can be delivered for free and you don’t have to use up gas driving over to the pet store.

Lastly is that I highly recommend registering your dog (or cat) as emotional support! I registered Arlyn through usserviceanimals.org – their prices have unfortunately gone up since I went through it with Arlyn, but by registering your animal as emotional support, you are protected by the Fair Housing Act + Air Carrier Access Act. Legally, you won’t have to pay pet deposits or additional monthly charges for having your pet if you are renting a house that requires it (nor can they deny you the housing because of the pet). You’ll still have to pay for damages (which is to be understood), but those $500 deposits or extra $30/month won’t be an issue.

  • GROUPON

I don’t know why I’ve only recently jumped on the Groupon bandwagon but there are so many discounts for services, items, and outings so you can save tons of money on the things you need or want (if y’all are in Norman, there’s even a Groupon for 73% off 5- or 10-class packs at Pure Barre!!!)

  • RETAILMENOT

RetailMeNot is good for showing you what kind of sales are going on and if there are any coupons you don’t receive e-mail notifications for. These tend to be for retail stores that might not be for “necessities,” but it will still help you potentially save some money if you’re needing to do some shopping.

  • TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BLOGGER DISCOUNTS!

Bloggers love to share the products we’ve come to adore and offer discounts so you feel like you have the chance to try them + love them too! A lot of these items might be just for fun, but you DO deserve to spoil yourself from time to time!

FabFitFun is personally one of my favorite items to try and share with you guys because you are guaranteed to get $250+ worth of fashion, beauty, and fitness based products each season (winter, spring, summer, fall) for only $49.99 (or for $39.99 for your first box using code “BLOOM10”). It feels like a lot, but you get amazing products (some of which cost more than the box itself!) and it’s only every 3 months. To me, it’s totally worth it and helps me curve some of my other spending habits when I know I have it coming.

You can find all my other discounts I have available on my affiliations + discounts tab!

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3 thoughts on “a young professional’s guide to figuring out finances: free budgeting template + money saving life hacks

  1. Pingback: midyear round-up

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