Welcome to the 3rd guest post in my "Another Day, Another Dollar" series! You can check out the first and second posts if you missed them. I'm always looking for new contributers, so email me at email@example.com if you'd like to guest post. Today's poster is a bit different than our last two because she's a single gal! I'm excited to have different demographics so that all of my readers will find a post they can relate to!
I am a single woman in my mid-20s living in a big city on the East coast. I have a Master’s degree and have been working at my current job for 8 months. While I am not currently in a relationship, I really do feel that I am called to marriage someday, so many of my financial habits are based on the hope and desire that I will be getting married and starting a family in the near to way-too-far-away future.
Income (after taxes, health insurance premium, retirement, and pre-tax parking): $3844.75/month
Savings: $15,000 (seeing as I was unemployed/temp working for almost a year in 2011, I’m not sure how I didn’t deplete my savings completely… it’s a mystery).
My insurance premium is pretty low as I am single. I contribute 5% to my TSP retirement account and another 5% is matched by my employer. I also have $90 a month withheld to pay for my parking at work.
Recurring Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $1320 + $10 for insurance (paid in a lump sum once a year)
Student loans: $1000
Car Payment: $278.78
Car Insurance: $73
Frequent Monthly Expenses:
My Shopping/Thrifting Obsession: $200
Being Single: $50
Total Expenses: ~$3700 (calculated with the high end of the ranges)
This leaves very little leftover each month for emergencies, but that’s what my savings account is for as well as I’m able to cut my shopping/travel budget if I need to pay a doctor bill or something.
Rent: I live in, shall we say, a rather expensive part of the country! I live in a very cozy but spacious one bedroom apartment, where all of my utilities are included in my rent. I can’t even imagine how much money I save per month by not having to pay for electric, gas, and water!
Student Loans: Before you all freak out and think I must have the worst school loans EVER, let me preface this by saying that my monthly school loan required payment is just under $300 per month… if I want to take the next 10 years paying them off. However, as I deferred my loans for 2 years while I got my master’s degree and then another year while I was unemployed - all the while accruing interest at 6.85% and 4.8% - I have to say that my #1 financial goal is to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible. Thanks be to God, I have a great job where I earn enough money that I can afford to triple-quadruple my loan payment each month, meaning that my loans should be paid off in less than 20 months. I can’t wait for the day when I no longer feel weighed down by that debt! I also think it’s important as a single woman for me to be preparing financially for my future - and I think having this goal of paying off my loans in less than two years allows me to be better prepared to purchase a house or get married in a couple of years.
Cable/Internet: This is an expense I would like to cut down, but unfortunately, only one company serves my apartment complex, which means they drive up the prices. I’m also way too addicted to cable to get rid of it, so I obviously am not too bothered by paying what I do for my time to relax after work. I’m still on the family plan for my cell phone, so I do not have a cell phone bill because I’m so cheap that my parent’s don’t make me pay them $20 a month!
Car Payment & Insurance: When I got my new job earlier this year and more than doubled my salary, one of the first things I invested in was a car. I had been driving my mom’s car, which she very graciously let me use for three years! I love having my own car, because it makes me feel truly on my own and independent. I put $5000 down from my savings account and was able to replenish that in two months. I have an excellent credit rating, so I got the lowest interest rate possible. Again, I live in an expensive part of the country, so despite my stellar driving record, I pay a bit more for car insurance because I live in such a high traffic area.
Gas: It costs about $50 to fill up my car, and I drive 4 miles to and from work each day in addition to other errands and activities. I get pretty great gas mileage, so I fill up every 2-3 weeks.
Food: I bake too much. That’s really why that cost is so high! Otherwise I am a very simple eater, I promise!
Tithing: I tithe about 2.5%… I know, I’m judging myself right now too. When I started my current job, I thought hard about how much I wanted to tithe in comparison to paying off my school debt, and I decided that it was important for me to pay off the school loans as quickly as possible, so that I can be open to my vocation in a couple of years as well as increase my charitable contributions. In the meantime, I try to give back in other ways. I volunteer to teach catechism to fourth graders, work with a Girl Scout troop, cook and bake for friends, college students, and co-workers, and participate in pro-life events. I’m a big believer in tithing with your time and prayer!
Travel: I moved out to a different part of the country away from my family and friends a few years ago, so I tend to travel a lot. This year alone, I have flown home and to weddings NINE, 9, NUEVE times. Yes. You read that right! That doesn’t include the THREE, 3, TRES times I have driven home (about a 7 hour drive) this year. So plane tickets are expensive, and are almost a monthly expense for me.
Shopping Bug: This is my weakness, and sometimes I am better at controlling it than I am at other times. I truly do only buy what I can afford, and I tend to spend about the same amount each month no matter what I am buying.
Being Single: This includes money I spend to go out to eat with friends, check out a movie, or grab a drink after work. It’s all about living the single life while I can, right?
What I Wish I Did More:
Savings. Savings. Savings. Thankfully, I was able to build up quite a nest egg while I was in graduate school and when I first started my current job and wasn’t making school and car loan payments. However, since I decided to put so much towards my school loans, I put anywhere from $10-$500 a month to my savings account from whatever is left over each month (if I shop less or don’t have to buy a flight, I’m able to put a lot more into my savings account), and I wish I could save more because I know that I won’t be able to save as much if/when I get married. I hope to be able to figure out how to cut some expenses next year so I can be able to put a bit more into my savings account each month.
Time to be honest…
I am really bad at tracking my budget. When I was unemployed/temping, I was a pro at it - I tracked every single purchase I made with receipts and Excel and graphs and everything! I did this because I had to do this - it kept me accountable when I knew that wherever I swiped my card, I was going to have to track it later. Now that I am working a job where I make a pretty nice income, I don’t worry too much about tracking my individual expenses. I have found that even though I stop tracking, I still spend about the same amount every month, even if it’s on different expenses.
My Financial and Budgeting Tips (If you want them!):
Credit Cards: I have a credit card through my bank and cards to a few different stores where I tend to shop frequently. I pay off my credit card IN FULL every single month. Even when I was unemployed, my credit card was paid off in full every month. I have always done this and hope that I will always be able to do so - it means that I don’t just go around swiping my card wherever, but makes me actually think about where I am spending money and what I am spending money on. While I know this is not feasible for everyone, I think it’s important to work towards not having any credit card debt, because interest rates can be steep!
Sales, sales, sales: I have nice things, that I am proud to own. I also have nice-ish things that I got as hand-me-downs from people. No matter what, I am proud that I am such a thrifty spender. Where someone else might spend their entire $200 monthly clothes budget on one pair of jeans, I buy almost everything on major clearance, with lots of coupons, or at thrift stores. Yes, this means I can buy more! Not always a good thing, but I think that if I’m going to have a family someday, it will be a helpful quality to have.
Loans: Obviously, make the minimum payments on any of your loans, but from that point, if you have some money, put more towards the loans that have a higher interest rate. Also compare the interest rates on your loans to how much you would make if you put that extra $100 into a savings account or other investment fund. Since the interest rate on my student loans is 6 times what I earn in my savings account, I find it makes much more financial sense in the long run to be stingy with my savings account for a couple of years to make those student loans disappear - but you have to evaluate your own situation and figure out what makes sense for you!
Save up and buy: When I make larger purchases (furniture, electronics, etc.), I save up money beforehand and pay in full when I purchase the item. This allows me to pay off my credit card each month, as well as plan out larger expenses as opposed to impulse buying a new expensive thing!
Be adaptable: When I was getting ready to graduate from school, I thought I was going to find a job fairly quickly… 8 months later, I was still unemployed. I had to quickly change from a mentality of “Things I Could Use” to “Things I Need”. I had to adapt my spending habits to live within my means and drastically cut my spending. While the time I was unemployed was spiritually and financially difficult, I truly believe that this time was given to me to better prepare me for my future vocation. I can now say that if someday I am chasing around 5 or 6 kiddos as a stay-at-home mom with my husband supporting our family, I can look back on the different financial times in my life to best care for my family.
I hope that you found something helpful through my financial planning! I welcome any suggestions any of you have for how to better save money and plan for my future. No matter how much I have made over the past few years (anywhere from $0 when unemployed to $20,000 a year as a graduate student to what I make now), I think it’s important to live within my means as well as try to find ways to be thankful to God for the things I have! If we give everything back to him - either with our money or the things we do with our money - He will pay it back to us with interest... in Heaven, I pray!