i recently came across this article by sallie krawcheck in harper’s bazar about women and money; specifically about how the majority of women do not invest their money-they hold it in cash and tell themselves they don’t have enough or know enough about it to invest. i remember reading this article by alice finn last spring and realizing that i related to the statement that women think that investing is too complicated and that it is “for men with white hair.” after leaving my job and becoming a stay at home mom, i had to make some major lifestyle changes and figure out how to manage what money i had better. looking over my 401k statement from the job i had left, i felt my eyes glaze over. i had originally set it up very conservatively on the advice of my father (a man with white hair who knows about these things), so that i wouldn’t have to think about it. i realized that that applied to all of the money i had in my life: i had largely tried not to think about it- kept it in low risk savings accounts and told myself i’d figure it all out one day when i had more of it.
below are the top 10 things that i have done to figure out money: how to spend it wisely; how to save it; how to live on a budget and how to educate myself about investing it.
- budget. it took me a long time to figure out how to budget, because i had to find a way to budget that worked for me. i tried envelopes (putting cash into a different envelope for expenses each week); using an app; and keeping up spreadsheets (google sheets has a basic budget and most banks let you input a budget/spending report into your online account). i found that without adjusting my spending habits, a budget didn’t do much for me. i had to first figure out how to get organized about shopping & curb impulse purchases; once i did that sticking to a budget was much easier. i recommend tracking your spending for at least 2 weeks, to get an honest picture of your spending habits. from there, you can build a budget that is realistic for you.
- clear the clutter. cleaning out my closet for the first time was daunting. i first tried the dreaded/lauded kondo method but found that several months later i had re-cluttered my life. i now keep a rotation: i have a beautiful antique trunk that i use to keep summer clothes in in the cold months; and winter clothes in in the warm months so that my closet doesn’t feel packed. other than that, i don’t store anything because if it’s sitting in a plastic tub somewhere, it might as well be gone. every new season when i feel the urge to buy all the things, i go through my closet & edit out what no longer “sparks joy” or looks cute to my eyes. selling clothes can make a little money, but it’s not for the faint of heart. don’t expect to make much, and prepare for lots of rejection. here is a good guide to some options if you’re looking to sell your stuff.
- shop online. often i feel like if i have free time to myself (a rarity!), i go shopping because it is something to do outside of the house. for me, avoiding temptation is crucial. i try to order household supplies online: through amazon prime or walmart (which typically has free 2 day shipping on orders over $35). it’s been a big money saver to avoid wandering the aisles of target & making impulse buys. buying clothes online can be tricky: i always look at return policies to find out if something is returnable & at what cost. i also check the measurements: against my own measurements and against a similar item that i have that fits well (if i’m buying high waisted pants, i measure a pair that i have that fits great and compare to that). for beauty products i try to shop at ulta, because they are one of the only places that actually has sales on beauty products. they regularly have coupons & promotions that give big discounts.
- quality over quantity. i have found that if i fall in love with something that i feel is too expensive, i tend to buy multiple fast fashion/cheaper similar versions, but they never seem to add up. the acrylic h&m version of the wool celine sweater or the crappy particle board ikea version of the mid-century cabinet falls apart, and often has to be re-purchased. i have also been guilty of buying cheaper knockoffs of something, only to eventually find the original at a good price and buy it after all. in the end, it’s worth it to invest in something you really love.
- get honest. before investing in something i ask myself: is this on sale somewhere else, or can i find it pre-owned (on sites like the real real or vestaire)? does this fit into my lifestyle: can i walk in these shoes; can i wear this on a school run; to a meeting or on a date? am i willing to take care of this: am i willing to have this altered if the fit is off; have it dry cleaned; or will i hand wash or iron this? if it’s more work than i am willing to do, it’s not worth buying. can i think of 3 items of clothing that i have that i can wear this with? do i love this because it will look good on me or because of how it looks on a model or insta-darling? when i got honest i realized that i continually bought things because i wished my body was shaped differently. i finally accepted that i will never be able to wear skinny jeans, off the shoulder tops or vintage 501s because they do not flatter my figure. it’s important not to buy something just because it looks good on someone else, or simply because it is on sale (!!!). you should buy what makes you feel great, and what feels great to wear.
- plan ahead. it can seem tedious, but planning meals for the week & making shopping lists saves money. i try to stick to a rotation of meals that are easy to cook, plan out the week on sunday & then do my shopping with a list. to get started i saved grocery receipts for a couple of weeks to get an idea of what i was spending, and then made adjustments from there. it helped to look at what i really spent, what impulse buys i made and food i wound up wasting. i now don’t run out or throw away much food each week, which is awesome.
- skip the drinks. this one seemed like it would be tough, but we found that not ordering drinks with dinner afforded us two meals out a week instead of one. having a drink at home after a meal as dessert is a good (and much cheaper) way to still get the booze in.
- workout at home. boutique fitness classes and gyms can be motivational, but they’re also hecka expensive. even with a membership or multi-class discounts, classes add up fast. i set aside time at home to work out online every day. some of my favorites are karen lord pilates, sadie nardini for yoga, and ballet beautiful, all free on youtube. i also stopped paying for pricey spin classes and invested in a rowing machine.
- educate yourself. when i was 25 my dad gave me the book the wealthy barber. i of course didn’t read it, because i was more interested in putting my money into faux chanel handbags and sugary cocktails, but i have since come around to this book. the intelligent investor is a great book to learn how investing, stocks and bonds and all that shiz works. if you prefer online info to a book- i highly recommend jlcollins stock series. i also recommend the financial diet.
- put your money to werk. the basic financial rules are: 1. make a budget. 2. pay off debt. 3. build an emergency fund. 4. put money towards retirement. 5. invest. you don’t have to have a ‘uge pile of money or a vault filled with bars of gold to invest. there are apps like acorns that round up your purchases & invest the change (a good place to start but not so good for the long run). jl collins’ book the simple path to wealth has all the good advice for getting into investing.