Whether it’s in our homes or amongst our friends, having conversations about money can be down right difficult or nonexistent. Because of the awkwardness and silence surrounding money, most of us are living in a fragile set of financial circumstances. Here’s a statistic that will shock you, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. That’s 8 out of 10 Americans. That’s almost the ENTIRE U.S. population. There are many reasons for these private struggles like high cost of living, easy credit and wage stagnation. But let’s be honest, we don’t budget, we spend more than we earn, and we don’t make savings a priority. As a society, we hold the illusion of financial stability when in reality, we’re living on a razor’s edge of instability. There are a few things that impact our lives like how and how much we save.
In my home, the very idea of conversing about financial issues is difficult and would make my dad grunt awkwardly while my mom would pierce her eyes into the side of his skull (and for good reason). You see, my father love to spend money. And of course, being his daughter, I love to spend too.
I would go to the mall or shop online buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I found myself buying shoes and clothes, stuff that I didn’t need. I was an impulsive shopper, I HAD to get certain items before anyone else could snatch them up. I would purchase loads of makeup because the YouTube beauty gurus said that I had to contour my face until it’s chiseled like Michelangelo’s statue of David and to, and I quote, “highlight them cheekbones to the gods.” Yaaaas!
I thought my behavior was normal until I noticed the negative trend with my out of control spending. It was all fun and games until I needed money for important things like tuition and textbooks or groceries and gas. A banging outfit couldn’t help me when my tuition was due. And NO amount of makeup would cover the stress that my financial woes were giving me. After attending a Student Money Management presentation in the Student Life Lounge, I knew that I needed help.
I was introduced to Financial Coaching through ACC’s Student Money Management Office! I met with Mrs. Ayeesha Green and she helped me work through my personal finances. My goal was to learn how to save money. Our first meeting was nerve wracking; I never really talked to anyone about my spending habits. She guided me through the process of tracking all of my income and all of my expenses to create a solid budget. I learned how to cut back on the makeup, shoes, and clothes, and even started packing my lunch. I met with her more than once, and each follow up session left me feeling more confident and more in control of my money. I would advise any ACC student to set up a financial coaching session. It’s free. In less than a year’s time, I was able to save close to $3,000. And to this day, I still rely on the money management strategies that I learned from my financial coach.
One of the main reasons why people don’t make savings a priority is that they feel as if they don’t make enough money. That’s a common excuse. Amber was making a student’s salary, and with guidance from the Student Money Management Office, a budget in place, and a newly found financial discipline, she figured out ways to save. Many people mistake not having money leftover at the end of each pay period with not making enough to save. Most people can find money to save even if it’s just a little.
Let me take you through my process. I track all of my expenses, everything that I spend money on. Then, I think critically before every single purchase. If it’s not a necessity, I don’t buy it. Instead, I’ll immediately transfer that money to my savings account. Boom, I’m saving!
This might be a little more than what you’d want to do. But, taking it a step further, I look at my bank statements from previous months, add up the unnecessary purchases (snacks, eating out, clothes, …), and I make that total be my savings goal for the next couple months. For me, saving money is like working out; it’s not fun and it hurts. But, when I see results, it’s pure satisfaction.
Now it’s your turn. The process is just like lifting weights, but, let’s not go crazy with the 100 lb dumbbells right off the bat. Some of y’all should probably start with 5 lb weights or bands, and that’s okay. The point is you’ve gotta start somewhere. Here you go:
Step 1. Determine how much you can afford to save without causing yourself any hardship
Step 2. Disconnect your savings account from your primary checking account
Step 3. Set a savings goal
Step 4. Automate your savings
Step 5. Don’t touch it
To be successful with this process, look at your bank statements. You want to target the excess. Highlight all of the unnecessary purchases and cry when you see the total dollar amount. That’s a good first burn. Those unnecessary expenses can be modified or eliminated.
Now that you’re warm, go ahead and calculate all necessary expenses (rent, utilities, car insurance, etc…). Then, Identify all of your income. Be sure to include your financial aid, possible tax refund, and any side-hustles. By positioning necessary expenses against income, you will know exactly how much you have left to save. And, it doesn’t matter if it’s $15 a paycheck, you’ve gotta start somewhere. Chunk it away through automation every single time you get paid. No matter your situation, we all should be saving something. Start early, stay consistent, and don’t touch it.
The Student Money Management Office has an amazing Rainy Day Savings Program where you can earn up to $100 in incentives.