Like most students graduating college, my last weeks as an undergrad student were fretfully busy yet jam-packed with excitement. Though the thought never having to write a 45 -page term paper again (or at least not until grad school) was enough on its own to have me counting down the days until graduation, the thing most exciting to me about finishing college was the opportunity to be an “adult”, a true “grown-up” free from all grunginess that characterized my student life most days.
You see, during my junior and senior years of college (i.e. the years where I was really on my grind) I affectionately referred to myself as a “Raggedy Ann doll.” Between carrying 18 credit hours every semester and working 20 hours a week just to pay my rent and keep food in the fridge, I was not a glamorous person in any sense of the word. My nails were likely chipped, my hair was likely in fuzzy twists, and I unashamedly wore the same black yoga pants and pumas to class nearly everyday. Even if I had the time to maintain my appearance (which I didn’t), I had zero free spending in my budget as all of my money went to necessities every month. In short, graduation was my “light at the end of the tunnel” because it represented the end of just surviving financially and the beginning of living a lifestyle in my control.
Me on one of my better days…
Since graduating, moving to Dallas, and starting my new career, I can say in all honesty that I’m living up to all those senior year daydreaming sessions that helped me make it through. No I’m not rich and no I’m not doing everything perfectly, but the one thing I’m doing that I was most fearful of failing at is living within a budget that caters to the things most important to me.
Because I had a job offer before I graduated from school, I was blessed to be able to know my salary ahead of time. Since I’m a complete geek and enjoy writing various goals down over and over again, I would write down all the spending categories that were important to me and come up with various fictitious budgets for when I started my new life. The first categories I came up with were the things that, in a perfect world, I would love to have money to regularly do. The “perfect world” categories that I came up with are:
I really wanted to be able to afford going on road trips to various cities in Texas every several weeks, a few domestic trips every few months, and at least one international trip per year.
I was fortunate enough to eliminate my credit card debt and save a $1000 before graduating from school, but I knew I would soon have my student loans to reckon with. More than anything in budget, I wanted to be able to significantly attack my student loan debt while still building up a sizable emergency fund.
I designated this category for covering things like books and conferences (or even tools for this blog) that would help propel my career and my entrepreneurial endeavors. Every month I wanted to have room in my budget to pour something back into my dreams and goals.
I am a hardcore, major foodie. If I go to a nice restaurant, my desire is to enjoy everything on the menu that looks good and not worry about the price. If I want a glass of wine, I’m ordering it. If I want appetizers, I’m ordering it. If I want dessert…yup, I’m ordering it, bill be darned! Obviously to do this successfully, I knew I’d have to plan my budget carefully and understand that dining out would need to be occasional (not every weekend) thing.
This is a category I knew had to be in my budget, at least for the time being, in order to transition out of my college threads (looking at you, yoga pants). In addition to daydreaming about my new life in Dallas while I was still in school, my most vivid daydreams include whole scenes of my walking around town with a more sophisticated, grown-up look (my pinterest boards definitely give me away in this area). Though I couldn’t wait to get down here and go shopping right away, I still understood that my need for a new wardrobe had to be tempered with reality. While this meant no Louboutins for me, I was perfectly happy with the notion that I would economically rebuild my wardrobe via discount stores and resale shops.
One of my tabbed Lucky Mag pages
I didn’t want to have too many “perfect world” categories to attempt because…well, its not a perfect world and I’m still just starting out. I also knew I’d have new necessities to pay for (car insurance, electric bill, etc) that I previously didn’t have. My goal, once I got to Dallas, was to figure out how to save on these “required” categories as much as possible in order to make room for my “perfect world” items. The “mandatory” items that I’ve been able to save on thus far are:
- Business casual work clothes
- Car payment/Insurance
- Food (Grocery)
..and I’m always looking for more. Stay tuned to my “So Called Grown-up Life” series where I go in detail about how I’ve saved on the above items as a “new” adult. What are your “perfect world” categories in your ideal budget? What areas are you saving in in order to make your “perfect world” happen? Share you dream budget and saving tips in the comments section below.