Here’s How to Take Control of Your Finances as a Single Woman

Fess up: you don’t ever check your bank account because you’re afraid of what you’ll find in there. More accurately speaking, you’re afraid of what you won’t find in there: money.

We’ve all been in a financial hole at some point, and it’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes it’s a hole of your own digging; sometimes life just trips you up and laughs as you take a nosedive. But no matter how you lost control over your finances, you can always put yourself back in the driver’s seat with a little discipline. And you can do it in a few simple steps.

Start Budgeting

The best way to regain control of your finances is to create a budget. The second-best way is to stick to your budget. It’s easy to do the first, and not the second. You’re going to need to do both if you want to achieve your financial freedom.

When you create a budget, you should always prioritize the two most basic human needs: food and shelter. It’s imperative that you set aside money to pay for rent. If you don’t, then you’ll be homeless, or worse—a perpetual couch surfer. Yikes. Rent is important, so put that above other expenses. We’ll talk about the food situation a little later.

You’ll find that creating a budget is easy, but sticking to it is tremendously difficult, especially when you have a debit card and credit card—each of these enables you to make blind payments without even checking the balance on your accounts. So pretend they don’t exist, and opt to use cash instead. When you have cash in hand, you have a more tangible understanding of the money you have available for spending. When you run low on your cash, it really hits home that you’re getting close to exceeding your budget. You’d be amazed at how effective cash is at regulating your spending.

Stop Eating Out

Back to that food thing: stop eating out all the time. Other than rent, there’s nothing that’s going to drain your checking account (or run up your credit card bill) more than eating out at restaurants or bars. You can save a huge amount of money when you buy groceries and prepare your own meals at home. There are plenty of online resources that can help you make tasty meals with simple, affordable recipes. And when you’re adept at making food in the kitchen, you can make a date out of it—which is really fun.

However, it’s difficult to manage your meal prep budget when you’re living with roommates. That lame-o Paul is always taking your Bagel Bites when you’re not home—and he won’t even let you have a bowl of his Fruity Pebbles. (Get a studio.)

Do the best that you can if you’re living with roommates, and know that making a couple trips to the grocery store each paycheck is still far cheaper than paying $10 for a nightly meal at the local food joints.

Saving is Key

“Taking control of your finances” is another way of saying, “spending money but having enough left over for savings.” Saving money is truly one of the most important aspects of your financial health, and yet it’s also one of the most difficult things to master.

It mostly comes down to budgeting.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that you don’t have to contribute a lot of money to savings. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t want to throw $300 in your savings, only to go broke and have to transfer it back to your checking. While experts suggest you should contribute at least 20% of each paycheck to savings, contribute whatever you can—$25 is better than nothing. Small contributions add up if you make them consistently, and it’s easier to make consistent contributions when they’re small amounts.

Small contributions also enable you to put money away in different kinds of savings accounts, so you can simultaneously save for retirement and for your next vacation.

Get Ahead on Your Taxes

Taxes suck. They suck to file and they suck to pay, but you’ve got to do it. Be sure to do research on tax with-holdings so you can maximize each of your paychecks.

Back taxes put a lot of people in an intimidating financial bind. If you owe lots of money to the IRS and you’re unable to make a payment without completely destroying your budget, look into the IRS Fresh Start program. This program typically allows you to reorganize your tax debt into affordable installment payments so you don’t have to pay a huge amount all at once and go house poor. All the IRS wants is the money you owe—they don’t really care how they get it.

Live a Balanced Lifestyle

Your finances are directly affected by your lifestyle. Thus, living a balanced lifestyle is key to maintaining stable finances. Hold down a job and try not to leave a workplace without having already found a new one.

If you spend lots of money on clubbing, compensate for it by cutting your spending in other areas. If you have lots of spending money leftover when you’re next paycheck gets deposited, make a higher-than-average savings contribution. Ultimately, your goal is to lose that anxiety about checking your bank account balances—be confident that you’re always be in a good financial standing thanks to your meticulous budgeting and spending discipline.

Thanks to Melanie Mills

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