Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ballin on a Budget: Live Within Your Means and Stop Frontin’!

by Carah Herring

Tell the truth: After perusing various profiles and photo albums on FB and MySpace, sometimes you can be jealous as hell. Everyone seems to be poppin’ bottles, rocking the cutest trend-setting threads, taking trips to awesome locales (domestic and international), and are more or less, doing the damn thing.

We ALL want to live the glamorous life. But with bouts of unemployment, car payments, car insurance, rent/mortgage, medical bills (perhaps due to a lack of health insurance), credit card debt, student loans and cost chaos at the gas pump… oh yeah, and food…(gotta eat right?) coupled with a measly paycheck, it seems impossible to get ahead… let alone, keep up with our seemingly better-funded ‘ball-out-‘til-I-fall-out’ peers.

Forget ‘Generation X’ and ‘Generation Y’… financial experts have labeled the 18-34 set (a.k.a. us) ‘Generation Broke.’ We want to portray a certain material status – like money ain’t a thang (“In the Ferrarri, the Jaguar switching four lanes, top down, screaming out money ain’t a thang!” Throwback! I love that song with JD and Jay-Z!). Yet in reality, all of our flossing and fronting, courtesy of Visa, MasterCard and American Express, drives many of us deeper and deeper in the black hole of debt.

This is not the predictable ‘cut up your credit cards/no more daily Starbucks’ schpiel. I’m sure y’all have heard the sermon repeatedly about how you’ve got to take control of your finances by creating a budget, having a SAVINGS ACCOUNT (you’d be surprised to know that some folks our age don’t have one. Forreal.) and contributing more toward your retirement. So why rehash?

Instead, I’m going to list some PRACTICAL, REALISTIC suggestions for how you can reduce and/or eliminate some of your weekly and monthly expenses in order to save more greenbacks. That way, you’ll have more funds to throw into your Roth IRA, pay down your debts, legitimately take that fabulous trip or quite simply to do it up locally from time to time for fellow FB-ers to envy YOUR photo albums for once.

It’s time-tested advice, lived out by yours truly. You’d be surprised how saving $5 here and $15 there adds up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a couple months. I’m all about enjoying life and enjoying the fruits of my labor. But at the same time, we MUST set limits. With gas prices approaching $4 a gallon, we can’t spend frivolously like we used to.

■ Find a hobby that doesn’t require shopping
When we’re bored on the weekend with time to kill, what do we do? Shop. Maybe it’s a quick run to Wally World (Wal-Mart) or Target… maybe the mall. Not always good. Try to identify other creative activities that won’t have you digging in your pockets as much – fall in love with the library, visit museums, volunteer at a local hospital or shelter, sign-up for a Netflix subscription, exercise (if you’re too cheap to buy a fitness DVD, swap with someone or watch the various programs on FitTV), sketch, discover the parks in your city, host a game night with friends (don’t front, Twister and Jenga are the sh*t). Call it being cheap… or call it being smart.

■ Order wine instead of top shelf liquor at the club
Ladies, if someone else is footing the bill – it’s all good: Hook up the shots of Patron, the Royal Flush, the Long Island Iced Tea… the WORKS! But if you’re Sponsor-less, don’t scan the bar like a drink whore, expecting a random guy to treat your thirsty butt. House wines range from about $3 to $6 a glass. It gives you a classy, diva-esque air without killing your pockets.

If you TOTALLY don’t do wines, either go for the mixed drink specials or consume a bottle of your choice at the house or in the parking lot prior to going inside the club (if someone else is driving of course…).

■ Don’t eat out all the time
You MUST set a weekly budget for your quick trips to Mickey D’s, Bojangles (y’all don’t have this up North. Straight DELISH!) and Chick fil A. You’d be surprised how quickly all the fast food, Happy Hours and lunches add up. Heck, I’d like to have more to show for my hard-earned money than piss and poop.

■ Do you want fries with that shake? Hell to the naw!
We’ve been ingrained during our fast food excursions that we MUST get the value meal or that we MUST get fries and a drink to go with our burger. Try this: Get the burger, nix the fries and get a courtesy cup of water. You’ll save at least $2 (yay, more money for gas!) and your waistline will thank you for avoiding hundreds of calories. It’s a small savings, but it adds up over time. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll eat French fries SOMETIMES, but I try to make it a delicacy.

■ For the ladies: Take off the acrylic nails!
I used to ‘get my nails did’ religiously during my College days and for a while afterward. Natural nubs couldn’t hold a candle to the more polished, feminine French or American Manicures that I rocked. However, au natural hands can be really pretty when kept up. Seriously! Last week, after staring at my nails for a minute, my sister finally asked me, "Are those your nails or acrylics?"

I go to the nail salon about once a month for a $12 manicure (to establish the shape and to get my cuticles pushed back). Then I maintain them myself for the rest of the month. So that’s an extra $15 to $20 in my pocket every 2 weeks. That’s nearly $200 saved over a 6-month span.

■ For the ladies: Do your own relaxer
I know, I know. I’m all about healthy, professionally-styled hair. But hey, sometimes that $5 box perm can tide you over a month or two, which knocks at least $20 off of your monthly hair appointment total. Relax your hair at home and then go to the salon to get it cut and styled.

■ For the ladies: Razor/pluck your eyebrows between monthly waxes
The wax establishes the general shape/ arch of your eyebrows . A $2 mini-razor from Sally’s Beauty Supply will allow you to get rid of the stray eyebrow hairs, eliminating at least two visits to the salon. Total monthly savings: About $15

■ Set limits for the holidays and plan in advance
You KNEW your girl’s b’day was later this month. So don’t wait until the week before to panic and make excuses because you’re flat broke. Set aside a little bit every paycheck so you won’t be scrambling. The same thing applies for Christmas. Set a limit. Don’t get lost in the hype, and spend $800 on presents. That’s totally unnecessary and unrealistic. You don’t have to break the bank in order to prove your love to fam and friends.


If you’re tired of being broke as hell, stop griping and take action! Apply the aforementioned suggestions, get a second job or a side hustle, TITHE (10% to God first) and pray that God will give you the wisdom and discipline to make the right financial decisions.

If all else fails, marry rich. J/K.

Lastly, in your quest to financial wellness, be realistic. Don’t always be so quick to compare your financial status to that of others. Sometimes, the people who seem to have it all together may not be as perfect as you think. They might be hopelessly in debt. Or maybe they still live at home (I’m a part of this club. My Nana is my landlord!) Perhaps they are legitimately paid, but have a tedious, agonizing job with long hours and creepy coworkers. You just never know a person’s situation!

Please feel free to list your money-savings tips in the comment section below. I’m interested in finding out how you keep your finances in order.

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