Budgeting | Emily Gao

Budgeting

By Emily Gao

Want to buy a quick lunch? Easy. Just swipe your card. 

Need gas? Easy. Just swipe your card.

In need of a shopping spree? Easy. Just swipe your card.

In today’s world of mass production and mass consumption, spending money is as easy as ever. Credit card transactions don’t even seem real. What used to be time spent fumbling around for a wallet and physically seeing an ever-so-valuable twenty dollar bill become diminished into a series of tens, fives, ones, and coins has been replaced by laminated plastic cards, no bigger than the human palm. This card, the infamous credit card, is both a blessing and a curse. With the absence of physical money becoming more and more normal, we often aren’t aware of the amount of money we spend. 

I don’t pay taxes yet. I don’t have a mortgage, an electricity bill, or phone bill that I am responsible for. This will change one day though, and I want to be prepared for it. Budgeting is a seemingly simple and reachable concept that many high schoolers are aware of, yet do not practice. Let’s change this. Let’s do it together, right now. Take out your phones. Pull up a Google Spreadsheets. Let’s all become smart spenders together. 

The first step is to consider our monthly spending habits. For one month, track every single purchase and transaction you make. You can do this the old-fashioned way via spreadsheet or notebook. There are apps out there such as Mint, Dollarbird, and Pocketguard that will link to your bank accounts that will keep track of your spending for you. Or, you can simply go through your bank statements at the end of the month. The last option may be a little harder though, as it’s hard to remember the details of a particular transaction by looking at old statement. 

After you’ve accumulated a list of you monthly statements, separate them into categories. As most high-schoolers are, I am not financially dependent. I have two broad categories: necessities and extras. Gas, groceries, and lunch go into my necessities category. As the name entails, these are expenses that are absolutely “necessary”—you can be the judge of what falls into this category. My extras categories are things such as getting dinner with friends, movies, shopping, ice-cream runs… you get the point. 

After categorizing your transactions, put each into a spreadsheet column and total it. Look at the final number. What is your reaction to it? Contentment? Fear? Satisfaction? Based on your reaction, create limits for each category you have. You can cut down, keep, or increase the allocated amount of money you have for each category. 

Bam. You have a basic budget. Now comes the hard part. Sticking to it. 

This is where technology comes in. Apps such as Mint, Wally, and Acorns will make your life much easier when it comes to sticking your budget. There are so many out there. Test them out. See which one you like the best. 

Let’s all embark on this journey. Let’s all dip our toes into adulting together. I wish you all good luck.