Adulthood · Personal

Adulting 101: Budgets

Adulthood sucks. It’s terrifying, stressful, and confusing. My least favorite part, by far, is dealing with finances. Sure, I had to do that when I was a teenager and those four years where I pretended to be an adult in college. However, that mostly included logging onto my banking website and praying I had some money in my account to go to dinner and a movie with my friends. Adulthood means I’m now paying bills my parents once paid for me (thank you, Mom and Dad!), and that’s not fun for anyone. I have rent, cable & internet, electricity & gas, student loans, and Netflix every month. Plus, I need money to buy things like food, clothing, and medicine. Those are all pricey, especially when living in New York City on an entry-level salary.

Luckily, when I moved to NYC, I did a little research and found an amazing budget software called You Need a Budget (YNAB). The software costs $60, which you can pay after a 30-day free trial. I decided to give it a shot, and by the time my trial was over, I realized I wouldn’t survive in this city without it. And after using it for more than eight months, I can truly say this software has saved me a lot more than my original $60 investment.

This is not a screenshot of my YNAB account. If I had $16,000+ in my savings and $29,000 worth of investments, I would cry tears of joy.

YNAB looks kind of intimidating when you first start it. However, it’s actually fairly simple to use and comes with access to free web classes that make budgeting with the program effortless. The software uses 4 basic rules that keep people from living paycheck-to-paycheck as well as help you save money for emergencies, vacations, etc. With YNAB, you assign every dollar in your accounts a job. In doing so, you know exactly how much you have to spend for that month in each category and how much you are able to keep aside for the fun things in life.

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Unlike most budget programs I’ve used in the past, You Need a Budget encourages you to be flexible with your budget (my favorite rule—Rule 3). What you set at the beginning of the month doesn’t have to be what you stick to for the rest of the month. For example, if you budget $100 for groceries but actually spend $150, you can reduce $50 from other categories that you may not be using as much as you thought you would. If you need all of that money, YNAB will deduct it from your spending allotment for the upcoming month. I usually overbudget my electric bill, giving me the opportunity to either save that money for next month’s electricity or add it to another category for the current month. It’s easy to adjust your budget throughout the month and spend only the money that you actually have available without feeling like you’re failing at budgeting.

YNAB requires that you manually enter each transaction into the program so that it can deduct from the appropriate categories in your budget.

You can even easily split transactions into multiple categories! (Example: if you spend money on both groceries and medicine at the grocery store)

When I was researching various budget programs before trying YNAB, this feature seemed to be a negative aspect in a lot of reviews. People wanted something simple that you could import from your bank. However, having to manually input all inflows and outflows of cash really makes you think twice about how much you’re spending. Plus, by entering it the day the transaction is made, YNAB is more updated than your banking website. This is especially helpful when my landlady doesn’t deposit my check for a week or two after I pay my rent, but I need to know how much money I actually have to spend.

In the 9 months I’ve been using this software, I haven’t overspent once. I also haven’t had to transfer any money from my savings account to use for rent or food. In fact, I’ve been able to transfer a significant amount of money into my savings and make a few higher payments than required on my student loans. It truly has been one of the most stress-reducing purchases I’ve ever made. It keeps me organized and relaxed about finances in a city where most people are constantly stressed about it. I highly recommend it!

For $6 off You Need a Budget and to learn more about the program, click here. If you’re a student, you can receive YNAB for free this way. It’s available internationally and can sync to your iPhone and Android for budgeting while traveling.

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2014, You Weren’t So Bad

2014 was kind of surreal. I still can’t believe it all really happened when I think about it. It was crazy from beginning to end so I am dedicating my first post in a while to this life-changing year.

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I attended the Sundance Film Festival. I kicked off 2014 by attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, to conduct research for my Honors thesis. I wrote an extensive recap of this trip back in January, but I still can’t say enough about this experience. As this year’s festival begins, I’m so sad I can’t be there again. One day, I will return, but until then, I’ll enjoy the photos above and rewatch all of the wonderful films I saw while I was there. Also, Amy Poehler touched my hand. I need everyone to remember that.

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I traveled to Washington DC with my best friend. If you know me at all, I’ve probably yelled at you for not watching The West Wing. Or if you have watched The West Wing, I’ve probably scared you with the intensity of my love for the show and for Donnatella Moss. Luckily, I have a best friend who loves the show just as much as I do. So, when Allison and I were trying to decide where we wanted to go for spring break this year, Washington DC was the obvious choice. Our pilgrimage to the land of the Bartlet Administration (who is this Obama person?) was everything I wanted it to be and more. I mean, I touched the wall of the White House and a Secret Service member yelled at me. Truly a dream come true. I am so in love with this city.

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I completed my thesis for graduation from the Honors College. On April 24, just two days before my 22nd birthday, I defended my thesis called “Will You Buy My Movie? A Study of the Films Purchased for Distribution at the Sundance Film Festival.” I was completely terrified, as I felt the word defense implied that I was on trial. However, my advisors were excellent and helped ease the stress of writing and defending a 43 page research paper. I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I almost gave up throughout the experience, but I’m happy to say I completed it and passed with honors! What a great start to my 22nd birthday weekend.

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I graduated from college and watched my brother graduate from high school. WHAT?! I have a college degree hanging on a wall in my apartment. The cliche is true—my four years of college went by so quickly. Part of me misses it. The other part—the larger part—is grateful for the experiences I had at Western Kentucky University and happy to be moving on to new things. I also proudly watched as my baby brother graduated from high school and started his college career at WKU. (Special thanks to my parents for all of the hard work they put into throwing our awesome graduation party!)

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I went on a cruise with my family after graduation. Aren’t we cute? This was a much-needed family vacation, and we had an absolute blast. Or we did once my brother got over his illness on our first day. We played with dolphins in the Bahamas, toured St. Maarten in a Jeep, and swam and shopped in St. Thomas. We also became close friends with our tablemates, the other Smiths, who came to visit us in Kentucky when I was home in September.

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I moved to New York City. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been saying that I was going to move to NYC after I graduated from college. People tried to tell me I wouldn’t be able to get a job in the Big Apple right after college and that I would have to work for many years before I made it here. I kind of started to believe them. However, I graduated on May 17 and started my job on June 23. Did I mention this job is in an office building in the middle of Times Square? I made it, and I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself. The same week I got my first job, I met Dule Hill from The West Wing. I also now get to see my uncles Patrick and LeLan pretty frequently. Not too shabby.

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I went back to Kentucky for a week in September. My company offers fantastic benefits. Seriously, I’m so lucky. One of those benefits includes quite a bit of time off so I was able to take a week in September to relax and visit with family and friends after the whirlwind summer that I had.

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I had a number of visitors in the Big Apple. My parents, my aunt, my brother, my cousin, my brother’s friend, and some of my friends have all come to visit me so far. I knew I would have a lot of visitors when I moved here, but I didn’t expect so many this quickly! I’m incredibly grateful that they visit me frequently and that I’m able to live in an apartment large enough to host them.

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I visited Central PerkOn October 8, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of meeting my friends at Central Perk after work. Sadly, it was only a temporary pop-up coffee shop to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Friends, but I almost cried while I was there. They turned it into a tiny museum full of artifacts from the show. Kait, Nicole, and I even got to sit on the famous couch, and you could tell how sunken in it was from all of the days that Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross spent on it. I want it to be in NYC permanently.

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I met two of the greatest feminist icons of my generation. For $5, I was able to attend an evening with Tavi Gevinson and Janet Mock to celebrate the release of Tavi’s Rookie Yearbook 3. If you don’t know anything about these two women, I highly recommend you check them out! Tavi is only 18 years old and has accomplished more and helped more young women than I could ever dream of doing. Janet is a leader in the transgender community and wrote a New York Times bestseller that I can’t wait to read called Redefining Realness. After their conversation with each other, we were able to get our books signed and meet them. They were even more incredible in person that I thought possible.

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I spent an evening with Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers. In celebration of her book release, Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers sat down together for a few hours at 92Y in New York and talked about life. The best part? I was there! My friend Kait and I bought VIP tickets for only $68, which meant we were in the fifth row and got a signed copy of Yes Please with our ticket. Amy and Seth really are the cutest friends I’ve ever seen, and Amy’s laugh can change the world. It’s the fifth time I’ve been in her presence, and I’ve walked away a happier and better person after each experience.

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I spent Thanksgiving with my family and two dear friends. Jana and Trip also moved to New York City after graduating from WKU, and I’m so happy they did. While I knew them in college, we’ve gotten a lot closer since we all moved here. Having them join my family for Thanksgiving really made the holiday weekend perfect.

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I went to Kentucky for Christmas. Getting to Kentucky was a tad stressful, but I made it home around noon on Christmas Eve and spent the holiday weekend surrounded by my wonderful family members. Christmas was a little different than usual due to various circumstances, but it was a merry one. How could it not be with all of those cute babies to help you celebrate?

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I spent New Years Eve with a new group of friends. Back in July, I made a new friend who quickly became one of my favorite people in the world. I spent New Years Eve with her and some of her friends in Virginia, and it was the perfect end to a spectacular year.

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Brief Update

At some point last year, I made this blog private and stopped posting on it. I didn’t want to delete it permanently, in case I ever felt inspired to write again, but I wasn’t writing enough to keep it open. However, some of my friends have inspired me to start blogging again. So, I’ve cleaned up my blog so that only the posts I really wanted to keep are here. I’m hoping to blog twice a month so if there is anything you would like to see me blog about, please share in the comments below.

Feel free to check out the links in my sidebar to learn more about me! Thank you for reading!