Ballin’ on a Budget: What I wish they taught us in school

Scraped knees, carefree, imagination running wild – you could be a crime-fighting superhero or an astronaut fighting extraterrestrials in space; you’re a child that knows a bill like a Taurus knows how to accept they’re wrong.

How I miss those days, not having to worry about payments, big responsibilities, and work.

I honestly don’t remember ever not working. I do remember getting my first paycheck, though. I was shamefully careless with my money; still in high school, living with my parents, and I would run to The Buckle (is that still a store?) and blow my whole paycheck on their jeans. I wish I could slap my young, naive, reckless self because not only was I making the minimum wage in Idaho (a whopping $6.55/hour), but I also wasn’t thinking about my financial future. Instead, I was dropping money on $100 jeans! Who let me do this?! Why didn’t my mother hide my paycheck? Let’s be real – she probably tried to no avail.

Anyway, I’m going to lay out a few things I wish I knew about budgeting and money then, and that I’m still learning about now. Not all of these things may apply to you, but hopefully, it can help you start thinking about your financial future. It’s never too late – right?

Tracking your spending

Let’s start with an important question: how much money do you have coming in a month? You can work with your salary instead, but I find it easier to track my spending when I go month to month.

So do you know how much you’re making after contributing to paying the government’s debt (aka taxes)? If you do,  you can start tracking your spending. There are many apps that help you track your spendings such as Mint and Fudget. However, I find that manually tracking my expenses works much better, especially because you have more control over what you see at once. I use good old Excel to input my spending every day and I check in on my totals every two weeks. You can even do it the real old school way and use pen and paper.

You can start with the monthly expenses that you don’t have much say in – such as your rent/mortgage, car and phone payment, the dog you want to adopt…

Now you can start to track how much you’re spending trying to live the lavish life on a budget – groceries, coffee, monthly subscriptions, restaurants, drinks, Amazon (pro-tip: don’t drink and Amazon), etc. This is where you really have control and you can start asking yourself: Do I really need to be eating out every day? Do I really need Spotify Premium? Can I use/hack my sister’s Netflix account? Determine your wants and needs.

You can do this.

I made a list for mine:

wants and needs

These lists don’t encompass everything, of course, but this is a start. When you look at the amount you spend on all these great inventions you might be really surprised. The money adds up. You can refer to the classic “$4 a day for coffee that turns into $1,100 a year” example. That’s a vacation to pretty much anywhere in the world! Now imagine if you contributed $5-$10 a day to a savings account or used that money to pay off your debt (student loans anyone?)? Debt is a monster that needs its own blog post or ten.

Determining/predicting how much money you have left over

Now when you do this, don’t freak out like I did, just remind yourself you are a badass for planning out your financial future. We’re owning adulthood! After you determine how much money you have left every month you can start setting financial goals to form healthy spending habits.

Make a short-term and long-term list of goals. As far as timeframe – give yourself a year for your short-term goals (paying off a loan, saving for a trip) and think about retirement (can we even do retirement anymore?), weddings, kids, savings – all that fun stuff – for long-term goals. Also, if you haven’t caught on by now, sarcasm is my third language. My ex hated it, lol.

Turn your list of goals into action

Based off these goals, you can really get into how you can budget around them. What can you cut out every month? Or better yet, what can you do to earn extra cash? Don’t worry about tackling everything at once – start small and work your way up. A small change a day could really go a long way. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, just be cautious of how often and how much you’re spending.

We live in a crazy world right now full of consumerism and material things. We shouldn’t argue with the baby boomers about who had it easier financially (and let’s be real, mentally). Instead, we should be educating one another about finances early on so we don’t make too many foolish mistakes as we enter our adult years – you hear that Betsy DeVos?

In the end, it’s all about balance (pro tip: try saying that at any meeting regarding any subject – people will agree every time).

Also: check out this accurate representation of my life living on a budget.

I covered a few of the basics, barely scratched the surface on financing. There’s SO much more. But I really think it’s exciting to learn about it. Do you have any questions about money and budgeting? Leave them below. I’ll research and deliver. We can handle the truth! I’ll be writing about ways to make more money without exhausting yourself next (looking at you, side-hustlers).

Disclaimer: I didn’t major in finance but I do a ton of research and make educated guesses/conclusions – choose wisely.


Categories: smart money networkTags: , , , ,


Sarahi is the founder of Gems & Potatoes. She is passionate about early financial education, travel, and finding ways to live smarter. Sarahi was born and raised in Boise, Idaho so is naturally always planning for the next outdoor adventure.


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