(Original post from Career Contessa ):
Let’s clear the air first: I’m 29 years old, I’m single, I live alone in one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how those elements directly affect my ability to save money.
When I look back on the period when I was firmly in the have camp (live-in boyfriend, cute house, scruffy adopted dog), I remember a sense of financial stability that I haven’t felt since. That’s always made me wonder: why is it that after four years of living on my own, establishing a great standard of living (with friends I respect, activities, etc.),, and finding a career I love that pays me well, am I still in debt, struggling to build an emergency fund, and regularly shocked by how quickly my paycheck evaporates?
There are some obvious theories. When you live with someone you love, staying home all weekend eating leftovers and lounging sounds amazing, not antisocial. Or there’s the fact that living alone in a small space (you know, the bigger the city, the tinier the apartment) means you have to go out if you want to see anyone. But whenever I speak to fellow singles about how to actually curb the spending creep, they’re as baffled as I am.
So I took it to the experts—speficially one of our favorite financial advisors, Ashley Feinstein of The Fiscal Femme, a site that seeks to demystify money. Was it all in my head? And if not, how can we single ladies change it?
Surprise! You’re Not Imagining It—Finances Are Harder When You’re Single
But there’s also a deeper psychological issue at work. “When we are in a relationship, we might share our goals with our significant other. In this way, we have an accountability buddy or someone who is working towards our financial goals with us,” says Feinstein. “This support system can make it easier to make decisions to save rather than spend. And when our willpower is low, our partners can jump in and encourage us to make the best decision for us.”
I had those experiences with Mike (the boyfriend from my former “have” life). When I was saving to buy a new car, he was the first one to call me out (with love) if I spent too much money online shopping or suggested another dinner out. No Mike around, no other human to witness the spending moves and decisions I make. But OK, then how do you change it?
How to Build Better Single Girl Finances
Step 1: To Shift How You Spend Money, You Have to Shift Your Perspective
Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles about shifting how you think about money and I’ll bet they feel like they’re targeted toward people who are settled down, right? But despite being single, there are some clear boundaries you can set. One of the best things about being on your own is that you’ve probably established a strong crew of like-minded friends. And that network is as valuable as a live-in partner—it just functions differently, and you have to accommodate that.
Feinstein suggests you start by thinking about what you get out of your time with them.
“I always look for the win-win. Start with why you love spending time with your friends. What about it makes the experience fabulous for you? Do you love chatting for hours, trying new foods, or exploring new neighborhoods? How can we create experiences with our friends that honor what’s most important?” she says. “Then, if we are looking to save, we can let go of the rest (pretty painlessly). For example, if you love chatting for hours with your friends, why not have them over for wine or to try a fun new cocktail recipe instead of going out to an expensive bar or restaurant? If you love exploring new neighborhoods and it’s nice out, can you meet your friend and walk around?”
Step 2: Actually Tell Your Friends You Need to Save
“It’s funny but we often don’t share our money goals with even the people who are closest to us,” says Feinstein. “It might not seem like a big deal, but then they can’t support us in what we are out to accomplish.” So start talking. Given the fact that you’re facing financial issues as a single person, it’s likely at least one (and probably all) of your friends are worried about money, too. Much like a gym buddy, those friends can help keep you on track, but they can only do that if they know you need their help.
Step 3: When You Get Paid, Pay Yourself First
“Parkinson’s Law states that things take up as much space as we give them. Our closets and junk drawers fill up, our calendar appointments take up as much time as they are allotted, and our expenses take up our bank account,” she says, “If you are looking to save, have the money transfer automatically out of your account. This way you are paying yourself first. If you have no idea how you will find the money to save, start small. See how it works to transfer $5 per week and reassess a few weeks later. I have a strong feeling that you won’t even notice it!”
Step 4: Commit to Keeping a Money Journal for One Month
“Most people have no idea where their money is going, and when we’re out and about, the little expenses can really add up,” Feinstein explains, “A drink here, cab there and next thing you know, you’ve spent so much more than you expected. I highly recommend keeping a money journal where you write down or type out everything you spend and earn. Take note of which expenses are worth it and which aren’t.”
Commit to keeping a money journal for at least 30 days (pro tip:if you really need some support and guidance, you can sign up for Feinstein’s 30 Day Money Cleanse). At the end, you’ll have a pretty good picture of your spending habits and what needs changing. And chances are you’ll want to keep journaling, too.
Step 5: Ask Yourself “Does This Bring Me Joy?”
Says Feinstein, “Sometimes we spend out of habit, because it’s what other people are doing or because we didn’t take the time to plan. We only get to spend each dollar once. We want to maximize the joy we get from each of those dollars.”
In other words, it’s OK to buy that $11 glass of wine, but make sure it’s one that you actually like (or at least, that you’re thoroughly enjoying the outing).
Step 6: Don’t Think of Saving as Denying Yourself
“We often think of saving as restrictive and the anti-fun. We deserve to splurge and spend money, right? It’s actually a huge act of self-love to save for your biggest goals, rather than an act of self-deprivation. When we treat ourselves or buy things at the expense of getting what we truly want, we rob ourselves of our goals. It’s ironic.”
Remind yourself that you’ll be happier if your finances are in order—and you’ll be in a pure state of bliss on a beach somewhere once you’ve saved up for your next big vacation. You can still have that GNO—just maybe a few more girls night ins are in order, too.
Are you saving while single? What are some of your tricks?