The "Budget" for New Graduates that Don't Want to Budget
Budgeting is effective but it’s hard and many people do not want to set up and maintain a budget. A new graduate just entering the work force can work without a budget if they take the following steps, in this order, each month:
First - Pay Yourself
- Sign up for your company retirement plan on day ONE and contribute 10% of your pay. If you don’t have a company plan, open an IRA and auto transfer 10% of your pay to your IRA each paycheck, up to the maximum allowed ($5,500 in 2018)
- Auto transfer 5% of your net paycheck to a bank savings account until you have 6 months’ worth of living expenses. This will build your emergency fund. It will take about 5 to 6 years if you have no emergencies.
- If you have a large purchase you anticipate in the future, like a first home down payment, divide the amount you need by the paychecks you have in that time and auto transfer that amount each paycheck to a bank account (this is a separate account from your emergency fund).
Second - Pay Your Bills
Pay your rent, food, student and auto loans, phone, electric, insurance, and all other required payments when they are due.
Third- Enjoy Life
Blow the rest on whatever you want. For large fun expenses, such as a vacation, you can save some of the money in this category in a third savings account in advance. Vacation memories are a lot more pleasant without the credit card hangover.
As long as you have enough money to get you comfortably into the "enjoy your life" phase, you can get by just fine forever without running a budget.
If, however, you run out of money before you reach the end of the list, you have to make adjustments - make more and/or spend less. Never carry forward a balance on your credit card. Just don’t do it.
To increase income , this could mean a part time second job, being an overtime hound, side hustles/side business.
To cut costs, start with number 3 and work backwards. It could mean holding off on that vacation, going out less, cutting the (cable) cord, going to a less expensive phone plan, taking in a roommate, moving to a lower cost apartment.
As temping as it is, do not compromise on item one—PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Your future self will thank you from the bottom of your future heart.