Stifle the struggle with money-mastering basics

Sliding through the Taco Bell drive-thru at 2 A.M. and rummaging through mountains of clutter in a frantic search for quarters to stretch an empty gas tank are just a few things most 20-somethings have experienced at some point.

There’s no shame in admitting that you need a crash course in finances. Read on to find out how you can take charge and take your “adulting” to the next level:

Emergencies DO happen

You know the phrase, “What can happen will happen?” Take notes peeps because it’s true! Growing up, my dad always stressed the importance of saving money, but I never truly grasped just how important it is. That is, until recently, when the rim on one of my tires bent along with a super dramatic episode of my tire exploding along with it

So alas, I found myself sitting in Tire Kingdom at 5 p.m. with a look of absolute horror as the cashier sealed my fate of pure struggle for the next two weeks with one simple sentence: “Your total will be $402.” I nearly fell out of my seat. $402 dollars!? Who has that amount of disposable income readily available? Not me!

It was in that moment that I heard my dad’s eerie words, “Save up! You never know when you’ll need the money!” The moral of the story? Don’t be a fool like me. Whether it’s in a piggy bank, savings account or a bag under your mattress, always keep some extra cash on deck for emergencies.

Budget apps are your best friend

In this day and age, you rarely see someone balancing their checkbooks the old fashion way (I must confess, I still do!).

If you’re tech savvy or always on your phone, take advantage of the easily accessible array of helpful budget apps.

My personal favorite budgeting app is Mint. The Mint app brings your financial details together, connecting all accounts a college student might have to give a thorough overview. It can create different types of budgets and offers notifications along the way for tracking purposes. You’ll never be helpless again.

You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses

If you have an old soul like me, then you’ve probably heard the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses”. If not, then you’ve definitely heard about keeping up with the Kardashians! The phrase comes from the feeling of pressure to have what the “popular” people are spending their money on and/or participating in.

In the current Instagram-era, it can be so easy to feel the pressure to keep a super exciting page full of non-stop travel and luxurious spending with no sign of a 9-to-5 job. Rest assured, although it may seem like that’s the case, it’s not for everyone! Don’t go broke trying to impress people. While it’s definitely okay to splurge every once in awhile, don’t go overboard. If you do decide to splurge, draw up a plan for how you intend to bounce back financially (i.e. an updated budget).

Save for the future

Do you have visions of living in a swanky loft in New York City after graduation? How about daydreams of eagerly hopping into a car that doesn’t break down every few weeks? These goals are definitely attainable with hard-work.

But hard work means planning. Plan now and you can have fun later. If you’re only working part-time, or if you’re lucky enough to already having a well-paying job, a good solution is to draw up a vision board to help map out your personal and financial goals.

A vision board serves as a powerful image of your desired future. It’s a physical and visual representation of where you’re going. A vision board should embody your dreams, goals and ideal life. While sketching out your life, remember to incorporate your financial goals.

Pro tip: Every time you get paid, a good rule of thumb is to pay yourself first after you pay your essential bills.

For example: Let’s say your paycheck was $500. Pay yourself a percentage of that amount that is not used for major bills and put it in your savings account. Some employers will even help you set up a separate account where your paycheck can be automatically divided up.

Learn to be ‘Top Chef’ chic (or close to it!)

Well, you don’t have to be a top chef necessarily. But please, if you don’t know how to cook, learn ASAP! As a 22-year old who knows the struggle all too well, I can say with the utmost confidence that learning to cook saved my damn life.

Once upon a time ago, I was your typical, always on-the-go college student who lived off of fast food burgers and energy drinks. At the time, I thought I was saving money, but in reality, I could have been saving so much money by cooking my own meals.

You’re probably thinking, “Listen, I already have to go to school, work, somehow maintain a social life and plan for the future. How the hell am I supposed to find time to cook?” I used to feel the same way until I realized how much time and money is saved by making modest meals.

Besides, cooking can be fun and it doesn’t have to be super fancy. With Youtube, Food Network and the good ol’ Internet available, there’s no excuse for not channeling your inner Anthony Bourdain. Try learning how to make small things first (no, I’m not talking about beloved PB&J). And keep it easy by having at least a protein, starch (rice or potato) and veggies for dinner. I’ll say this in my best Drake voice: “It could all be so simple.”