Here’s why being a broke girl is hard: because we live in a world that emphasizes self-worth through purchasing ability. Because we’re constantly bombarded with advertisement. Because media sells us the message that all of our friends have more than we do, and that if we don’t have as much, we’re failing. Because life is expensive, and sometimes it can seem like fun is expensive, and especially for independent, self-sufficient women, rent, food, transportation, and necessities are expensive.
Sometimes, though, if you step back – and away from the continuous stream of ‘not enough’, ‘not good enough’ or ‘not new enough’ messages that we get from every direction — you can look at where and how you spend your money and time and realize there are a few simple rules that make budgeting, and living, way easier.
1. How to Say No
Everywhere you go, someone is going to try to sell you something. This is especially true for women. You’ve got to learn to say no when you don’t need something. While this can be simple enough when dealing with salespeople, it gets harder when dealing with friends. But sometimes your friends are going to want to spend money on things that you can’t afford, or can afford but don’t want to blow all your savings on. Is this because they’re so much more successful than you? No, they just have different priorities. But your budget should follow your priorities, not theirs. And finally, perhaps more difficult than anything, you’ve got to learn to say no to yourself sometimes. Not always. But when you have to, when it matters.
2. What to Buy Cheap and When to Invest
Trends come and go. Don’t spend all your money on quality for something that isn’t going to matter in a year. The hot new buzz-worthy phone or laptop? There will be a new model in, oh, nine months or so. Don’t let hype convince you to upgrade unnecessarily. Flash is shallow. Spend your money on things where money actually makes a difference: the things you’ll still be using years from now. A good, versatile coat. A car. A bed or a mattress (a good night’s sleep is well worth it). Long-lasting, well-fitting jeans. Shoes that go from work to play. You’ll get your money’s worth, and you’ll thank yourself.
3. Renter’s Rights
This one is crucial for apartment living. Learn what is your right as a renter, and how to ask for it from your landlord or manager. A lot of people — not everyone, but many of them — will try to take advantage of renters if they can, particularly young women. Know exactly what can be taken out of your deposit, what your landlord is responsible for paying for if it breaks, when your rent can be raised, and what you can be charged for, and do not be afraid to quote legal codes if you have to.
Here’s a handy website that will give you an overview of your renter’s rights by state.
4. How to Negotiate
You have limited means, and you’re going to need to negotiate to get what you want. You will negotiate with your boss, with your family, with your friends, with salespeople, and with your significant other. And we’re not just talking being able to say you can’t do what they want you to. If you deserve more — better pay, better hours, more space, more time — negotiate for it. You won’t always get what you want, but you’ll gain respect, both from others and from yourself. And once in a while it will pay off. You’d be surprised what you can get just by asking for it.
5. What They Really Want
Never let anyone, whether they are professionals or personal friends, tell you what you want. If something is important to you, and you want to spend your entire life’s savings on it, whether it’s a fancy camera, a trip to Europe, or an arcade machine for your apartment, your money is yours. You worked for it. You decide where it goes. If it makes you happy and if you can afford it, you deserve it, and no one can tell you otherwise.
And here’s a bonus tip: remember, memories will last longer than anything you own. Spend your money on experiences, not things: on dinner with your best friends, on trips with your significant other, or on once-in-a-lifetime adventures with yourself. You won’t regret the things you remember when you’re eighty.