- "As your income and lifestyle shifts, I encourage you to keep reevaluating how you spend your money and whether it's aligned with your values," writes Aleenah Ansari.
- "The principle of 'out of sight, out of mind' is one that I've applied to my spending habits since I first started working."
- "I try to invest in things that last."
Growing up, money was always on my mind. From a young age, I've had an underlying fear of not having enough to support myself, especially as news of layoffs and the ever-shifting economy filled my inbox and newsfeeds.
So I exerted a tight grip around the money I did have, even when all I was paying for in those moments were late fees on my library books, the occasional coffee, or a new makeup or skincare item.
In hindsight, I wasn't operating from a place of intentionality, but of scarcity.
When I landed my first full-time job out of college, things started to change for me. I knew that I would have enough income to pay my mortgage and other bills and max out my 401(k) and still have enough left over for discretionary purchases.
I was able to get closer to the financial security I dreamed of my whole life, which gave me the mental space to address that mindset I had long held about money.
Even understanding this, spending has always been an area for me where I needed to make an active plan, otherwise I would find myself buying clothes or household appliances just because I could, and not because I needed them.
Ideally, I wanted to find a place in the middle where I could support myself and have a 6-month emergency fund to fall back on, but I could also enjoy the things I love like travel, dining out, and experiencing new museums, concerts, and events.
Now, I'm a few years into my 9-to-5 career, while also maintaining multiple income streams that bring in $1,300 a month.
As I have earned more, I've been on a mission to use my money more intentionally. Here's how.
Once I started working full-time, I quickly realized that when I have more access to money, I'll find ways to spend it. Now, I'm trying to allocate more to not only maxing out my 401(k) but also investing and paying my mortgage.
The principle of "out of sight, out of mind" is one that I've applied to my spending habits since I first started working when I was in my teens. Whether it was $50 from babysitting or a signing bonus from my tech job job, I made it a practice to set at least 10% aside towards my savings or investments.
When I was younger, this usually involved putting money into my savings account, but now that I work full-time, I've automated my contributions to my 401(k) and Roth IRA so the deductions occur before I even get my paycheck.
This way, I determine my spending based on the money I have left, which mitigates the temptation to spend money that's meant to be saved.
A big priority for me is making sure that my spending habits are in line with what I value. For example, I prefer to use the funds that I set aside for discretionary spending on flights and trips because it brings me joy and enables me to connect with folks from around the world, so most of my money goes toward flights and Airbnbs.
This means that less income goes toward eating out, and I often take the bus instead of using rideshare systems since I don't have a car of my own. By understanding how I want to spend my money, I'm much more content with purchases I do, or don't, make.
When I started my side hustle as a freelance writer and speaker, I worked with my bank to open a separate business account for my business revenue. I also created an Excel spreadsheet to track my side hustle income and business expenses.
This not only makes it easier for me to stay on top of my business expenses, income, and receipts when it is time to file my taxes, but it also helps set clear revenue goals and identify the most profitable sources of income.
Video by Lauren Shamo
For example, my revenue chart from 2021 showed me that raising my prices on one on one career consulting services allowed me to boost my revenue from this income stream, while focusing more on fewer clients.
I also made note of the times that I negotiated higher rates for speaking and writing opportunities, and found that those incremental increases added up over time.
When I was in college, I frequently bought clothing from fast fashion companies because it was within my price range, and I wasn't aware of the implications of its environmental impact. I also found that these clothes often fell apart over time, especially when I was buying basics that I wore over and over.
In an effort to create less waste or use what I have for as long as possible, I'm focusing now on buying clothing that I see myself wearing at least 30 times. I've also shifted to thrifting my basics or purchasing items, and I look for older pieces of clothing that are often made with sturdier materials that will stand up to wash after wash.
In addition to buying more durable clothing, I've shifted away from buying trendy clothing that I don't see myself wearing for a long time. Instead, I focus on timeless pieces that can transition from season to season.
Video by Tala Hadavi
In the past, I was the kind of person who would buy duplicates from Target or Sephora, especially when items were on sale or came in gift sets that fronted as better deals. This meant that I had at least three back-up body washes, concealers, and lip stains in every shade of mauve.
It was a small thing, but by shifting to buying products only when I ran out of them, I've significantly reduced my extraneous spending and tend to get less distracted by all the things I would buy that weren't on my list in the first place. I also appreciate having a little extra cabinet space.
I used to be someone who would spend a lot of time browsing clothing websites looking for an item that I could purchase next, and the marketing emails and coupons sent straight to my inbox did nothing but enable this habit. How many times have I found myself looking through dozens of items to find something to buy instead of shopping when I actually need something?
As a result, I found myself making multiple trips to the mall to return items that didn't fit but weren't my style, which only fueled more purchases of new items I'd find. To curb my own temptation, I decided to unsubscribe from most marketing emails so I'm not prompted to shop, and I also have a running list of items that I may need to replace or add to my closet.
All of these steps have helped me spend my money more intentionally and use it on the things that will matter most to me long-term. As your income and lifestyle shifts, I encourage you to keep reevaluating how you spend your money and whether it's aligned with your values.
Aleenah Ansari is a Seattle-based writer, creative problem solver, and journalist at heart who strives to lift as she climbs. She is passionate about representation in the media, and loves talking about her favorite murals and why Seattle is her chosen home.
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