Educator who paid off $50,000 in 3 years: Budgeting can help you unlock 'the best parts' of life

Berna Anat
Berna Anat is a financial educator who wants to help people slay their debt.
Courtesy Berna Anat

Budgeting is an unfortunate sounding word for the tool that unlocked all the best parts of my adult life. It helped me pay off $50,000 in debt, travel the world for a year, and start my own business.

If the term budgeting makes you think of boring Excel sheets, apps that you never use, and despair, you're definitely not alone. But I found a few tricks that actually made budgeting fun for me and helped me accomplish my money goals.

1. Open at least 4 bank accounts

To encourage financial transparency, I've made a habit of showing my bank accounts to as many people as possible. But it's never the dollar amount in them that surprises people — it's the number of accounts I have. I am currently at 12.

Why so many? Organization. I have a bank account for every money category in my life. Keeping my money separate means I always know what's left for each expense.

I suggest starting with four bank accounts:

  1. A checking account where your paychecks live
  2. A checking account for your fun money
  3. A checking account for your recurring bills
  4. A savings account for emergencies

That way, you can easily keep your emergency savings separate from your rent money — which, of course, is separate from your "Hmm, I actually can afford that round of shots" money.

All of your accounts can sit in the same bank, so you can monitor and manage your money easily. Some banks, like Simple and Capital One, allow you to designate multiple buckets or goals in one account, so you don't have to look like that doing math-in-your-head meme every time you look at your money.

Budgeting is an unfortunate sounding word for the tool that unlocked all the best parts of my adult life.
Berna Anat
Financial educator

2. Nickname your money (and make it funny)

Take this new bank obsession a step further and nickname your bank accounts. This is a feature available, but often hidden, at most banks, so holler at customer service to help you out.

I take no shame in nicknaming my bank accounts things like "Adulting Dollaz Only" or "Isabel's Bach 2K20."

Nicknaming your accounts not only keeps your money brain organized, it also creates a personal connection to your money. And if you're the only one looking at your account, why not use a favorite song lyric, meme, or inside joke? Instead of stress when you look at your accounts, they could actually make you smile.

Also? You'll never get sick of interacting with bank customer service and hearing them say things like, "Ms. Anat, will we be depositing this check into your ... 'tequila in a bikini vacay fund?'" Banking is now hilarious.

How reverse budgeting can relieve money stress

Video by Courtney Stith

3. Be the CFO of your life

I may slip up on my budget from time to time, but there's one hour on my calendar where I don't mess around: my budgeting moment.

Carve out an hour every one or two weeks and defend that time like it's a mandatory meeting with the chief financial officer of your life — which is you. In that hour, you'll open up your new bank accounts and distribute funds for the upcoming weeks.

Now, here's the important part: The trick to keeping your CFO meeting is combining your budgeting habit with the fun, self-care rituals that you otherwise might not have time for.

Do you wish you had time for a bi-weekly charcoal mask? What about a Cardi B dance party? Make sure you always do Your Thing before, during, or after your budgeting session.

It's all about stacking enjoyable habits onto your new budgeting habit and tricking your brain to love both. Eventually, you'll start to look forward to this time as a form of self-care — because money care is self-care.

And if you need some sonic encouragement, you can throw on my Money Motivation playlist for hours of money jams.

Carve out an hour every one or two weeks and defend that time like it's a mandatory meeting with the chief financial officer of your life — which is you.
Berna Anat
Financial educator

4. Get arts-and-crafty to track and celebrate your wins

Whenever my partner and I made a student loan payment, we didn't reach for a beer. (Well, not right away.) We reached for a marker, and took to our debt posters like the third-graders we are.

A debt or savings tracking poster is a semi-silly but surprisingly effective way to visually track your money goals. You start with a blank poster and color it in as you save up or pay something down, marking the poster by 50 or 100-dollar increments as you inch towards the end.

You could go custom, like me: I grabbed the nearest pink poster board and wrote "BYE FELICIA" in giant bubble letters at the top, coloring a bit in with every payment.

If you're not artistically inclined, you can print out pre-made debt posters online, like the ones made by Debt-Free Charts. My favorite is their "Game of Loans" poster.

The key to making budgeting fun is to make it personal. The more connected you feel to your money, the more control you'll feel over your goals — giving you all kinds of room for financial fun and flexibility in the future.

Berna Anat is a financial hype woman, which is her made-up way of saying she creates financial education media that lives at @HeyBerna all over the internet. After slaying her $50,000 debt, she saved up to quit life and has been traveling the world trying to make money fun again ever since. Berna has dropped her money mic at venues such as the Girlboss Rally, Google, and The Wing, and her work has been featured platforms such as Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, and Refinery29. Berna was recently named one of ABS-CBN's Global Pinoy Idols, awarded to the 10 most influential Filipinx people in the United States.

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