The Entry-Level Chronicles: How to Pay Your Bills
Here comes the not-so-fun part of adulting: BILLS. Oy. Being on your own is all well and good, until you realize that you actually have to start paying for things now and part of you wishes you could just go back to college when you could take long hot showers and do 4 loads of laundry a week without worrying how this will affect your electric bill. But if you look at it on the flip side, paying bills and being in charge of your finances means that you have ownership of your life. You have internet because you pay that bill every month. You have a roof over your head because you write out that check. There’s food in your fridge because you put it there. It’s a bit exciting, isn’t it? It reminds me of that Destiny’s Child song (#QueenBey), “Independent Woman”:
“The shoes on my feet, I bought them. The house I live in, I bought it. I depend on me.”
So while you may wish that you could keep more of that paycheck you count down to every two weeks, all these bills you pay fund the life that you want to live.
Okay, now that we’ve had a short dance party interlude, let’s get down to business.
When I accepted my job offer and finally moved myself to Indianapolis, I was then set with the task of setting up my utilities, internet, car and renter’s insurance (because apparently that’s a thing…), upcoming student loan payments, rent, groceries, and so on.
The thought of all of the bills and expenses started to overwhelm me and I began to panic, thinking that there was no way I could make ends meet on my salary and what was I even doing here, thinking I could be an adult. This is where my dad came in because, though we are almost identical in personality, he’s also extremely logical and much more of a seasoned adult. The two of us sat down, talked this whole thing out, and began making a list, which I can’t recommend enough.
Step 1: Make a list
I took out a piece of paper and made a list of all of my expenses and how much they cost. I separated necessities (meaning, I absolutely have to pay this much money each month in order to live) from more fluid expenses (meaning, I can cut here and there and adjust my lifestyle in order to save if need be). I also listed my monthly salary at the top of my list (I had asked someone in payroll at my office to give me an estimate of what each paycheck would look like after all of the deductions for taxes, social security, and benefits came out which was a huge help).
Student Loans: X
Car Insurance: X
Renter’s Insurance: X
YMCA membership: X
Personal Expenses: X
Getting all of these thoughts and necessities down on paper helped me map them out and I began to see my financial life take shape. It’s almost like journaling; once the thoughts aren’t swirling around in your head any more, you can finally focus on what’s next.
Step 2: Calculate
I actually do this periodically because I’ll accidentally splurge at the grocery store (avocados, am I right?) and then panic because I’m convinced I won’t be able to make rent thanks to that extra $10, and this usually calms me down.
I’ll take my list of expenses (both necessities and variable expenses) and a calculator, and do the math. I enter my monthly salary and then start subtracting rent, loans, electricity, insurance, etc. and go all the way down the list. I also round up with a “worst case scenario” mindset, so I’ll double my grocery budget sometimes, and add another $50 to my electric bill, add $10 to my internet bill for no reason, and I still come out with a little spare change, which puts my mind at ease.
I highly recommend that you be a bit pessimistic when calculating expenses because it’s always better to be prepared for a high electric bill when it’s 90 degrees outside and you’re running the A/C all the time, then to think that you can lower by turning off lights and taking cold showers. Trust me, just be prepared and you’ll thank yourself in the fall and spring when you don’t really need, for example, any climate control and you have more money than you expected.
Step 3: Make a calendar
Now that you’ve factored in all of your expenses, you need to make sure these bills actually get paid. To ensure this, I do two things. First, I set up a Google Calendar and put in all of my due dates and set the reminder to a week beforehand and on the day of so I can prepare myself. So, on the 15th of the month when my internet bill is due, I get an alert from Google Calendar reminding me, and I’ll log into my account and make sure it’s paid. Second, I put all of the dates in my Passion Planner so I can see a month’s worth of expenses at a glance and see the reminder on the day of.
Also, automatic payments are a girl’s best friend. You can do all of the reminding that you want, but it’s also so helpful to just get an email from your electric company on the 21st saying that your bill has been paid. This way, it’s never a choice to pay that bill; the money just vanishes. (It’s important, however, to always check your account, just to be on the safe side)
Step 4: BREATHE
I know being thrown all of these bills and expenses all at once while you’re trying to navigate being an adult for the first time can be SO overwhelming and a little scary, but just breathe. Make lists, whip out a calculator every once in awhile to quell your anxiety, make a calendar, and know that it will all work out. Don’t be afraid of checking your bank account balance; that’s money that YOU have earned and that YOU spend to fund the life the life that YOU want. You are in control. In fact, you are an Independent Woman.