I've never particularly enjoyed looking at my bank account and checking my latest transactions. During college and graduate school, I sort of just flew by the seat of my pants most of the time and prayed that I wouldn't overdraw (which I actually did only once or twice in the span of a couple years). I tried to keep my spending to the necessities when I needed to and purchased something I wanted when I felt like I could. In the past year, I started actually swallowing my pride and reviewing my spending habits. It has been life-changing.
I've been reflecting on why it was so hard for me to actually log in to my banking app. I think I experienced something that I like to call spending guilt. Anyone else experience this?
Honestly, I never wanted to look at my bank account because every time I spent money, I felt like I was spending money I didn't have to spend. This made me feel guilty and avoid looking at my bank account. This is the exact opposite of what I should have been doing. Not looking at your bank account or spending regularly just ends up becoming a vicious cycle of spending money you don't have and not wanting to check your bank account at all. The best thing you can do for yourself is just suck it up and see what your balance is. A glass of wine helps.
In college, I had a little more freedom with money because I had a great scholarship and student loans take care of the rest. My parents have always supported me as well (#privilege), and I've been lucky that they've always been there to pick me up when I need it. They continue to do so to this day. In graduate school, I took out no student loans and made very little money each month. I had an assistantship and got tuition covered, which is the only way to do grad school, but I was also paying monthly for a place to live for the first time (unlike undergrad).
I also spent a lot more time out with friends rather than just hanging out in a dorm or a quick Walmart run. My student loans were still in grace, but I was only paying interest payments on a couple of them to keep that cost down once they got out of grace. I was constantly stressed and worried about money in graduate school. Once I graduated, that all changed.
After graduate school, I finally learned how to construct a budget. I finally made a spreadsheet that showed me my monthly expenses. I started actually using my Mint account. With the help of a friend, I was able to decide how I wanted to categorize my spending and after a month or two figure out what my monthly spending habits were. I am so much better off now because I have an idea of how I'm spending each month. I don't feel guilty when I check my bank account anymore because I have already designated where my money should go.
I know I'll have the money for things I need or want because I plan ahead. That's what budgeting is- it's a tool to decide where your money goes, not necessarily depriving yourself of things. I think that's a common misperception that comes with budgeting. You simply prioritize your interests and translate that into what that looks like for fixed and discretionary costs. The hard part is you have to find a system that works for you, and not everyone has the same system.
If you already check your bank account regularly, good for you. If you have a tool for budgeting, good for you. If I could give my eighteen-year-old self-advice, it would be to start taking more control over how her money was used. I promise- you can completely avoid that spending guilt.