Don't Think Like Wall Street

photo by Martin Ceralde

photo by Martin Ceralde

By: Hunter Folsom

Dusty, worn pennies — pennies that have been around longer than I have — sit in a coin jar on a nightstand. My nightstand in my bedroom back home in Texas. They sit there year after year, gathering dust, maintaining their one-cent value. I bet if you pooled all those pennies together, I’d have at least three or four dollars. But those three or four dollars might never be spent because, well, pennies are simply inconvenient and someone who is lazy like me would understand that it’s just a big hassle to bring all those pennies to the bank and ask for them in dollar bill form. Three dollars is not enough money to be worth gathering the pennies into a ziplock bag, driving the pennies to the bank, waiting in line with the pennies, and then talking to a bank teller about what to do with the pennies. The cost outweighs the benefit in my mind, to speak in economic lingo.

At times, if we are not careful, it is easy to develop a “not enough” mindset about money. Sure, I have enough to provide meals for myself but what about all the traveling I want to do? Why does so-and-so get to travel every weekend but I can only afford to travel once a year? Why does so-and-so get to wear this and I don’t? I want to eat at this restaurant, stay in this hotel, drive this car. Etc, etc, etc. 

And then, on the other side of it, maybe one day we splurge. And we feel guilty immediately after. It’s a lose-lose situation, whether it’s wishing for the money we don’t have or mindlessly spending the money we do have. 

This ultimately is a matter of the heart. If our hearts are invested in the contents of our bank accounts, we let this trivial thing — these pieces of paper and metal that sustain us — become the center of our days. We’re allowing greed to consume us. 

As a college student, soon-to-be college graduate, I have found it easier and easier with every passing semester to allow money to be a source of anxiety. Money, if perceived to be of vast importance, has the ability to hold power over us. I want to fight that negative connotation money can hold. I want to view the money I do have as a blessing — I can buy food and clothing; an opportunity — I can give to those in need; a challenge…

The challenge is this: being a good steward of money without letting money affect me. It could be possible that stewarding my money — documenting it with care — will lead me to care too much. But I believe that being a good steward and not loving money can go hand-in-hand. By organizing my earning and spending then logging it, I am able to have a full bank account and a full belly as well as a place to live, and clothes to wear (and hopefully the ability to give back to my community or buy a meal for a friend every once in a while). 

Not only will I be able to do all these things, but I will also be able to relinquish a bit of that money-stress as my system will keep me from needing to fear too much spending as well as keep me from regretting any spending at all. Instead, my spending will become more about the experience — the hot coffee with a dear friend on a foggy day, the splash into the ocean in a new swimsuit — and less about the dollar decrease in the bank. 

So, how can I budget well? Your guess is as good as mine (just kidding — sorta). Since I’m writing about this, I figured I’d do a little research and try to give you and myself some advice.

1. If you haven’t already, build self-awareness in regards to how much you spend per month on necessary bills. This includes rent, wifi, utilities, Netflix subscription (necessary), that kind of stuff. Write it down. Know how much you need to set aside just for those things.

2. Set dollar amounts you’d like to spend per month. Kindof like how I talked about earlier, log it so you don’t have to worry about it — but pre-meditate before you log. So, think about specific percentages of income you’d like to spend on investments, travel, dining out, clothes, etc. as well as how much you’d like to put into savings. 

3. Focus on what matters most. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, your physiological needs (food, clothing, and shelter) are the most important. 

4. Take care of debts. 

5. Make sure you have savings. Because if all else fails, you need something to fall back on.

6. I know I’ve said it before, but don’t let it get to you. Track your money — know that it can bring joyful things to you but remember that even if you don’t have quite as much as you would like, if you have enough to get by, then you are doing just fine. 
(this list was paraphrased from / inspired by Whitson Gordon of lifehacker.com)