One of the biggest struggles for many fellow 20-some year olds is understanding how to budget and breakdown expenses on a monthly basis. We have been taught how to save money and why saving money is important…but did anyone ever teach you how to spend your money?
Now obviously, I am no expert in finances–I am always learning and working to become better with how I spend and save money. But, I would say that I definitely started a lot earlier than most of my peers, during the earlier years of my college journey.
When I first started using a budget sheet to keep track of my spending and income, I was more focused on saving money and being mindful of what I was spending my money on. I was listening to the traditional advice that has been passed down from generations, which is typically a focus on saving money.
But then I came across a podcast episode from the Tim Ferriss Show with Ramit Sethi during my Senior year of college and it completely reframed the way I thought about my finances and how I should be spending my money. More importantly, why it’s crucial we understand this concept so we stop judging how others choose to spend their money.
The key takeaway I learned from Ramit and his conversation with Tim Ferriss is the importance of money dials. Money dials are the areas of life that you naturally love to spend your money on because of how it marginally changes/enhances your life. As Ramit shared, the ten common money dials are the following:
- Health / fitness
- Social status
Most of us will have more than one money dial (more than one area we prefer to spend majority of our income on). I personally think a healthy way to proportion it in a “pie” persay, would be to have 3-4 top money dials and focus your spending on those areas. My personal money dials are the following and here is how I would split it up based on my priorities of spending:
- Health / Fitness – 40% of the pie
- This is easily my top money dial for a few reasons. I grew up as a competitive athlete in multiple sports and top ranked in both figure skating and USTA tennis, so being fit and healthy was always part of my routine and life regimen. Over the years as I transitioned from being a competitive athlete to focus on college and my future career, I noticed the impact of having a consistent fitness routine and prioritizing my health. Not only did I look and feel better physically, I was also feeling better in my normal day-to-day life. My energy was more optimized, I felt more productive and less sluggish, and I just felt more clear in the direction I was going in. Overall, health and fitness impacts all areas of my life, so I know it’s vital to prioritize in my weekly schedule.
- If you reviewed my calendar, you would see that I am typically working out 4-5 times a week; whether that is a 4-mile walk, pilates class, SoulCycle, a quick run, etc. If it’s in your calendar that frequently, then you know it’s a priority to you and perhaps something you should be willing to spend more of your money on and reduce your spending in less important areas.
- With this being my top money dial, a good chunk of my income is set aside for health/fitness spending after my fixed expenses (rent, food, utilities). Meaning, I am more willing to spend $200/month for workout classes, gym gear, etc.
- Convenience – 25% of the pie
- Examples of this money dial would be Ubers, grocery deliveries from Amazon Prime Now, buying pre-cut vegetables to save time on doing it yourself, etc.
- A realization I’ve had earlier on in life is that everything is just an exchange for time. We pay more for a direct flight than one that has a layover in between. While we may save $100-$300 for doing the layover, we also lose 1-3 hours during that layover and arrive to the final destination at a later time. In the end, it’s just based on what you value more/most.
- I have had a few friends make fun of me for having my groceries delivered with the misunderstanding of why I do it. Obviously, it’s more ideal to grab your own groceries, especially when it comes to picking produce, fruit, and etc. But, the same principle applies–it involves time in your day. My normal schedule pre-covid was always so jam-packed that it was truthfully just a waste of time for me to drive to the store after work only to come home and unpack it and cook. I would work 8-5 and then either head to coach on ice till 7pm or be at a workout class till 6:30. With Prime Now being free delivery from Whole Foods, why wouldn’t I take advantage of that if it saves me and simplifies my day?
- Time is our most valuable asset, so if I am able to save substantial time in exchange for paying a little more for it (or in the case of Prime Now, it’s uhhh free), then I am absolutely willing to do it.
- Experiences – 25% of the pie
- I consider experiences like dining out with friends, traveling around the world, eating at specific or well-known restaurants, etc.
- For example, an ideal night out for me would be dining out with a friend or two at an upscale restaurant like Fig & Olive or Javier’s, and enjoying dinner with a cocktail or two. To me, this is a great experience to have on a weekly basis, because not only is it a great way to be in a social environment where others are conversing, I also get to enjoy wonderful conversations with close friends and stay connected to strengthen relationships.
- I feel the same way about splurging on a nice hotel when traveling, especially when it’s meant to be a relaxing getaway or vacation to treat myself. If I am constantly working, I personally want some of that money to be splurged on the “finer experiences” in life, which just comes down to personal preference. I have plenty of friends that don’t value/care about staying in an upscale resort at all when traveling because they value different kinds of experiences on the trip, which is absolutely normal.
- Luxury – 10% of the pie
- Considering my sense of style and fashion, I figured it would only be appropriate if I included this as part of my money dial pie.
- When it comes to luxury items, I don’t purchase the most absurd expensive items, but there are select areas of my life that I prefer to have as a luxury item–and again, it’s only select areas, which is by preference.
- One area I like to have as a luxury is in the car I am driving. This isn’t because of status or pretentious symbolism, but rather, that I would highly prefer that my car has a certain style of leather, driving ease, design model, and etc. It’s very specific to what I prefer based on personal taste. Again, not everyone would care about this, but it’s just part of who I am. So types of luxury cars I really love are Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, Porsche, and etc. At this age and time of my life, I would never splurge on a brand new car of those brands. But, I have saved up in the past to purchase a (pre-owned) Mercedes that was leased for 3 years that I also ended up purchasing for $8,000 less than they were asking for. Even luckier, the model was also fully upgraded with different custom and premium packages that I was able to enjoy at less than the price I would pay for a brand new car.
- Other luxury items I like to spend on are clothes and (sometimes) handbags. I definitely don’t purchase any major designer clothes (like Gucci, Fendi, Chanel), but I will selectively buy quality pieces from brands like Aritzia, AllSaints, and Zara. I don’t shop that often for clothes, because I am a stickler about buying quality pieces that I will just wear all the time, especially when it comes to work/business clothes. I have plenty of pieces from Artizia that I have worn both in the office and on a night out for dinner. When it comes to handbags, I try to have one for each occasion and if I can afford it or save for it, I will spend it on a nicer/luxury handbag. For example, I have one for going out (bars/clubs), dinner night crossbody, everyday bag, and work/office bag. But that is it, I only keep it to 3-4 bags, instead of collecting 8-10 bags.
Remember, the money dial(s) are only referring to where you’d spend your disposable income on…aka after all the rent, food, utilities, and etc. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be afraid to spend money the way you want to if what you spend it on a) marginally changes your life and b) is one of your top priorities in life.
What are your top 2-3 priorities in life at this stage?