In the time of smartphones and the ability to order material goods faster than you can post an Instagram selfie (so many filters to choose from), there is one accessory that is often forgotten: the financial safety net. Once you’re in your family-raising, account-sharing years, this may take care of itself, but for young single women it’s a necessity that tends to fall by the wayside. I’ve had savings in the bank since my first job. My safety net game is strong. I nurture and take care of it knowing that one day should the shit hit the fan, it’s my life raft. In fact, it’s so solid that if I were ever literally drowning, it would probably materialize as an actual life raft. THAT’S how good my safety net is. However, in a world of instant gratification, getting started can be tedious.
Just because you’re single and may not yet have the yearning to line up your own white picket fence situation doesn’t mean you should throw financial caution to the wind. Money = Freedom. It’s fine to be comfortable with staying put and living week to week, but it feels pretty great to know that should I wake up tomorrow with the sudden urge to volunteer in an Indian monkey sanctuary, I have the safety net to do it. You never know what opportunities will come up, and more often than not, you need some financial padding to get you up and running. Learning how to budget and contributing to my “rainy day” funds on the regular has allowed me to live the life of a travelling gypsy without sacrificing shampoo. Having the independence to explore the world and your place in it doesn’t have to mean backpacks and sweaty hair bandanas. It’s about being open to wonderful opportunities and not letting money (or lack thereof) be the reason you settle. There are also the less than welcome surprises. Shit happens. While most of us live in the land of ‘but that won’t happen to me,” we are not bulletproof. Sooner or later the unexpected will creep up on you (or jump out and give you a heart attack) and depending on your luck, it could majorly suck. Your car needs replacing, you lose your job, you get sick… sometimes life likes to punch you in the face just to keep things interesting. These things are bad enough on their own; wouldn’t it be nice to not add insult to injury and be able to protect yourself through the shit storm? Ideally, you won’t have to use up your whole cash cushion on the hard knocks, but it’s nice to know that you can look after yourself if destiny is being an asshole and throwing curveballs your way.
So you want to prioritize a savings account, but where do you start? Putting money away for nothing in particular can be about as satisfying as eating a celery stick, and when you only have to answer to yourself, it’s easy to get slack. For a lot of people, the cash left over after the necessities have been paid for is play money, an allowance for things like shopping and fun activities that remind you why you work so hard. Sacrificing these luxuries in favor of “just in case” funds can leave you feeling unrewarded for your efforts, because who wants to be patient when you can have new shoes? It’s times like these that hindsight would come in handy. Although obligatory savings might not be preferable to Loboutins, what about the ability to move across the country for an amazing job offer? Or the means to pay a hospital bill without going into debt? Hello safety net, you never really know what’s around the corner. Another roadblock to building your nest egg may be necessary due to being financially supported by a significant other, but take it from someone with many a friend who have ended up penniless and back with their parents. I hate to burst the Danielle Steele romance bubble, but sometimes relationships end, and along with them, the funds. Don’t let the all-consuming experience of a partnership distract you from the value of being able to support yourself.
Learning to Save Like a Boss
Despite the challenges, there are ways to keep yourself accountable on your quest to becoming a Beyonce-esque independent woman. The most effective first step for me was to open an account designated for savings. This money is off- limits, and although I could easily transfer its contents into my main account, that little pang of guilt is usually enough to stop me spending on things that aren’t really important (e.g., the light-up Christmas cat sweater purchased during the holidays…. probably not a necessity). There also may be times when after rent, food and bills are taken out, there is nothing left over. I’d be lying if I said I’ve always contributed to my savings, but take this as an opportunity to look more carefully where your money is going and learn to budget. In harder times I’ve been able to pinch a few pennies and contribute to my safety net by changing phone plans, avoiding eating out and economizing on how much I spend on gas. A lot of the time there’s something to be put aside, even if it’s only a few dollars. It might seem pointless, but a little goes a long way.
It sounds as thrilling as watching a game of chess, but starting to put money away for the future really does pay off; in my case, funding exciting work ventures, car repairs and an unexpected ambulance bill. Smart investments are not just for old dudes in suits, and what better to invest in than your future? After all, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your own back.
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