Finding the budget that works for you is like searching for a soulmate: it involves a lengthy trial-and-error process during which you might realize “the one” isn’t actually a perfect fit. If your needs aren’t being met or you don’t have room to grow, it might be time to move on. That’s because a good budget—like a healthy relationship—adapts to new circumstances and sudden life changes.
- Easy to get
- No charger
- Left handed use only
- Supports only Apple products
- Low storage
As cheesy as it sounds, your budget should help you be the best version of yourself: happy, fulfilled, and fiscally responsible. (That’s not to say it won’t require work or be tough at times—another relationship parallel.) So, say you’ve already found your perfect budgeting method. Bills and living expenses are clearly a must, but then there’s the portion of your budget that’s devoted to how you’d prefer to spend your cold, hard cash. Is it on self-care? Cocktails? Travel?
In the Budget Badass series, we’ll explore how young women—both inside and outside of the finance industry—nav the system and balance their checkbook in a way that lets them live their best life.
(Lead Image Courtesy: Lucy Nystrom/Hair Story )
Name: Janell Hickman
Occupation: Beauty Editor
Location: Brooklyn, New York
As long as I can remember, I’ve worked with a budget. But it hasn’t always been a good one—I was actually over-saving for a period of time. Yes, that’s a thing! I kept borrowing against myself, so when my boyfriend and I decided to move in together, it was on the stipulation that we met with a financial planner to make sure that we were both on the same page. Three years later, and I still feel like I’m in control of my finances.
It’s empowering to be upfront with myself about what I can and can’t afford. And, contrary to popular belief, I don’t find that keeping a budget is that stressful. I’m able to plan ahead so that I don’t dip into my emergency fund, and it’s kind of fun coming under budget—it means I get to save more or treat myself!
I use the zero-balance budget, which means every penny is allocated to something. It forces me to plan my spending before the month even begins. I also work with my financial planner, Dominique Brown, to help me manage it all.
Trial and Error
A few years ago, I used a cash-carrying method with envelopes assigned to categories like “groceries” and “fun.” It worked, but I felt a bit uncomfortable carrying around so much cash at once. Now, I have three zero-balance budgets: personal, household (which includes joint expenses with my boyfriend), and freelance (which includes any money I make writing outside of my full-time job). Keeping everything separate prevents me from “cheating” and using money from somewhere else on something else, like new shoes.I also use the Penny app to track how much I spend in each category. There was another app I loved, but it went away when I updated my phone! People swear by Mint, but I couldn’t get into it.
Can’t Skimp, Won’t Skimp
Experiences are something I never feel guilty spending money on. I’ll bitch and moan about everything leading up to a trip, but once I’m there I feel great—I rarely regret flights and Airbnbs. Also, it’s always worth spending a little bit more to a.) get there faster, and b.) avoid layovers.
I firmly believe that at some point, everything goes on sale, right? Except for hair services—which is why I can’t skimp on color. I was blonde over the summer, and recently returned. Since I work as a beauty editor, people tried to convince me that I could do it myself, but I realize the repercussions of a cheap color treatment and will happily pay an expert to do it for me.
If there’s something I make a conscious effort to spend less on, it’s Ubers and taxis. I’m constantly bouncing around the city for work, so I try to take the train at all costs. It’s $2.75—you really can’t beat that! I also hate late fees, cancellation fees, and random medical bills—they’re my least favorite way to waste money.
I actually saved up to buy myself something for Christmas: an Arrivals Moya III jacket ($1,095). I haven’t spent that much money on myself in a long time, and I’ve been wanting one since last year. That’s part of the reason why working with a financial planner is so nice: you have someone to hold you accountable, and to help you map out your life. I literally talk to Dom once a week—or more—about any questions I have. Should I consolidate my IRAs? Can I afford this Chanel bag? I’m sure I drive him crazy.
Words of Wisdom
Paying off your credit card bills in full is so important. It’s so easy to get caught up in the game of paying a portion or paying the minimum—but it never feels great to owe someone for a temporary thrill!
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.