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In our Budget Badass series, we explore how kickass 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.

Name: Julia Rudlin

Occupation: Platform team member at FirstMark Capital

Age: 26

Location: New York, New York


he Background

I don’t actually know when or why I created my first budget—my parents never sat me down to talk about it. It’s something that I learned on my own…or maybe that was their lesson, for me to teach myself!

Rather than being a “conscious” budgeter, l think I’ve always thought about money logically: How much do I need to spend or not spend to do/invest in XYZ? Whether or not I’m following a formal budget, I concentrate on minimizing superfluous spending so that I could more easily finance activities and things that I love. That’s a big part of my personal spending philosophy: If I can do something myself that would otherwise cost me money, I’ll happily carve out the time and save myself a few bucks.

The Budget

Right now, I follow a 50/30/20 budget, but I don’t use an app or monitoring tool to track it on a daily basis. Instead, I set aside time each month to upload my bank statement into a customized Excel spreadsheet. It enables me to keep track of my money in a more personalized manner—if I need to adjust something, I can easily do it myself.

With the 50/30/20 rule, half of my income goes toward essentials like rent, utilities, and my MetroCard; 30 percent goes toward personal things like fitness classes; and the last 20 percent I place in savings and investments. I calculate the percentages from my actual take-home pay—as in, what I see deposited into my account—versus my yearly salary, which prevents me from budgeting money I don’t actually have.

Trial and Error

When I first moved to New York, I had a daily dollar limit for things like dinner, groceries, and cabs—basically everything besides my fixed bills. Then, I focused on making sure I was spending under a certain threshold so that I wouldn’t run out of money between pay periods. Now, I’m at a stage where I’m more concerned about growing my current savings through investments like stock, index funds, and cryptocurrencies—yes, I’m a token millennial—and leaving myself enough capital to do so.

Can’t Skimp, Won’t Skimp

Given the option, I’ll always splurge for the non-stop flight. My family lives in Japan, so the possibility of missing a connection and being stuck in a layover city when I could be spending more time with them is devastating. I hate wasting precious vacation time in general, so if I can avoid connecting flights by paying more, I’ll happily do so!

Pain Points

I’ll go down rabbit holes watching beauty tutorials on YouTube, so I almost always have something in my shopping cart at Sephora.com. I stock up on most of my skin care and makeup staples when I’m in Japan (they’re products that you either can’t find here or are more expensive) but I like to supplement those with newer discoveries. I caved and bought a Sunday Riley facial oil a while back, and it’s incredible. Expensive, but incredible!

I try to avoid unnecessary service charges whenever possible, but some are inescapable. I love my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, but the annual fee is a huge downside.

Smart Spending

I was in the market for a new laptop recently, but after realizing new MacBooks can cost upwards of $2,000, I decided to look into a refurbished one. I kept an eye on Apple’s refurbished listings and a few other sites, and eventually found the exact model with the exact specifications I wanted originally—for a fraction of the price. It works and looks just like new, and I saved a ton of money!

Even though the annual fee is a pain, my Chase Sapphire Reserve card is probably one of the smartest purchases I’ve ever made. I love to travel, and there are a ton of benefits that work around the globe—like waived foreign transaction fees.

Words of Wisdom

Investing your money instead of letting it sit in a savings account is, obviously, much more beneficial—if you do it in a smart way. I wish I’d learned about things like mutual funds and index funds sooner than I did, but I’m glad that I now know how to make my money work for me. There’s so many ways to invest—and so many opinions about it—but it’s fun to explore the different options and speculate about what’ll be the best for you. NerdWallet is a great resource for anyone looking to get started. They cover everything from how to save to how to take out a loan.