Being in my early twenties, I am expected to be under a mountain of student loan debt, owe on multiple credit cards, living in my parents’ basement and a master of beer pong. While my beer pong skills are indeed commendable, I was not only able to beat the stereotypes given to my age group and I am fortunate enough to be a homeowner and have a committed relationship with my fiance, Jay. Our financial comforts can only be credited to two people—Jay and I. What I am going to share, shouldn’t be anything new or groundbreaking, but if you follow a few simple steps that I have learned to follow in the past few years, it may just change your life…

When Jay and I started dating over three years ago things were extremely tight financially. After a few weeks after dating, like many other young gay couples, we moved in together. At that time, I was mostly out of work real estate agent, and Jay worked full time in fast food. We survived through Jay’s steady minimum wage income and my occasional commission check. We had one car (mine) between us and lived in a “quaint” bedroom he rented at a friend’s house (real estate lingo for tiny). Very soon, we outgrew the space and were politely asked to find somewhere else to live, with a generous 60 day notice We made some very tough choices. I put pleasure aside for practicality and stopped the financial drain of my real estate career. Jay went to work as a loan processor for a national bank, and I found employment as a used car salesman. After some vigorous saving, we leased a one bedroom apartment in the city. The two of us immediately started saving for a second car. Three months after signing the lease we spent $2,000 on an old Chevrolet SUV so that we could both get to work.

Now that we had rent to pay, a phone bill, utilities, gasoline and maintenance for both cars, and all the other bills we’d accumulated—I sat down and drew up a budget. My first step was asking myself the question “If my car went into the shop tomorrow and the repair was $500, how would I pay for this?” I answered (silently, of course) that I would borrow the money from somebody; my parents, a sibling, a friend, the bank or credit union, or payday advance store. Do what you have to do, right? I thought so too. I continued making my list of goals when something occurred to me. I am spending all this time writing a list of my current bills and my goals, but what about that $500 I fictitiously borrowed? Clearly I don’t have that money sitting around in my wallet to pay them back—otherwise I wouldn’t have borrowed it to begin with, so I will have to make payments to whomever I owe. Translation: I just tightened my already tight budget by creating a new bill.

Get a piece of paper and write down your average monthly income in large numbers at the top. Underneath that, write “Savings” and include a minimum of 5% of your income for unexpected expenses (flat tires, medical debt, replacing a broken TV, etc…). Life happens whether you’re prepared or not, so always be prepared. Continue your list and include your bills with their dollar amounts such as rent, utilities, and auto insurance. Finally, include your groceries, and money for shopping. Once you’re done, make adjustments until everything balances. If you still have money left over, toss it into your savings! Now, tell yourself “I’m done living paycheck to paycheck” and begin living by the budget you just created. Expect to mess up for the first few weeks. As you go along, adjust accordingly. If you see the same mistakes showing up week after week, rethink that category.

  1. Write down your goals. : The first step is to what you want to accomplish; whether it is paying off that credit card, buying a car, or whatever. Try to avoid putting yourself on a deadline to have certain tasks done—you can’t predict the future. As you begin your list, be sure to write only realistic goals that you can meet. Marrying David Beckham belongs on your bucket list, not this one.
  2. Manage your money! : Get a piece of paper and write down your average monthly income in large numbers at the top. Underneath that, write “Savings” and include a minimum of 5% of your income for unexpected expenses (flat tires, medical debt, replacing a broken TV, etc…). Life happens whether you’re prepared or not, so always be prepared. Continue your list and include your bills with their dollar amounts such as rent, utilities, and auto insurance. Finally, include your groceries, and money for shopping. Once you’re done, make adjustments until everything balances. If you still have money left over, toss it into your savings! Now, tell yourself “I’m done living paycheck to paycheck” and begin living by the budget you just created. Expect to mess up for the first few weeks. As you go along, adjust accordingly. If you see the same mistakes showing up week after week, rethink that category.
  3. Do you watch all 400 channels? : For years I had unlimited minutes on my cell phone plan because…well I’m not even sure why! I analyzed my bill and saw that I never use over 400 minutes per month. I immediately lowered my phone plan to match my usage and instantly saved almost $40 a month. That’s an extra tank of gas or a date with my partner, drinks and a tip included! Find ways to reduce your bills, whether it’s downgrading your TV service, or cancelling that unused gym membership. It’s your hard earned money, save more of it.
  4. Time is money! : There is no such thing as a “quick and easy fix”. Pay day advance loans, title loans, or those smooth-talking companies that advertise consolidating debts for a low monthly payment are never what they seem. These typically have fees and interest rates in the 300 percentile area (essentially, you borrow $100 and over the course of a few months pay back $300). If you want actual results, you’re going to have to use discipline to do things the right way to make up for years of doing things the wrong way.
  5. Revisit your goal list. : Make sure you’re still on track, and make sure it reflects your up-to-date goals. If, like many, your list included debt; make sure to keep your payment momentum going. Pay as much as you comfortably can and once it’s paid in full—take that monthly payment and apply it towards the next debt on your list. Once all of your debt is paid, take every monthly payment and pay them into your savings account. With this strategy, you’ll pay off debt quicker and save for the things you want even faster.

As laws change to make life equal and easier for LGBT individuals, we must be more prepared than ever to face the unknown financial inequalities of our demographic. Living productive and financially secure is the stepping stone to a better quality of life. Manage your money; don’t let your money manage you.

Adrian Hall resides in Knoxville, Tennessee and works by day in the financial services industry. He has been continually credited as one of the youngest emerging faces in his career field. When Adrian isn’t glued to a computer screen; he dedicates time to his partner of three years, their dog Gizmo, working on his car, and reading non-fiction or biographical works. He dislikes mowing the lawn.

 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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