I love being a Grownup. As a kid, I couldn't wait until the days when I could come and go as I pleased, live in my own place, and not have to follow anyone else's rules. And so far being a Grownup is all the wonderful things I thought it would be. Except for one thing: A nagging feeling that I'm never doing enough to reach my financial goals. This feeling is intensified by the post-college/pre-full-fledged adulthood trend: Everyone tells you to focus on major goals that you may or may not even be ready for. Pay off your loans! Buy a house! Get married and start a family! It can be a bit too much too fast for anyone still trying to find their place in the world. What about enjoying your newfound freedom? Traveling the world? Creating your first work wardrobe or furnishing your first apartment? Treating you once in awhile? It's just as important to enjoy life as it is to plan for the future. And not just because of the balance—also because it's nearly impossible to achieve your goals if you don't build in some flexibility. Below are a few ways I manage to achieve that flexibility so I can be a Grownup and have a little fun, too.
Pick One Thing
I have a terrible habit of wanting to do everything at the same time. Why can't I pay off my loans, start my own business, save for retirement, and go on vacation—all this year? Right. If you want to achieve anything, then you must first achieve focus. The thing I want the most right now is to build a sustainable freelance writing career—a transition I'm making after spending several years working full-time for a startup. While I would love to take a trip as well, my money would be a lot better spent keeping me going during the notoriously tumultuous first year of self-employment. Then, once I see sustainability in my monthly income, I can switch to my next focus: traveling and taking advantage of my new location independence.
"Borrow" From Other Parts of Your Budget
There isn't always time to save up money for my financial goals, especially in the short-term. My husband and I recently and unexpectedly decided not to renew our lease—due next month. Instead, we're moving to a larger apartment that can better accommodate working from home. The fun part? I get to design my own workspace. The not so fun part? I have to spend money to design my own workspace. Since moving isn't something we planned, we don't have a new furniture budget to fall back on. That's where borrowing from other parts of the budget can come in handy. I usually buy coffee every day (sometimes twice a day...bad habit, I know) and occasionally even lunch as well. After doing some research, I realized that I could get a new desk and design a nice workspace for only a few hundred dollars. I did the math and realized I could quickly save that money by making my coffee and lunches at home for the next month. And since that was already built into my budgeting plan, I can achieve the workspace of my dreams without going into debt.
Create a Fun Money Account
If you don't have any pressing short-term goals yet, then you can get ready for future goals by starting a fun money account. Even just putting aside something as small as $50 a month into a separate savings account will allow you to say "yes" to the next opportunity that comes along instead of "no." Impromptu weekend trip? Concert tickets? Just a couple of months of funding in a fun savings account will have you covered.
It's All About Balance
Planning for the future is important, there's no denying that. And sound personal finance decisions are a key part of it. But why not have a bit of fun as well? The first few years into adulthood—when you're unencumbered by a mortgage and mouths to feed—can be some of the most exciting years in your life. Build in as much balance as you can now so you can hit the next stage of adulthood feeling like you're prepared and like you've lived these years to the fullest.