Conservative on a Budget
When you seek out a new job or internship, it's important to find a position that will value your time, education, and experience.  While it never hurts to practice your negotiation skills, many people new to the workforce fail to realize it's not how much you make, it's how much you keep.

Budgeting is often a foreign concept to students and young professionals, who mistakenly think money management requires either an accountant or mathematician.   Today, resources for all levels of financial education are available, and I suggest you discover a method that is realistic and suitable for you. 

Here are three easy ways to manage your budget.

Grab a calculator, and recall a conservative’s favorite word: F.R.E.E.

Fun (15%)
  • For the sake of our own sanity, we all want to use our salary for fun.  You work hard, and you deserve to indulge yourself.   Remember, part of a successful internship is to enjoy your experience in a new city.  Just be smart about it; an intern salary can disappear quickly.

Return (5-10%)
  • Set aside 5-10% of your income to “Return”, or give back, to your community.  Give to your church, or find a cause personally significant to you.  Within the conservative movement alone, there are countless foundations whose efforts rely on generous donors.

Emergency (10%)
  • 10% of your earnings should be placed in a savings account, investment fund, or used to pay off existing debt.  If your car suddenly needs a repair or you have a medical emergency, you will be grateful to have a fund readily available.
Essential (65-70%)
  • Calculate 65-70% of your monthly income to cover all your “Essential” expenses.  Presumably, the majority of your income will go towards your groceries, housing, transportation, phone bill, etc. 

Acknowledge your financial weaknesses, and determine how to overcome them.

Figure out how much those daily coffeehouse visits, lunches, dinners, etc. are costing you, and identify ways you can save money.

Prepare your meals the day before; learn to love the office coffee; and find free events where food is served. 

Perhaps your comrades influence your lavish spending.  Communication is key; inform your peers about your new habits and you should not only gain their respect, but may also encourage them to establish wise spending habits of their own.

Create separate bank accounts for separate purposes.

I recommend you have at least three separate bank accounts.  At the beginning of each month, calculate your expenses i.e. food, rent, bills, and more.   Remember, most of the money in your account has already been spent on essentials, so make sure your current account is an accurate portrayal of your spare income.

Place 10% of your overall income into a separate savings account you can use later.  You’ll be glad it’s there when an unexpected expense arise or you need a vacation. 

You third and final account is your current account, the money you really have left to spend on yourself this month. 

Start to develop responsible spending habits now to prepare your future self for any possible circumstance.  No matter how impressive your income is, you'll find yourself financially struggling if you spend irresponsibly and don't keep track of where your hard-earned cash is going!   Wise money management can determine your financial future as much as your income, so remember conservatives, live F.R.E.E