Jo Knows: Budgets, Money, Help!

Hiya Jo!

I’m currently a university student studying abroad in London and one thing that I’ve definitely had to adjust to is the different monetary system here. I feel like every student, or 20-somethings face having to create some sort of budgeting system. I don’t want to keep relying on my parent’s money and I was wondering what advice you have on creating a weekly/monthly budget. Im almost turning 21, and I feel like thats the age when society sees and treats you as an adult- yet I feel like a thirteen year old teenager who has no idea how to start doing ‘adult’ things (like doing my own taxes someday, budgeting). I feel like I’m rambling but basically what I would love to know is your tips on saving money. Thank you and can’t wait to hear from you!! 🙂 


Let’s start out with some real talk. Living on a budget is not my strong suit and I consider Joy my primary enabler. More than a few conversations go something like this:

Jo: Should I get a third pair of black Madewell booties?
Joy: Yes. Booties are forever.
Jo: You are so wise.

When we saw this week’s question, Joy and I immediately went into research mode. How do you live on a budget? Joy and I are both self-supporting quasi-adults, so we must be doing something right, BUT, there is a lot of room for improvement. Here are some of our tips and tricks as well as a few things we discovered for helping you (and ourselves) pinch those pennies:

This is a nifty rule that is a good jumping off point for building a budget.

50% of your income goes to necessities: rent, utilities, bills, food, etc.
20% covers financial priorities, things like paying over the minimum on some bills to get your debt down, maybe socking away some money in savings – think emergency savings, not vacation savings.
30% for entertainment, splurges, eating out – all the good stuff. Some money experts advice on taking that amount out in cash so you know, just by glancing into your wallet, how much you’ve spent, and how much you have left to spend, each month.

It’s important to remember that this is a loose guideline, not a hard and fast rule. If you are a student studying abroad, it makes sense that paying down debt isn’t a priority at the moment, and that’s totally ok. Just keep it in mind for the near-future.

Don’t pay full price:
I love me some pretty things. What feels better than stepping out in a new outfit that you just bought and look slammin’ in? Maybe a bank account not in the negative, but it’s debatable. This is why I have become a voracious bargain hunter. Need some Gap jeans? Find the ones you want and then hunker down and wait for a sale. Most sites will offer you a coupon right off the bat when you sign up for their newsletter (you can unsubscribe once your jeans get here). Even things like make-up and toiletries can often be found on Amazon for a fraction of the price. Put in the time to shop around and you can save enough to buy that scarf on ASOS…I mean, put something into your savings account.

Seek out help from experts:
Budgeting your money and getting on top of finances isn’t always intuitive. There are a gazillion books out there on how to get started, but that alone can be intimidating enough to turn you off even more. Try easing in instead —   this blog gives consistently great money advice, and the Real Simple podcast, “Adulting Made Easy,” tackles all of your money and savings questions, in a chatty and non-intimidating way.

Some (free!) apps to help you out:
Level Money. I love this app. It’s simple and straight forward. You plug in your income and all your expenses and the app calculates how much you have left over to spend. Dying for a latte but wondering if you can swing it? Level Money will tell you how much you have left to spend that day, week, or month.

Mint. The Mint app is kind of the grand-daddy of all budgeting apps. It’s much more comprehensive than Level Money. It will sync all your accounts (checking, savings, credit cards, etc) and help you stay organized and on top of payments with bill pay reminders. Mint will also track your spending habits through your synced accounts so you can get an idea of what you’re spending where. This may be overkill for some, but it is a great tool for building good habits.

Good luck! XOXO


Jo Knows is an advice column where my dear friend, Joanna, tackles any and all of your questions every other week. Nothing is off the table (think: sex, depression, career, family, dating, etc), and all questions will be published anonymously. Email hi3chairs at gmail dot com.

6 thoughts on “Jo Knows: Budgets, Money, Help!

  1. I like that rule of thumb 50/20/30 ! Great post.

    To me, the easiest and most efficient way of saving money is an automatic savings account, that just transfers the money from your chequing account to your savings. I set it up for the day next to my paycheck, that way I don’t even realize I had that money to spend and therefore… I don’t spend it.

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