Before I started budgeting, I was horrible with money. I had a minimum wage, part-time job, and was living paycheck to paycheck. I also got help from my parents with tuition and some living expenses. But, I still wasn’t making any progress in my financial situation, as my checking accounts always dwindled back down to zero at the end of the month. I couldn’t build up any savings or emergency fund, which was horrible since I couldn’t come up with the funds for an emergency root canal.

In 2014, I started to learn about personal finance and budgeting, and tried YNAB. I credit the YNAB method on getting out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle. Here, I want to go over how I got out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle and was able to save for emergencies and future large purchases.

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We used YNAB for years, but the current subscription price increased to $99 a year. So we canceled that after I found a new budgeting software called Buckets. It costs $45 total, with no subscription, and has similar features to YNAB except for syncing with bank accounts and credit cards. Philosophy There’s a pretty good guide on their website. You add all your accounts that are part of your budget. I have all our checking and savings accounts, plus our credit cards. I also added our investments as “off-budget” accounts for tracking purposes. Once you’ve added the accounts, then you budget the available amount. Buckets calls the available cash “Rain”. Each line item is called a “Bucket”. So, you catch your rain in each bucket until the available rain is 0. Buckets uses the budget to zero philosophy. I have buckets for rent, utilities, groceries, food, etc. If I overspend

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My husband and I are frugal, but we’ll pay for long-lasting high quality items. Here are some of the items that saved us time and money in the long run. It’s also better for the environment since I’m not constantly replacing broken things. We bought most of these items on sale by looking out for deals and coupons. We also used camelcamelcamel.com to track prices on Amazon. And I found some of these items used on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Kitchen items We eat rice almost every single day for lunch and dinner. And I’m not the type to cook rice in a pot on the stove. When our cheap Aroma rice cooker died after just 5 years, I decided to buy a Zojirushi neuro fuzzy rice cooker. While it wasn’t cheap, it had really good reviews. 7 years later, it still makes great rice every time we use it.

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Why should students care about budgets and savings? Don’t we have enough things to worry about? Classes, exams, research… Now you want me to add budgeting into that? Forget it. The problem is, the average American carries a total debt of $152,612 [1]. About $6,900 of the total average debt accounts for credit card balances. 54% of college attendees took on student loans to fund their own education [2], with an average balance of $58,000 [1]. If we break down the student loans by demographics, we find that Black college graduates have about $25,000 more in debt than White college graduates, women owe 58% of all student loan debt, and the average student loan debt is the highest amongst adults in their 30s and 40s [3]. And the more education you want to pursue, the more debt you accrue: PhD holders have an average debt of $159,625 [3]. That’s insane. Not

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