Need help figuring priorities out?

Hey guys,

I'm a 20yo student. I'm currently working full time, but come fall I'll be part time and my income will drop. I will save on some stuff once the semester is here (groceries will be easier, my transport category will be lower), but it will still be difficult to scrape by...

Now, there's several things I want and need to save for, but... I don't know how to assess my priorities. These are not even my wish list items, these are just my almost-necessities:

  • The wedding of a friend which is in August - 150$
  • A packer bc I'm trans and my dysphoria is terrible - 400$
  • School supplies - 500$ (hoping for lower, but planning for worst case scenario here)
  • Christmas - 600$ (I tend to go big; again, hoping for lower, but planning for worst case...)
  • Clothes - 600$ (I need to redo my wardrobe as it is mainly clothes that are 4-5+ years old and that I don't feel comfortable wearing given my gender identity)
  • Emergency fund - 1000$?
  • Wisdom teeth extraction - 1500$ (hoping for less, planning for worst case, my insurance should cover some, but we'll see...)
  • Buffer, extra fees for the semester, etc.

I have some credit card debt on top of that, but I've decided I'm okay trailing that as long as I prevent myself from going further in debt by planning for my expenses.

How do I attack this? It's a lot of goals... I would really like to do some "debt snowballing" for savings, but have no idea how. Any ideas and help appreciated...

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  • Hi Simeon !

    This is tricky because no one will know what's important to you, like you do. :)

    Looking at the list you gave, the wisdom teeth extraction sticks out the most. Is this currently causing you pain? Is it a suggested procedure to prevent future issues? If you put it off too long will it cause more damage? I tend to be a bit more cautious with health-related expenses.

    After that, what stands out to you most? It's so much easier to function when you're comfortable with the skin you're in, so I might aim for the packer next and see just how low I could get those "hoping for lower" expenses.

    Different people have different priorities, so if you're thinking on certain expenses and they don't feel as important, don't hesitate to change things - Rule Three: Roll With the Punches can be applied to more than just budgeting. ;)

  • It's almost September now - I'd be interested to hear how things shook out for you, and if you decided to get your wisdom teeth out earlier rather than later. Mine were pulled when I was still in high school so I was on my parents' dental and have no idea what the cost was.

    I'm AFAB nonbinary so I understand the function of a packer but I had no idea they were so expensive! My chest is what causes the most dysphoria so I recently purchased a binder - much cheaper, but most folks who get them have more than one. I'm not out at work so it's not been a priority to get more.

    I'm also struggling with prioritization, but more to the tune of: do I fund necessities for several months or try to fund everything and thus keep my money from aging? I'm a contract worker so the work pays reasonably well (no benefits though, so my healthcare costs are vast) but I don't know if I'll have a job in two months. I'll make my own post about it but I wanted you to know you're not alone in finding this prioritization thing tricky!

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      • Khaki Storm
      • YNAB book topics online:
      • Khaki_Storm.1
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Green Wizard when I started with ynab,  I funded the current month all necessities and limited extra stuff (some moved to a wish farm). Then, as the budget started flowing better (I started in the midst of a very costly home repair), I funded the next month fully (took many paycheck cycles, not overnight). It's up to you. That just made sense to me. 

      • Lev
      • vagabond_collarbone
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
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      Green Wizard Things have been a swirl, financially! I did quite a bit of overtime; had to pay for a suit for my friend's wedding; was cut from my job almost two weeks ago, with a severance pay; got a bursary with my student loans that I didn't expect; etc., etc.! So nothing has been static...

      I ended up saving for my friend's wedding, which I had been doing pretty consistently. While I understand that it may not be a priority for many people since my friend would have been okay with me not really giving that much, I really felt that it was a nice gesture and since I had been saving for it for months, it didn't feel that much!

      I ended up also spending ~700$ on a suit for the wedding (relatively cheap suit + dress shirts + tailoring). It was A LOT, but my only "interview"/"official event" clothes were dresses/skirts, which makes me uncomfortable, so it was a necessary and good investment.

      I ended up talking to my parents again (that's a whole story) and asked them if I could use their cc to buy myself a gift - the packer. THANK GOD.

      I did extract my wisdom teeth, but with insurance, it only cost me ~200$! And I remembered to claim some medication that I hadn't claimed all year, so they essentially paid me ~300$ in meds, which ended up covering the extraction!

      My school supplies will most likely be covered by the student bursary I got. I still haven't bought new clothes and I desperately need things (e.g. shoes), but I also know my parents would be ok with me using their cc in a thrift store, so I may end up doing that.

      The rest of my budget is... a disaster, currently. I'm waiting until the end of September to try and figure out a bit more definitely what my spendings & income are going to be like during the semester. The good news is, I'm almost approved for a student line of credit and while I don't want to rely on it, I know I will. I also have several interviews lined up for tutoring jobs, so yay!

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      • Green Wizard
      • docs and data wrangler
      • green_wizard.2
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Simeon I'm really happy for you! It sounds like you had some great windfalls - insurance is really good when it works. Hopefully your interviews will go well in your new suit!

      And I don't want to pry into your relationship with your parents, but hopefully still talking and able to rely on them for some funding if things get tight = good. As long as they are reasonable about everything and don't make you feel unhappy, parents can be very useful to have in your corner.

  • It's your budget. You are in control and get to give the money whatever job you wish. It's also a learning experience and not set in stone. You fund category X for months, then find you need Y, move the funds over. Maybe it's just middle age, but I recall many more things seemed like priorities in the past that don't now (which car, which clothes, what hair style). Now the focus is: am I healthly, am I meeting the minimum clothing requirements for the place I'm in (like no shoes, no shirt, no service store signs), did I eat in the last 3 hours? If so, then I'm good. My much younger coworker is like, hey your belt and shoes don't match! I tell him I don't care, it's a belt and shoes, min. level achieved. One day I'm going to wear mismatch shoes just to see his reaction. Seriously, money is no different than time. How do you spend your time? With or without knowing it, most people spend it on what's important to them. Really, it's the actions speak louder than words thing. I can say I want to get fit, but if I don't exercise, then it's not really important to me. That's how we spend or money too, from a general point of view. Good luck with budgeting. 

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  • With regard to establishing your priorities, do a bubble sort. Take pairwise combinations starting with the first two, and you can only pick one of the two. Which would it be? Flip the order as appropriate. Repeat with the next two. Then the next two, etc. until you've gone through the whole list. Start again, making passes through the list until nothing is swapped.

    Then assign money from the top down, stopping when you are out of money. You can push timelines back to allow your money to go further down the list.

    Reality mandates lower priority things must wait until something higher has been completed or you bring in more money (or cut expenses elsewhere in the budget).

    You can have anything you want, but you cannot have everything you want.

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