Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a job rather quickly after getting my degree. Now that I earn a respectable income, I have been advised to get a nicer, bigger apartment, swap my stuff for fancier versions, and overall spend my money with more “grown-up” standards. Although it is tempting to “upgrade” my living conditions, I took the decision not to. Here are the habits and lifestyle choices I decided to keep, and why:
1. I kept my housing situation.
The truth is, although my income has significantly changed, having a good and safe salary hasn’t changed my needs or personal situation. I live in a small studio, and I could afford a bigger place. But in all honesty, I like my little place. I decided not to upgrade my housing situation because I estimated that the return on investment was too weak — a few extra square meters would not necessarily make me that much happier, but would definitely have a heavy impact on my spending. Why rent something bigger to end up buying more home decor to make the big place cozy, when my cereal box sized apartment already is? So, I decided to save those extra rent dollars.
The same goes for roommates. Many of my friends wanted to leave their shared flat to “upgrade” to a place of their own, and quite a few of them have regretted that decision financially. Before you move, take time to consider whether you really want to or if it’s just a “that’s-what-I’m-supposed-to-do” decision.
2. I take side jobs (Babysitting, weekend waitressing, homework help, etc.).
During my studies, I always had at least two side activities. Even during my internship, I was always babysitting, waitressing, reselling clothes, etc. Keeping these wasn’t a decision at first — it was more a matter of habit. I was used to making content on YouTube, searching thrift stores for resalable garments, and babysitting whenever I could, so I just went on with it. A couple of weeks in, my friends were really surprised when I turned down a night out for babysitting. I didn’t really understand it, since they knew I had always done that. I then realized they were surprised that I hadn’t given babysitting up when I started earning more.
My side jobs give me extra financial security and saving capacity — moreover, I genuinely enjoy them. No young professional woman/man should have to keep a side hustle they don’t want, but if it doesn’t bring you any significant disadvantage, why not keep doing it? At the end of the day, I went to my babysitting gig, rescheduled the night out and ended up having my fun without neglecting my budget. All good!
3. I keep a tight budget.
Most of my friends who also had their first “significant” salary almost immediately expanded their expenses accordingly and really struggled to go back to saving mode in the following months. Knowing that, I made a point of sticking to my guns when it came down to the amount I spent. Of course, I didn’t spend my money on the same things, since some of my needs had changed, but I kept roughly the same budget.
What I want and need hasn’t changed that much, and if I could manage to live on a 300€/month budget for the past five years (not including rent, of course), why would I make my budget skyrocket and create needs for things that I could live without before?
4. Basically, I only upgraded my expenses that I found to be frustrating.
I kept “student”-associated lifestyle elements that I enjoyed or that didn’t bother me, such as having breakfast for dinner once in a while or keeping side projects. However, I did allow myself extra spending on small things that made me feel genuinely more satisfied with my life. It doesn’t have to be huge — for me, it’s small details like no more fixing tights with runs in them over and over. I am now the proud owner of dozens of pairs of tights. No more wasting 20 minutes searching for fixed tights in the morning. Talk about luxury!
The idea here is to take the salary upgrade as a chance to save more while only indulging in things that really make you happier, not standards that others have for you. I don’t eat at fancier restaurants, I don’t own a more expensive bag, and I don’t go out to cooler clubs/bars. However, my traveling budget/savings have tripled, and I’ll never have to wear a patched-up pair of tights again!
5. I still get student discounts (the babyface advantage).
Finally, and this one I am not so proud of…I take advantage of my babyface. Let’s be honest here, having a job and a salary doesn’t give you a “grown-up” makeover, especially face-wise. I still look like an over-caffeinated student, which in most cases, allows me to still have access to a student discount. Granted, this also means that I have to adapt to student discount hours, which means going to the museum on Tuesday nights rather than on the weekends. But why wouldn’t I?
The idea here isn’t to say that you should keep the exact same lifestyle even in things that are frustrating. Yet, if you have made habits that allow you to save (or make) money here and there, and if these habits don’t bother you, there is no need to change them for the sake of fitting into a working-woman persona that you might not even want to fit into. That’s spending money to satisfy other people’s expectations, and it’s unhealthy, both financially and in general.
Astrid is a 23-year-old digital marketing professional living in Paris. She has traveled a lot throughout her life and has lived in 6 countries in the past 5 years. She is very passionate about financial independence, travel, and morning lattes.
Image via Unsplash