When I was younger and thought about what I wanted to be when I got older, the term “salary” never entered my head. I always knew I wanted to work in sports and when I made that dream a reality, I figured I’d have nothing else to worry about.
There are plenty of jobs in sports that can make you very wealthy, but all too often, for young up-and-comers, the lifestyle of a #sportsbiz professional isn’t lavish -- it’s lacking. This business is grueling and cruel, and unpaid internships to get a foot in the door or gain experience aren’t just recommended, they’re pretty much required. But of course, it’s your dream job. You’d do anything for your dream job, right?
Chances are, your first job in sports isn’t going to pay a lot. If you’re lucky enough to find a first or second job that has you rolling in the Benjamins, then I urge you to keep it. And hire me.
But in all seriousness, if you’re like me and you started out with a small salary and enough student debt to consider running away and changing your name, then talking finances is no fun at all. I’ve been there, so I get it.
And if you’re in your second or third job but don’t see a light at the end of the ‘crappy finances’ tunnel, then this is for you, too. I’m not in any way a financial consultant, but I also did not grow up with money falling out of my pockets. In fact, in addition to the good decisions I’ve made with my finances, I’ve made some pretty crappy ones too, so hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes (and successes!) based on the tips below.
Split the costs. I know you don’t want to have a roommate; I didn’t either. But guess what: it’s temporary. Everything costs more when paying for just one person (rent, car insurance, phone bill, meals, etc.), so it really is worth it to share your costs as much as possible. When I graduated, my now-husband and I moved in together to split our costs, and it was a great way to build up our savings and figure out our finances as we started our new, shiny adult lives. And at the end of the day, my husband and I are still roommates. We split costs just like roommates do and we save money because of it. Don’t know anyone who’s looking for a roommate? Don’t be afraid to reach out to coworkers and friends! I know that I lucked out with my situation, but do your best to find someone -- anyone you trust -- and try living with them. Seriously. A year-long lease is not a lifetime. You WILL save money by doing it.
Don’t be house poor. It’s no secret that everyone loves HGTV and dreams about having the “perfect” place with white cabinets and granite countertops and huuuuuge closets, but I’m here to tell you that all of those things cost extra -- a lot extra. Now, there’s something to be said about finding a place to live that meets your needs and spending a fair amount on that, but I promise that you don’t need marble floors at this point in your life. You do need to live in a home/apartment/condo that makes you feel safe and comfortable. You need running water and a shower curtain and a way to prepare food and something to sleep on, and that’s about it. Don’t spend two grand of your menial salary to pay for a place that you’re never going to see because you work in sports and, therefore, you’re always working. Note: If you live in a not-so-safe area, splurge on the safe place. Safety and your general peace of mind are always worth it.
Make a freaking budget. It sucks, really. Putting your whole life into a spreadsheet is overwhelming, frustrating, and leaves you feeling like poop, but it’s worth it. Knowing where your money is going is THE BEST way to learn the importance of your finances. Do you love Chipotle? Do you go there every day? Well, you probably won’t anymore when you see how much it’s costing you. Staying on budget is hard - especially when you don’t have a lot of money - but it is so so so important. Seriously, sticking to a budget can help you get out of (or stay out of) debt, ensure that you’re spending your money in the right places, and even help you save money for things you want. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to save up for a vacation rather than putting the whole thing on a credit card and having anxiety until you pay it off? You tell me. And while we’re at it, there are plenty of ways to save money on things that you like. Ebates and coupons are honestly the best things since sliced bread, and speaking of bread… meal-prepping can save you TONS of money. The dollars will pile up. Literally.
Your credit score is important. Seriously. It’s not a joke. Think of your credit score as the GPA for your life, except that it stays with you forever. It might seem like just a number, but your credit score follows you around and shows lenders and financial institutions how financially competent you are, so it’s a big deal. Building up your credit score is one of the major keys to financial freedom, and even though it takes time, it’s extremely important. The best and fastest way to build your credit is to eliminate debt -- whether that means working to pay off your student loans or building better habits and not letting debt accrue on your credit card. This is where having a budget and splitting the costs can really come in handy, but of course there are other ways to work out of this small hole. If you’ve made mistakes in the past and don’t have a great credit score or a great credit history, that’s okay. Just know the value of it. And if your credit situation is truly scaring you, then I urge you to find someone you trust and talk to them about it. Whomever it might be -- a financial advisor, your mom, your boss -- they can help provide advice and guidance to get you through it.
Find a balance. Becoming financially independent and finding the “right way” to handle your finances doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and find a balance that works for you. If you literally can not live with roommates for whatever reason, then don’t. Same goes for cutting costs. If you are fiscally responsible in most areas of your life but LOVE going shopping or LOVE eating out from time to time, then don’t deny yourself. I’m one of those people who loves buying clothes; it’s my release when I’m feeling down, and it genuinely makes me happy, so my husband and I came up with a monthly budget for me to stick to. Instead of eliminating something that I found joy in, I’ve been able to make better buying decisions based on my budget. Whatever your kryptonite is, you, too, can do the same.
There’s no perfect equation for managing finances, especially when you don’t have a lot of money in the bank, but I hope these tips can help you in some way. Just remember that if you’re living out your dream of working in sports, then all the other stuff is secondary. Find a way -- any way -- to make your dreams come true, and you’ll find happiness.