Brittney from Britt and the Benjamins is currently well on her way to having $250,000 in net worth by the end of the year and she has a solid plan in place to get there! In this interview, she shares her philosophies on money, how she stays motivated with her finances and building wealth and also, how she rewards herself for meeting her goals - because that's important too! Enjoy!
What was the moment you decided to focus on increasing your net worth?
I remember in the first month at my real job after graduating from college, I went to see a movie with one of my friends. Now, we all know movie snacks are expensive, but I thought, “Hey, I’m earning real money now,” so I bought myself an "Icee". It was so nice to no longer be the poor college student, and I was excited that I no longer had to worry about spending $5 on something absolutely unnecessary.
And for the next few weeks, I continued that train of thought…until I saw my bank account at the end of the month. I had no idea where all that money I had been earning had gone.
At that point, I thought I was making a ton, but when all was said and done, those nights out and restaurant meals and new clothes left me with next to nothing. And I thought, “Is this really how I want to live?” The answer to that was no, so I signed up with Mint to track how I was spending my money each month.
A year later, I had created my own version of a budget in Excel, along with a personal balance sheet, or what most people consider a net worth tracker. That was 6 years ago, and I’m still using those same spreadsheets today.
How much money have you saved in total?
In total, I’d say I’ve saved close to $175,000 in the past 7 years, including my retirement savings. I contribute $5,500 each year to my Roth IRA and 10% of my earnings to my company’s 401(k), so if we were to exclude those numbers, I’d put my savings at roughly $105,000.
My earnings have definitely increased as the years have gone on, so a lot of that has come in the past 3-4 years or so. My goal this year is to add another $20,000 to my savings account by December 31, which would help me get to my ultimate goal of a $250K net worth by the end of the year.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Definitely in more than one way. I think what determines motivation ebbs and flows, so I like to have a small arsenal ready in case I hit one of those valleys where I just want that $300 purse or a new car (I have to get one this year so that’s at the forefront of my mind these days).
However, I think the number one thing that keeps me motivated is having a strong sense of “why.” I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish, places I want to see, and passions I want to pursue, and I know managing my money well is what is going to help me get to those things I value most. I also am a highly competitive person, so when I set a goal, I make sure that I’m going to hit it (and attempt to hit it early).
I keep those goals visible and revisit them at least once a month to track my progress, which helps keep me in line. And when even that doesn’t work, I give myself small rewards along the way.
For instance, if I hit my savings goal one month, I may reward myself with a trip to Starbucks (yes, this is a treat for me) or a new Essie nail polish. This past month I hit a big goal for my blog that I had been working on for quite some time, so I’m treating myself to some shorts from Lululemon (my first purchase there EVER – I’m so excited).
How do you manage the days where you just wanted to go out and spend money?
Usually by nursing a ton of regret the next day. KIDDING. Although in my younger days, I did have a few of those, and I learned quickly that some of those purchases didn’t really bring the value I thought they would.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned what is worth spending my money on, and that has helped to keep it under control. I’ve also found it’s just a numbers game – if my friend invites me for brunch but I’ve already maxed out that portion of my budget, I’ll shift my money around and spend less in shopping or entertainment.
I also include a small “miscellaneous” category in my budget each month for those unexpected expenses that come up or for a little extra fun money. For those of you who find shopping hard to curb, I’ve also found a way that has helped me save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Each time I make a new purchase, I leave it in the bag for a week untouched with the tags still on. After that week, I’ll bring it back out, and if I still am excited about it, I’ll keep it. If not, back to the store it goes. This can also help you save on what you do want to keep – I just bought a Target dress last week that still has the tags on it, and this week dresses are 30% off. I’m going to buy the same dress at the lower price and return the one I have – it’s only $10 but hey, it’s $10.
What would be your money advice to your younger self?
Start to diversify your income streams sooner. You can only cut your expenses so much, and the only other way to increase your wealth is to increase the money coming in. I currently have 3 income streams, a couple of them fairly small, and one of my goals is to increase these each year.
What steps are you taking to ensure you meet your ultimate net worth goal?
As part of my overall budget file (yes, I’m an Excel nerd, so my budget is a little crazy), I have a personal goal tracker and net worth tracker that help keep me in line. I am motivated by seeing the gap between my savings and my goals decrease and my net worth increase, so checking in with these each month helps keep me focused on reaching my final savings figure.
Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of lifestyle habits. I easily live below my means and have learned to sacrifice a little now to get more later. If you can develop that mindset and those habits, it’s easy to find a little extra money to get to your goals.
What advice would you give anyone reading this looking for encouragement?
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, what they’re buying, how much they’re making, etc. Your goals and your path are and always will be different than everyone else’s, so making that comparison will only bring you stress. Focus on what you value and what you want out of life, and make getting to those goals a competition with yourself and no one else.