Don't avoid looking at your bank or credit card statement. It may be tempting, I know, not to check the damage after a particularly fruitful night out or a bout of bill paying that leaves you feeling at once relieved and depressed, but you have to. Aside from the possibility of your card (or card number) having been stolen in one of your less lucid moments and your remaining blissfully unaware of the new purchases, it is always important to know the particulars of your financial status. The difference between going for the luxurious chicken pesto wrap at your local organic deli and picking up a cup of ramen from the corner store could be a few dollars that you only imagine you have. Sure, it does mean encountering those stomach-dropping moments of "Oh, my god, where the hell did all my money go?" on a more regular basis, but it will avoid a bigger, more long-term disappointment when you finally hold your eyelids open and force yourself to look at your bank statement.
Don't make big purchases without planning for them. Coming from someone who once bought an IKEA couch while in a drunken stupor, staring at my half-broken futon that I hated so much I could not go another day without replacing it, planning is key. Whether it's a coat you've been eyeing forever, a new piece of furniture, or just a plane ticket that is so frustrating -- come on, you're just sitting in a flying tube for a few hours, why is it so expensive??? -- you need to do some serious preparation. Even if you're the cool, spontaneous type who just likes doing things when the spirit moves you, including getting a new washing machine for your apartment, wouldn't you want to get it on sale? That's the thing about taking your time: So often you find that you could buy something you wanted for less money or that you don't need it at all. It's like waiting a minute and thinking about whether or not you really need those Mentos at the cash register, except the Mentos cost $500, and you don't even have that in your savings account right now.
Don't accrue overdraft fees. Motherfucking overdraft fees. My archnemesis, right after shower stall scum and when someone puts an empty bottle of milk back into the refrigerator -- overdraft fees. What evil wizard concocted this ingenious plan, allowing unsuspecting bank patrons to spend all this extra pretend Monopoly money that they don't actually have in their accounts, problem-free, until they have to pay it back with added bonus insane charges on top of it that are not even remotely proportional to the purchase itself? You bought a pack of gum that puts you over your limit by 67 cents? Congratulations, you get to pay $35 for the privilege of not having that embarrassing "Your card has been declined" moment at the gas station cash register. Thank you, bank, for providing my worthless life with this incredibly useful service that doesn't at all ravage my already paltry bank account into a withered husk of its former self.
Don't compare what you have to others. This is simply a game that cannot be won. Whether or not you feel comfortable in your current financial bracket, there is always going to be someone who is better-off than you, has more access than you, seems to be more successful than you, or is capable of doing things you cannot. This is just a fact of life, and it's not going to change because you've figured out your flashy acquaintance's salary down to a $5,000 range by looking up his job online. Chances are that he is, indeed, making much more money than you are. Does this mean that he is happier? Maybe. But it's not as though your obsessing over not measuring up is going to suddenly make your boss burst into your office one day and announce via megaphone that you are getting a brand-new salary of $500K a year, plus signing bonus, effective immediately.
Don't stray from your financial lane. If you can afford something, awesome for you. You should integrate said thing properly into your budget and then buy the shit out of it. But if you cannot afford this item or trip or night out at the club, pretending you can afford it to hang out with certain people or give a certain appearance is never a good move. Where do you think all this imaginary money is going to come from? It's either getting sucked directly out of your bank account, where it would have otherwise been used for such necessities as paying bills and eating, or it's going to be put on a credit card. The last thing any of us needs right now is accrueing credit card debt over buying a $500 jacket or an entire bottle of champagne at a table in a nightclub. Sure, it's always uncomfortable to have to be like, "No thanks, friends, I would love to join in with this, but alas, I cannot afford it." But no way is that more uncomfortable than realizing you have to subsist on cardboard boxes for the last three days of the month.
This article is an excerpt from "I'm Only Here For The WiFi," a new book by Chelsea Fagan. The book is available on Amazon, in bookstores and Urban Outfitters.