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Money is a hard thing to navigate. I won’t lie—it took me forever to figure out the basics of money management because my parents didn’t teach or model financial intelligence for me as a youth. A lot of us black queer folks grew up in underserved communities with few resources on how to be financially prosperous, and as adults, we’re paying the price (literally). Now we’re contemplating milestone purchases, but can’t even budget right for a pair of J’s!
When you’re masculine of center, money is even harder to understand because you’re raised to think one way and pressured by the culture and our feminine counterparts to think another way. Sure, as masculine womxn, we’re expected to be sugar daddies with pockets as deep as the ocean. But outside our community, we’re black womxn who are statistically low earners compared to other demographics. Knowing this, how should we manage our money?
Regardless of who you are and how you identify, entry-level financial literacy is the same for all. Now, I can’t get you movin’ on up like The Jeffersons quite yet, but I can start you off. Here are some beginner’s tips:
Pay your bills FIRST: Never should you ever put your side chick above your main. And your rent, utilities, and other essentials are wifey material! Make sure your bills are paid before spending any money on anything that doesn’t house you or feed you. There’s nothing cute about being fly and homeless.
Track your spending: One way to minimize excessive spending is to figure out what you spend on, and where you can cut back. Keep a log of where your money goes daily—liquor store trips and Amazon Prime purchases included. If you see that you’re spending on things that you don’t need consistently, exercise some self-control.
Create a budget: Add comparing your income to tracking your spending, and you have budgeting. It gives you a visual of what your financial life looks like and where you can tweak some of your spending habits for the month or longer. Tips on how to budget can be found here.
Save more: That savings account will be your saving grace if you give it a little TLC. People who are smarter than me say 20% of your check is a good amount to put in your account every two weeks, but really anything you can scrape up will help you build your account. Whatever you do, don’t touch it! Let the money collect dust so it’s there when you really need it.
Don’t use credit cards to shop: Credit cards are the gateway drug to debt. Being able to purchase now and pay back later increases overspending AND procrastination on paying that debt off. Credit cards are great for building credit—making small purchases and quickly curing the debt to increase your scores—and for emergency situations, if the money needed isn’t readily available. They’re not meant to be run up like you’re a City Girl! So, take it easy on the plastic, and don’t use it unless something is on fire.
Build or fix that credit: Now, you might not be friends with Experian, Equifax, or Transunion yet, but y’all need to link up! They’re the credit bureaus (data collectors) that keep stock of all the accounts you have open and report your scores to consumer reporting agencies. Movin’ on up to a better car, house, any kind of asset requires a solid credit score, so it’s important that you’re checking your scores regularly and paying off your debt consistently (making more than the minimum payment). Prioritizing this will bump your scores up over time and ensure you always qualify for an iPhone instead of a Nokia Tracfone.
Avoid reckless relationship spending: Us queers are unfortunately known for making long-term relationship decisions with short-term thinking, and a lot of these decisions involve our money. Tying up your finances with someone who’s writing I.O.U.’s and has the credit score of a homeless ghost will leave your bank accounts in the negatives and your credit scores in the woodchipper. So, like a T.R.U.T.H. commercial, just say no! Don’t sign a lease, lend out any money, cosign on a vehicle or buy a phone for anyone unless you’re stable enough to give that kind of coin away without your pockets crying.
I know this advice sounds mad generic, and it is. Because masculine of center womxn of color are underrepresented in the finance industry, there aren’t many resources catered to us. Even if we weren’t, there still aren’t special rules or a higher standard we should be living up to. Studs are not required to spoil anyone (yes, even you, cute Twitter fem) or go broke trying to flex. Most of us don’t make enough to validate that myth, and we shouldn’t ruin our financial standing trying to change that. Stay focused, smart, and realistic about how much you make, and tailor your spending to fit not only your current expenses but what you might want for your future. And always remember. . . Nokia Tracfones don’t have FaceTime.
Written By: Eden Carswell, LBH Content Writer (@locs_on_the_rocks, IG)