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Budgeting Tips to Prepare for Your Switch to the Nonprofit Sector

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“I got into nonprofits to get rich”, said no one ever.

Let's face it. We don't go in this line of work for the money. We don't do it for the riches. If it leads to that, it's a (great) side bonus, but it's not likely to be the main focus. At the end of the day, we hope that our time and effort will make a dent in making the world a better place.

The nonprofit sector is infamous for being synonymous with “overworked yet underpaid”. In an article by CNN Money, Stressful Jobs That Pay Badly, many of the jobs listed are not only ones with low-median pay, but include titles you’ll find in the nonprofit sector- social workers, events coordinators, and fundraisers. Not everyone can have United Nations salaries.

But don't fret, because money doesn't have to be an additional source of stress. With proper budgeting, you can prepare yourself better for that nonprofit career of your dreams. Start now and make the transition easier. Let's look at some tried and tested budgeting tips.

Track your spending

Without knowing where your money goes, it's hard to allocate it well. Tracking your spending is one of the most over-given advice when it comes to budgeting tips, but for good reason: it works.

Most people don't realize their own financial leaks. For some people, that may be lattes. For me, it's the once-in-awhile app-buying sprees that turned out to be a fairly regular occurrence. It's good practice to realize your slip ups and take concrete steps to improve that expense category.

You can track your spending in many ways. Pen and paper method is old school but cool. I use a budgeting app. Every month, it gives me a summary of my spending habit, and total spent for the month. My aim is to always spend less than I earn.

Tackle the three biggest expenses first

The three biggest expenses for the average person are housing, transportation, and food – usually in that order. If any of your “non-essential” spending items made it in your top three, you have some explaining to do – to yourself.

By taking measures to reduce the cost of these three categories, you can shave a lot from your monthly expenses.

For housing, consider any of the following: get roommate(s), downsize your home, and rent out an unused room. Moving somewhere new for that job? Check out this new apartment checklist.

For transportation, consider any of the following: move closer to work (once you are confirmed. Bonus point: less commute time!), carpool, and cycle to work. If you have no choice but to buy a car, avoid these 4 car-buying mistakes.

For food, consider any (or all) of the following: pack your lunch, give yourself a budget for networking sessions and stick to it, do weekly meal planning, and buy food with long shelf life in bulk.

Automate as much as possible

There are two main things that you need to automate here: your recurring bills and your retirement allocation.

Your recurring bills should be automated because it can shave off at least a couple of hours of work a month. Those couple of hours are important, because it can be turned to a couple of hours of leisure instead. Do this, and you'll be thankful for your still-intact sanity. Just make sure to periodically check your bills to look for possible inaccuracies and be strict on those bills – no non-essential subscriptions, please!

Your retirement allocation should be automated because it's common to be too busy to save the world and forget to save yourself in the process. Do yourself a favour and contribute a healthy amount every month in a safe retirement account. You can even run the extra mile and invest in ethical companies through exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Websites like Ethical Consumer have free guides to Ethical Investment Funds, as well as tips on how to choose an ethical fund.

These budgeting tips are not exhaustive, nor are they exclusive for those pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. However, it’s a good place to start in addressing your financial health. Being in the nonprofit sector can be very rewarding for the soul. Make it financially rewarding as well.

About the Author: Suraya Zainudin writes for The New Savvy, a financial and career platform for women. The New Savvy empowers women through meaningful content that are relevant and practical. Suraya believes in women's empowerment and writes about personal finance, Bitcoin, FinTech, and nonprofits. A former NGO worker, Suraya have had 10 years’ experience in nonprofit organisations including in the line of intercultural exchange, HIV/AIDS, refugees, women’s human rights, and marginalised communities.  

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