If you want to make it in The Big City - or any City for that matter - you've got to get a grip on one thing. Your finances.

I have all kinds of great places to shop and tricks you can use to get the best deal. The most important thing you should know before you hunt down the next great sample sale:

You Need A Budget

Don't try to avoid this step. Most of us average young adults don't have an endless source of wealth furnishing our every need and desire. So how do you go about getting important things and the stuff you want? Organize your finances.

  • Plan out the things you'll have to spend your money on ahead of time.
  • List all of your expected or estimated income.
  • Adjust all of your discretionary expenses (like groceries and entertainment) so your total expenses don't outnumber your income.

I love using an app to do this. I tried to make Mint.com work for three years. It just doesn't cut it. Mint doesn't learn what category your expenses go towards. All of your data is used to market services that probably won't help your financial state. Most importantly, it doesn't handle transfer payments well.

These days I use Mvelopes.

budgeting app Mvelopes (photo credit)

Mvelopes is unique because of its funding process. First, you can assign your income, even each paycheck, to specific expenditures. When the income comes in, you can fund the envelope using the budget you created for it. Plus, Mvelopes pulls your transactions in from your banks and credit cards. You can even make an account for managing your cash expenditures.

Envelopes work because they force you to work with the cash you have. If you didn't have the money before you got to the store, and something is 50% off and a total steal, it's still 50% more than you had the money for.

So there you have it. The sober truth is that you need to have a working understanding of how much money you have, how much you owe, and how much you'll make, before you can really master buying the things you want at the right price for you.