Being at the forefront of adulthood is a tricky phase to manage. We are looking for a new job, trying to navigate the world outside the college cocoon, and calculating how we could ever afford to leave our parents’ house. We may feel just lost for a while but slowly we all catch up, start making smarter decisions and moving on. With a little willpower and the right guidance, one of those decisions should be to adopt a more budget-friendly lifestyle.
It’s exhilarating when you finally have your own paycheck and the world feels like your oyster. Maybe you’ve been saving for that perfect apartment? Or are you a first time apartment renter with a bright future and minimal furniture? With credit cards it’s pretty tempting these days to throw money at all that you desire. How can you help yourself when you see a strategically shot Instagram with your dream outfit, shoes and all? How do you resist an invitation to a fun dinner out with friends? We’re young and trying to live our life to the fullest, until a moment of truth arrives when we realize that the checking account balance is lower than anticipated and the rent is due. We all know the feeling.
As a fellow millennial, I would like to share a few proven tips for penny pinching and living on your own without breaking the bank.
- Set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. “Save your money!” is the constant reminder from our elders. If you set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck, these savings will happen like clockwork; you’ll never have to remember to make a manual transfer to your savings. The money that you set aside can be for future expenses, emergencies, or perhaps a little vacation fund. Always save. Always!
- Determine your wants and needs. Trust me, it’s so easy to just swipe but my greatest advice is to think before you swipe. Do you have 10 black and white striped shirts already? Do you have clothing items you haven’t worn yet? Then put that blouse down! There is a huge different between your wants and needs. For example, you need toilet paper but you don’t need another pair of brown leather wedges. You want a trip to Cape Cod but you need to pay your rent. Take a moment and think.
- Download the Mint app. I have been hearing people talk about this app for a very long time and how it helped them to manage their spending with a more visual presentation of their budget, as opposed to just a list on a piece of paper. This app is free in the iTunes store and connects to your checking account. It categorizes each transaction, which helps to show where most of your money is going. Going out to eat too much? Out for two nights in a row with a hefty bar tab? It will give you a pie chart of all your spending categories and reminds you when the bills are due. Know what you have, where it has to go, and when you need to show some willpower. (You can find more information about budgeting apps here.)
- More cooking, less eating out. Eating out is one of the simple joys of life but once you overdo it, it can weigh heavily on your budget. Since I have been living on my own, I have been trying to cook weekly at least one meal with tasty leftovers. For example, if I make a soup that serves four, I’ll eat leftovers for lunch or dinner. It helps to keep cost down. Find some easy, inexpensive recipes to try, as well.
- Cut the coffee runs. Just try it. You can save a fortune by making your own coffee. Cut down on the trips to the hipster coffee shop around the corner that has more kinds of coffee beans than you can count. For my caffeinated fans, I know it is easier said than done but that saved money can possibly go towards a new rug or grocery money for the week. Imagine that! (Bonus tip: Buy your coffee beans from that fancy coffee shop, but brew your coffee at home. You’ll drink the coffee you love and still save a bundle.)
- Keep your coins and wrap em! Coins are money and sometimes we forget that. Although its only 5 cents or 25 cents, it’s real money. Get into a habit of emptying all your change into a piggy bank at the end of the day, and wrap the coins and deposit to savings monthly. It may not be a lot but every little bit helps.
- Buy it only if you love it. If you don’t see yourself wearing an outfit every chance you get, just walk away. Its easy to buy things, then forget about them as they fall to the back of your closet. Honestly, people don’t remember your outfits. Just give an old outfit a new spin!
- All bonuses go to your savings. Whenever I get a bonus at work (holiday bonus, promotion bonus, any excess amount of funds), I made the decision to always put the money into my savings. And most importantly, I decided not to touch that money at all. As I have said before, save, save, save!! You never know what type of obstacles you will experience in life. Heaven forbid, a toilet overflows or your drunk friend splits your table in half by jumping on it. Just save!
- Be lazy and stay in. Doing activities with your friends is fun but if you’re going on adventures every weekend and getting yourself a nice Margarita afterwards, then its time to cut back. Fill your time with free activities like hiking or reading. Its nice to just stop once in awhile and enjoy time to yourself. You can relish the silence AND save money.
- Focus on yourself, not others. With the daily stalking of social media, its easy to start comparing yourself to what others have and where they go. Oh, is that friend going on yet another island vacation? Did that guy get a new watch that you’ve been eyeing? Bring yourself back to earth and focus on what you need for yourself. How can you start thriving in this world? What do you need to be better? How can you control your budget and plan for the future?
This all may seem like small attitude changes or slight changes in routine but they can mean everything when it comes to staying within your budget. Whether they help you save $20 or $50 or $100 more a month, its better than savings nothing at all.
Congratulations, now you are ready to join the rest of us millennial penny pinchers!