As a new young professional with your first job and own apartment, you are finally going off into the world without the full support of mom and dad. After the Sexy in the City glamour has faded, you’ve probably realized that managing your personal finances has ended up being a lot tougher than you expected. It can be overwhelming, but you shouldn’t feel alone. In fact, a lack of financial literacy is common among Millennials, or “twenty-somethings.”
There are obvious and necessary things Millennials need to know, like how to manage your credit cards, but this list (written by a twenty-something and not some 50-year-old who doesn’t understand what it’s like to be 20 today) focuses on 7 practical things you can integrate into your everyday life to keep your costs under control.
Whether it’s a mojito, a non-fat latte, or just a Coke, cutting costs is all about the drinks. Those little 16 oz. bills can really add up! For instance, let’s say you buy a fountain drink (at around $2.50 each) for two of your meals a day, by the end of the month you’ve spent at least $150 on liquids alone. When at restaurants, opting for free water is a big money-saver. If you go to a bar, take advantage of happy hour. And, when it comes to your morning coffee, wake up 15 minutes earlier and make your own at home.
Awe … isn’t that kitty cute? No, it’s expensive is what it is. At some point a dog will show up on your doorstep, your friend’s cat will have kittens, or you’ll hear a Sarah McLachlan song and want to adopt a puppy. However, animals are one of the most costly responsibilities a young professional can undertake. The ASPCA reports that the total cost of owning a medium-sized dog, for just the first year, averages around $1,580. (Even a goldfish can cost you $235 the first year!) Do not buy an animal until you have a moderate to large disposable income. But if you are really itching to spend some time with a furry friend, offer to pet sit for friends and family. It’s a great way to satisfy your urge, while making a few bucks in the process.
Downgrade your Data-plan
Cellphone plans are chock-full of features that just appear to be necessary. Sit down one evening and review your cellular activity for the past 2-3 months and see if you are underutilizing your minutes, text messages, or data. Then make changes to your plan accordingly. Start relying more on Wi-Fi at your house or your job alone and less on your data plan and you will be surprised how little of your data plan you use.
Millennials are infamous for our adoption of the Internet, so put it to good use. Ebay, Craigslist, and Amazon are all great places to save money on everyday purchases. You can save on a case for your phone or even a car part for which the local auto repair shop wanted to charge you twice as much. You may have to wait a bit, but these purchases can save you a fortune.
Spend your Money Immediately
That’s right. Spend your money – on your bills. You’ll never get penalized for paying your bills early, but you will if you pay them late. Paying your bills early keeps you from getting tempted to spend that money before they’re due and keeps you from accruing late fees.
Cook for an Hour, Eat for a Week
Eating out can cost you a fortune, but cooking every day can cost you hours. So, pick one day a week and dedicate a few hours to prepare your meals for the week. Preparing easy-to-heat meals like this will save you time, yet cut out the added expense of eating out.
Make a Budget
This last one sounds the easiest, but it’s honestly the hardest. Actually writing down your expenses on a document can not only help you keep track of your spending patterns, but it can also help you hold yourself accountable. A great beginner’s template is offered by Microsoft Office. It has a very modern infographic-like look, which is perfect for a young professional.
When you’re trying to establish yourself financially as a young professional, it seems as though everyone is willing to talk about the big things like credit card APRs and consolidating student loans. But, the little daily expenses are equally important. There are countless small ways that you can save money every day. Just be creative, judicious, and frugal.
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