19 Easy Ways To Save Money In Your 20s
From a cash diet to cutting the Netflix cord, fall 2017 is all about saving that moolah for millennials
Between millionaires blasting Gen-Yers for eating avocado toasts and reports of millennials spending $96 billion dollars on food, people love talking about twentysomethings spending habits. And while no one wants to discuss sexy topics like soaring college loans, unaffordable housing and the lagging job market, stashing money in the bank is one way you can hit your financial goals. Despite coming-of-age in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.
In honor of turning over a new leaf this fall, we've rounded up saving tips from credit card experts, personal finance gurus and podcasts hosts. Because saving money in your 20s sets you up for your future. Whether that's a house with a white picket fence or a yurt in an intentional living community, it pays to plan ahead.
Erin Lowry is the author of "Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together," also known as the book that she wishes she had when she was 17 years old. The personal finance expert made her name offering straightforward money managing advice on her now-syndicated blog. Here are her three practical ideas for ramping up your own savings this fall.
1. Nickname your savings accounts
Instead of just having a savings account with that reads Savings Account #495820 when you log into your bank account, consider changing the name to something specific. Maybe it's "Quit My Job January 2019" or "Japan Trip June 2018". The more specific you get, the less likely you are to keep skimming a little off the top each time your checking account dips a little low.
2. Set up a savings account at a different bank than your checking account
The old out of sight out of mind trick works really well here! Putting a savings account or two at a different bank than the one which houses your main checking account will reduce the temptation to keeping pulling savings into checking because you won't see it. It can start to accumulate a nice nest egg (assuming you regularly contribute to it). You also can't move the cash quickly as it generally takes about two business days for those funds to clear, so it's harder to take a little out in a moment of weakness. That being said, you probably want to still have some savings at your main bank incase an emergency pops up and you need to move cash quickly.
3. Take October to do a cash diet
A cash diet is really the juice cleanse of the financial world. It's probably not a long-term solution for you, but it can help curb cravings and get your finances back on track. If you're the kind of person who thinks you spend money faster when you have cash, it's probably more likely that you just notice how quickly you're spending money since the cash is disappearing from your wallet instead of just silently accumulating on your credit card.
Take one month to only spend cash for your day-to-day expenses . The easiest way to go about the cash diet is to first run your cash flow. How much is coming in minus how much is going out. (Income) - (Bills, debts, savings) = remaining cash to spend. Take that remainder, let's say it's $800, and divide by four. So you have $200 a week to spend on everything else like food, entertainment or transportation. Anytime you use your card instead of cash because you need to buy an item from Amazon or what have you, then take the corresponding money out of your wallet and roll it over to use the next week. For example, if you spent $20 buying dog food on Amazon in the first week, then you roll $20 over to the second week and only take out $180 when you go to the ATM. Using cash will really help you see how fast you're spending your money and make you think twice about your purchases.
In 2006, New Yorker Cathy Erway decided to stop eating at restaurants and cafes entirely. Saving $7,000 over the course of two years, she chronicled her journey on the hit blog, Not Eating Out in New York. Since then she's authored numerous cookbooks, including "The Art of Eating In," and championed many slow food movements. Here are her crafty ideas for saving some of that cheddar.
4. Get a nice bento box, mason jar, or even a travel mug to bring your lunch and drinks on the go
They’re more durable and versatile than Tupperware, and getting new containers that you actually like should help motivate you to make your own food and coffee more often. How many containers do you cycle through in an average week from takeout? Think how much trash you’ll save—in addition to money.
5. Use a starter culture
Do you spend a ton on little cups of yogurt? You can get a starter culture for yogurt or kefir online easily nowadays, if you don’t have a friend-of-friend or neighbor’s-grandma to get some from, and make yogurt at home by feeding it some milk every day.
Or, do you love crusty sourdough bread? Get a sourdough starter going—it can survive being neglected at times until you get around to making bread. And once you do, chances are you won’t want to stop.
6. Entertain at home more often
Early fall is a great time for throwing dinner parties and potlucks — it’s no longer too hot to crank the oven, but there is still great seasonal produce aplenty. Try doing this monthly or even weekly with your pals instead of meeting up at the bar or the fancy pizza place. Heck, make your own fancy pizzas! You’ll have plenty of time to relax at your table and won’t have to deal with a huge check at the end of the night.
7. Go veggie in the kitchen
One of the easiest ways my wife and I have been saving money right now is cutting down on our meat and processed side dishes from the grocery store, opting to cook a lot of veggies instead. We aren't vegan or vegetarian in any way, but we are finding some really good recipes on food blogs (Damn Delicious is the bomb), as well as cool food videos on Instagram.
8. Negotiate better contracts on recurring bills
Another great one is to take a little time and go over some of your recurring monthly bills like cell phone, car insurance and electricity. If one of them is expiring soon, you can either call and try to negotiate a better price for renewing or start shopping around and finding better deals. Some cell phone companies are running great prices on their data packages, but they aren't going out of their way to tell existing customers that they could be paying less.
9. Consider refinancing your debt
Check into refinancing any debt you have while interest rates are still very low. The Fed is going to continue to raise rates throughout this year and into the next, so this is a great time to at least shop around and see if you can get a great rate before the coming hikes. Even 1% can save you a ton of cash every month with student loans and mortgages.
10. Shop around for the best cash back card for you
One easy way to save is to snag a cash back card that pays you for the ways you are already spending. You could be getting 6% cash back on groceries with an American Express Blue Cash Preferred or 5% back on Amazon purchases with an Amazon Rewards Signature Visa card, for example. Look at how you are currently spending, find a card that will give you cash back for it (or at least a flat 1 to 2% rate on all purchases) and start saving.
Note: This tip only applies to people who are paying off their balance in full each month and not paying interest.
11. Get a better bank account
If your bank account is charging you unnecessary fees and a nonexistent interest rate for your savings, then it's time to shop around and a better fit for you. You can avoid fees, ratchet up your savings rate and start seeing your money grow.
12. Shop sales
If you're in the market for a new home desk or home office supplies, fall is the time to buy them. Everything from furniture to computers to clothing is marked down. Don't forget to check the clearance racks.
Shortly after tying the knot, Zack McCullock and his wife moved into a camper for 11 months to pay down their $50,000 in student debt and car loans. Now the author of hit personal finance site, Free Up, here are McCullock's fun ways to stash away cash for his financial goals.
It's easy to get swept away in buying droves of books on Amazon. Instead of doing that this month, browse Amazon for books but instead of buying them, save them to your cart and head to your local library and get your books for free. This way you still see great reading suggestions and reviews, you just don't have to pay for them in the end.
14. Reduce your subscriptions
Subscriptions are deceiving because companies know it's easy to get smaller monthly charges out of your pocket every month without you noticing. Try ditching your Audible, Hulu or Netflix subscriptions to save some extra cash. If you are still a traditional cable user, consider switching to a cheaper option like Netflix.
15. Practice delayed gratification
Strategically planning larger purchases can save you hundreds. As a rule of thumb, electronics are always best to buy during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while travel prices tend to decrease between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Can you say, Italy in October?
Millennial blogger LaTisha Styles is the tour-de-force behind personal finance site, Young Finances. Here is her tip for putting cold, hard cash to a better use.
16. Check your energy bills
As the summer months fade and fall begins, you may be in a location where you can take advantage of the weather outside. Open the windows to get a breeze. Then, take a look at your electric and gas bills. Contact your energy provider and check to see if they offer average usage billing. This type of billing makes monthly budgeting that much easier. As the weather starts to change and you use more electricity or gas to warm your home, your energy bill will not fluctuate.
17. Don't buy new
Between thrift stores, Craigslist and the Facebook marketplace you can snag steep discounts on most anything lightly used. In fact, you can use this to make some extra money. My wife frequently buys name-brand clothes at Goodwill for $1-$3 and resells them online for over $30 a piece.
18. Consider using services to get a percentage back on online purchases
When you are going to buy online, use a service like Swagbucks, Ibotta or Butterfly Saves to get a percentage back on your purchase.
19. Travel in the off-season
Love the Caribbean? Head there in July. Always wanted to see the Duomo? Visit Firenze this November. We're still seeing airfare at rock bottom prices, and as long as you stick to the off-season, you can save serious cash on hotels and restaurants. An added perk? No crowds.
Alexandra Talty, Contributor
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