If our 20s have taught us anything, it’s that we never knew managing our finances would be so difficult! With soaring college costs, credit card/student loan debt, and being weaned off of Mom and Dad’s dime, we think it’s important for twenty-somethings to be smart about their money. The little things add up, darling! So, here are our tips for saving money in your 20s:
1. Embrace ramen as a food group
2. Go shopping in your closet. At the start of each season, take an assessment of what you already have and think about what few pieces you can add.
3. Buy generic!
4. Don’t go to college. (We’re kidding, mostly.)
5. Find a good seamstress and cobbler. Seriously, a cobbler can make shoes you thought were done like new again, and a great seamstress will expertly patch those holes that rub into the inner thighs of your jeans. (Totally normal if you walk a lot.)
6. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the finer things in life. Keep an eye out for bargains when you’re in the mood to splurge and sign up for your local Groupons.
7. Stop buying prepared meals, fast food, and frozen dinners, and start making your own! Buy basic ingredients in bulk quantities and invest in some Tupperware. You can freeze individual portions and save money in the long run.
8. Bite the bullet and sign up for a Mint.com account. Keep track of how you’re spending your money. It might be a little shocking to see just where all your hard-earned cash is going, but knowledge is power.
9. Put yourself on a bar budget! Happy hours and Saturday nights out are fun, but they’re a drain on your wallet. Decide how much money you’re willing to spend when you’re out on the town, and try carrying that amount in cash. It’ll save you from spur-of-the-moment decisions involving a super tasty-sounding cocktail and your credit card.
10. Transit costs got you down? Try biking around town! And if you’re living in a city, see if there’s a bike sharing system. You’ll cut costs on gas, metro rides, bus fares, and you’ll get in a work-out without the gym fees!
11. UNROLL.ME If you love to shop online, then your inbox is full of deals telling you what great sales are going on at all your favorite stores. Unroll.me lets you bulk unsubscribe if you have that much will power, or roll-up all those promotions in one email a day. My online shopping went from absurd “must-have” buys to about a 50 percent drop on my credit card each month. It’s astounding what removing temptation can do for you.
12. Take advantage of the perks of your job (or even unpaid internship). Free food after an event? That’s one more meal you won’t have to fork over money for. Open bar? No explanation needed.
13. Don’t take any more money with you when you’re leaving the house than you want to spend. This applies for groceries, going to the bar, traveling, etc. Draw that money out in cash and try not to exceed that budget. Usually, if there are emergencies or exceptions, credit or debit cards are handy, but having a physical amount of cash lets you remember your limitation as a concrete number rather than some vague round-up.
14. Never buy your textbooks full price! Try Amazon, Half.com, or Textbookrentals.com for cheaper options.
15. Plan your snacks ahead of time. You’ll find that if you don’t have snacks on hand and you’re really hungry, you’ll pay the high price for a cup of yogurt or a granola bar at a Bodega/7-11/Starbucks. If you know what you usually crave ahead of time and buy those items in bulk when you’re at Costco, or order a pack of your favorite chocolate bar splurge on Amazon, then you’ll save money in the long run (even if there is a higher cost upfront). Keep extra snacks everywhere, like in your purse, in your desk at work, in your apartment. Make sure to have variety, too, because you’ll find yourself getting tired of eating the same snack over and over, and you’re more likely to stick to the plan if you have choices. This same rule can be applied to toilet paper and paper towels. (Yes you can order these on Amazon!)
16. Do upgrade to high speed Internet, don’t buy cable. The best solution for watching all the shows you love on your TV without cable is to buy an Apple TV. The hardware costs $100 (pretty cheap if you’re splitting it with roommates!), but you can easily hook it up to the most popular streaming services including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and HBO Go. You can also use all these subscription services while you aren’t home so you’ll get more bang for your buck out of your TV, which is great if you travel for work. Plus, it’s great for uploading photos and playing music if you’re having party. Choosing the high-speed Internet option will reduce headaches like slow streaming, and it makes the Internet much more reliable if you’re sharing with multiple people.
17. Before you buy a new piece of clothing, think of at least three outfit combinations it will pair well with. There’s nothing worse than buying a top you love and realizing that it only really matches one skirt in your closet.
18. Learn how to paint your own nails. Buy a good manicure set and a few nice nail polish colors: Two bottles of Essie cost <$15, which is about the cost of your average manicure. Get a few eyeshadow brushes (Target has the Sonia Kashuk brand for cheap) and some 100 percent acetone to help clean up around the nail beds. You’d be surprised how much better your nails look if you can touch them up when you’re done.
19. Get a local library card. That way you can skip Barnes & Noble and read books before you buy them. Then if you hated one, you didn’t spend any money on it, and if you loved it, you know and you can go pick it up from the bookstore. Plus, local libraries often have tiny used bookstores inside them—perfect for picking up little paperbacks of those classics you love for really cheap.
20. When you have to make big purchases, like for new electronics, do your research online. Read product reviews on Amazon and other websites. Be an informed buyer so you don’t end up with something cheap and inefficient that you’ll just have to spend more money replacing in the near future.
21. Invest in a Tassimo or Keurig for your daily coffee/tea fix. We all love the experience of heading to the local coffee shop and getting a drink, but our wallets sure don’t love the price. By purchasing a single-cup coffee maker, you can make dozens of different hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, lattes, etc.) at home for a fraction of the cost in the long run.
22. Create a budget. If you have a set income, divvy up your weekly or bi-weekly paycheck according to your bills and stick to only that amount per week. Be sure to include entertainment and savings as “bills” too. If you have an income that fluctuates, such as a freelance job, start with calculating your bills. Then use that number to figure out how much you need to make per week to cover everything and still leave some money in the bank. (Hint: A Google Doc spreadsheet is the best way to keep track of it all. You can access it from any device with Internet and it can be shared with parents or spouses if need be.)
23. Go to HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross for home decor! Restoration Hardware and Z Gallerie are great and all, but splurging for the home isn’t always a good idea. Especially since we move around a lot as twenty-somethings. Hit up discount stores for otherwise pricey items, like furniture, lamps, bedding, wall decor and rugs. Cheap can be chic, darling!
What do you do to save a buck? Tweet us your advice @litdarling !
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