Nothing leaves a bad taste in my mouth more than people generalizing the millennial generations as being helplessly broke (well, maybe besides the term millennial itself). We’re stereotypically marked as having a lack of elbow grease in the workplace and a pitiful back account to match. While it may be true for some – yes, I am talking to you gals strutting your stuff in Louboutins on a $35,000 salary, it doesn’t have to be the reality for all.
Take it from me, a tightfisted twenty-something budding professional – your twenties don’t have to come back and bite you in the ass later. Here’s how:
1. Don’t get a credit card. You don’t need one and it will most likely be your demise if you weren’t raised by penny-pinching people. If you want to build your credit, get a secured credit card from your bank, set yourself a low credit limit and pay it in full each month. Try only using it for gas. I set my first limit at $250.00 and only used it fuel up; keep it in the car and don’t use it for anything else (not even a Red Bull from the convenience shop). You’ll safely build your credit without the temptation of high limits that you definitely won’t be able to pay off each month.
2. Befriend the thrift store. There is no shame in shopping second hand, y’all. From dishes to stilettos, your local thrift store is probably packed with hidden designer gems that will fulfill all your retail therapy needs (on a safe and healthy budget). More importantly, know that your local thrift store has sales! Yes, real sales like department stores so you should know about those and shop them – often. The trick to finding success in thrifting is to be thorough and visit frequently. Take a friend; it’s fun!
3. Find a cheap hobby. Idle time can be incredibly difficult when money is tight. Getting yourself involved in a low cost hobby will keep your busy not spending the money you don’t have. What’s the cheapest hobby you can possibly find? Volunteering. Find a cause you feel close to and spend those hours you’d normally shop online after a glass of wine or walk aimlessly around a mall putting your skills to use in the community. You’ll gain relevant experience for your resume, meet new connections and who knows – you might even land your next big gig.
4. Don’t live above your means. If you’re making $2,100 a month, you shouldn’t be renting a $1,500 apartment. Your rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly income. Know your weakness in spending. If it’s going out to eat, buy a new cookbook and cook every recipe in it before you allow yourself to eat out again. Don’t buy frozen dinners at $3.00 a piece, pack your lunch for $1.75. You don’t need a pedicure every two weeks, how about one every other month? You’ve got to make your salary work for you; make it a game to meet your personal financial goals.
5. Start saving. Even if you feel broker than broke, you still have room to save. If your job offers a retirement plan with any match, you’re missing out on free money if you don’t put away at least that much. You won’t notice a missing $10 from each paycheck. Use online tools from your bank, which are most often free, to start a budget and set financial goals. If you pay off a loan, keep pretending to pay that same amount but tuck it into savings; you’ll thank yourself when you have the means take a nice vacation or put a down payment on a car.