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10 Ways To Avoid Getting Into Debt In Your 20’s

10 Ways To Avoid Getting Into Debt In Your 20’s

Your late teens and early 20’s are times in your life when many people are making transitions from dependency to independence. With that, comes financial independence. Maybe you’re in college, or have just moved out of the house you grew up in.

Regardless, learning to balance rent, bills, groceries and other expenses can come as quite a shock, and many young adults end up accruing large debts that can plague them for years on end.

Many young adults are targeted by usurious credit lenders, offering high interest credit facilities such as credit cards, department store-specific cards and loans. These are often sold to young adults as a safety net for emergencies, but the reality is that frequently, these credit facilities are maxed out very quickly, saddling the borrower with high-interest debts that can take years to pay off.

Here are some simple, no nonsense pieces of advice for any young adult who wants to live a debt-free, stress-free life during their best years.

1. Avoid credit cards

If we could give one piece of financial advice to anybody in their 20’s, it would be this. You may think that it’s a good idea to have a credit card for emergencies, or to use one to improve your credit rating, and although these are all well and good, the reality is that credit cards are rarely used for these purposes, and the temptation to spend on them is always there.

Credit card companies aim to get people into debt while they’re young, and keep them their by bleeding them very slowly (through minimum payments and compound interest). Credit lenders are masters of making money, and they will play on your fear of being broke to mislead you into getting a credit card.

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The only real way to beat the credit card companies is not to get a credit card.

2. Overestimate your outgoings, underestimate your income

It always makes sense to have a budget for rent, bills, food and other expenses, but one thing that people seem to neglect to factor into their budget is that income and outgoings can fluctuate wildly. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to draw up a budget using your maximum estimated outgoings, and your minimum estimated income.

Remember that if you are sick one month, your income will decrease, and during the winter, your heating bills will increase. Using this method should help to ensure that there are no nasty surprises at the end of the month when the figures don’t match up.

3. Be prepared for sudden expenses

Never make the mistake of assuming that things won’t go wrong. Things will break, prices will rise and fines will be charged. When drawing up a budget, I find it’s wise to set aside 15% of your income just as a buffer against sudden expenses.

Your car might breakdown, your boiler might go on the fritz, your dog might get sick. Be prepared for this.

4. Accept that you may not be able to afford luxuries all the time

Luxury items bring fleeting and temporary happiness, which dissipate as quickly as they come. Expensive clothes, technology and furniture actually do very little (if anything) to improve your life and general satisfaction levels.

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That’s why it’s better to invest in doing things rather than having things. You don’t have to live a bare-essentials lifestyle, but cutting back on unnecessary luxuries during your younger years will not only save you a mountain of debt that you’ll have to pay off, but will also allow you to live a simpler, more care-free existence.

In the words of Roger J Corless, “Happiness is not something I have, it is something I myself want to be. Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over my body.”

5. Give yourself an allowance and stick to it

Sticking to a budget is often easier said than done. We often find the easiest way to regulate spending is to have an account which your wages are paid into, and a separate account for spending, and then arrange for a set amount to be paid into the spending account (either monthly, weekly or even daily), to ensure that you can keep track of your finances without overspending.

6. Save for things you really want

One of the side effects of the western fast-food culture of instant gratification, is that we struggle to get our heads around the concept of waiting to get what we want. In fact, we have all sort of credit schemes set up to actively encourage us not to wait.

Almost anything these days can be bought on credit. This usually involves making small, monthly payments for years on end at a massively inflated interest rate. It all seems very manageable, but one small payment added to another small payment, and another and another all begins to add up.

Before long, your disposable income has shrunk down to such a small amount that you can barely afford to buy gas for that over-sized car you’re still paying off. And what happens if you lose your job and can’t afford to make the repayments? Well, then you have to hand it all back.

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7. Learn to enjoy the little things

Some of the best things in life cost little to nothing. You can’t put a price on good company, laughter or fun. Anyone who claims that you can’t have fun without spending money probably isn’t much fun to begin with. Some of the best activities in your life life can absolutely be cheap or free. Trade TV and computer games for socializing, and you’ll find life becomes richer (and you, too!).

8. Use savings to pay off debts

This is one of the most obvious but commonly overlooked ways to reduce your debt level. If you have $1,000 of debt, accruing interest at 18% APR (if you were so lucky as to have it so low), and $1,000 in savings, accruing interest at 3% APR (if you were so lucky as to have it so high), then you would immediately save yourself money by paying off your debts with your savings.

There is pretty much no scenario in which you will be borrowing money at a lower rate than the interest on a savings account.

9. Pay debts on time

If you have debts to pay, make sure you have the correct direct debits/standing orders and available money to pay them on time. Often the charges for missing payments can cause your initial debt to soar, which can lead to spiraling debts and financial chaos. Always ensure you know when money is due to be paid, and ensure that you have the funds set aside to do so.

10. Interest-free credit is not free money

Just because something says it is interest free for six months, don’t assume that this means you have just been given a fistful of free cash. These offers are setup to deliberately encourage reckless spending, and as soon as the interest-free period is over, you’re saddled with a high interest rate on an insurmountable heap of debt, which you probably don’t have much to show for.

Now, we know what you’re thinking; you could just put all of the money in a savings account, wait until the six months is up, and then pay it all off, keeping all of the interest accrued for yourself.

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Great idea… In theory. The reality is that less than 1% of people who attempt this actually manage it. Your creditors know this. They are not stupid, they know how to get you into debt and keep you there for as long as possible. Don’t be caught out.

Hopefully, this has given you some insight into how to avoid debt. Debt is a totally unnecessary stress that the majority of us deal with throughout our lives. Your younger years should be spent enjoying the simpler things in life, not over-complicating it with financial worries.

With a little calculation, and a lot of impulse control, you can have a fun, free and fulfilling life. Without Debt.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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JC Axe

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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