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Simple Tips to Manage Spending as a Young Professional

Simple Tips to Manage Spending as a Young Professional

Graduating from school and entering the workforce is an incredible feeling. Not only are you finally done with the initial learning phase of your career, but you’re also FINALLY getting paid for your time rather than paying for classes. Although you’ll miss the football games and the raging house parties, a salary that comes along with a hands-on learning experience is a pretty decent trade-off. The problem is, this newfound income has a habit of giving young professionals a false sense of mega wealth.

If you’ve just graduated and are finally entering the beginning stages of your career, a few tips to manage your spending might help you refrain from overspending with a salary that seems basically limitless compared to the hourly wages of your college job. Here are five simple ways you can effectively manage your spending as a young professional.

1. Use your apps

Our generation is fortunate to have a strong force on our side in terms of budgeting – technology. There is certainly no shortage of apps that can help you track your spending, manage your finances, and even break into the stock market. Here are a few you should check out:

Mint is a popular finance app option among Millennials. This app provides a snapshot of your spending to show you which areas of your life you’re spending most on. It also helps you keep track of your credit score and bill payments.

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Level Money is another fantastic app for budgeting that works a little differently than Mint. Once you connect the app to your bank account, it automatically calculates your income and recurring bills to provide you with suggestions for what your daily, weekly, and monthly spending should be.

If you’re looking for a simple way to start investing, the Acorns app is a fantastic option. This app links up to your bank account to automatically invest your spare change in selected stocks. For example, if I spent $3.50 on a snack, the remaining $.50 would be invested.

2. Set savings goals

One of the most common mistakes Millennials make in terms of spending is to spend everything and save nothing. Starting a solid savings account will come in handy when unexpected expenses come up, but it will be even more important when you need to come up with a down payment to purchase a home or car.

If you’re like most of us and are a bit unsure of where to start saving and how much you should be putting away, the Money for 20s expert at About.com has an awesome guide you should check out for more info.

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3. Figure out salary/raises after taxes

One of the biggest shocks most Millennials face after receiving their first salaried paycheck is realizing how small it actually is in comparison to the monthly figure they came up with in their head after accepting the offer. This is because taxes take out A LOT of the money you think you’ll see each month. To prepare yourself for the actual amount you’ll be making and avoid overspending, you’ll want to calculate your actual earnings after taxes and on a monthly basis.

This can help you understand not only what your monthly pay will be like, but also how big of an impact your raises might actually make on your monthly earnings.

To check out what your salary will really be after taxes, you can use a salary calculator. I found that this one from ADP was accurate while also providing a simple calculation process.

4. Find less expensive entertainment options

If you’ve ever checked out your bank statement after a night out, you know how much a simple night of bar hopping or clubbing can cost you. If you start tracking your spending and realize that you’re spending the bulk of your monthly income on entertainment, it might be time to cut back a little.

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Although this can be exceptionally tough for a young professional with coworkers who like to hit the bars after work or go out for lunches, there are definitely alternative ways to spend time with your coworkers that won’t be quite as detrimental to your wallet.

Instead of going out for drinks one night, maybe consider having a small, potluck style happy hour at your place. If you’re really looking to save, maybe suggest checking out a new hike with your coworkers or taking a trip to the park for ultimate Frisbee instead.

5. Follow budgeting gurus

The final piece of advice I have to offer is to keep an eye out for new money-saving tips and tricks from the financial pros. As the world changes and spending needs change along with it, it’s nice to have some extra support from others who can help you better understand how to stay thrifty and keep your spending in check.

Find a few solid blogs to follow for ongoing information and advice. I highly recommend checking out this resource with a list of some of the top finance blogs in 2016 to make your research a little easier. Once you’ve got a few blogs in mind, check out their social accounts and follow them to keep up on their latest posts. If you’d prefer to check out each site when you have time, you could simply bookmark each blog in your default browser to easily access each one when you’re ready to do some financial reading.

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Now that you’ve been given a few simple steps to save as a young professional, it’s time to part putting them into action. Even if you’ve yet to land a job with a professional salary, it can still be super beneficial to start implementing these tips now to prepare for when you’re managing a larger check.

If you have any additional tips or questions, I’d love to hear them. Let me know in the comments below!

Featured photo credit: iStock via istockphoto.com

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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