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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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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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