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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 January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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