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10 Biggest Money Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

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10 Biggest Money Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

Your twenties are a tumultuous time. From courtship to education, the temptation to shell out hefty sums is constant. Sail into your next decade financially secure by avoiding the biggest money mistakes made by twenty-somethings:

1. Loving, gettin’ down, or marrying in a way not supported by your income.

Whether it’s rounds of $10 drinks, or shelling out thousands for an engagement, modern courtship is expensive. Remember that you are looking for a partner who shares your values, and one that you can build a future with. Futures require money. Instead of expending it on a wedding, put it toward homes, cars, or anything else your long-term vision holds.

2. College “just because.”

Many young people enter their twenties already saddled with student loans, to be carried throughout this decade and perhaps into the next. Before you commit to an expensive educational path, confirm that your desired career field requires it–perhaps a trade school, certificate, or apprenticeship would be equally effective. If you do not yet know what you want to pursue professionally, work for a year and explore that question. Do you want to find out the answer while you’re making a little money, or throwing it away on classes you may not like or need?

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3. Going into debt.

Talk to nearly any financially successful individual in their 40s and 50s, and they will laugh about the days of eating nothing but cheap pasta, hitting up the laundromat, and meeting new friends on the city bus. They had these adventures in their 20s. Now, before you have a family, want to make a career change, or need to buy a house, is the time to pinch pennies. Pinch them hard, and be careful to distinguish between needs and wants–every cent you save will be used in the years to come.

4. Living off credit cards.

What’s a surefire way to end up in spiraling, increasing debt? Living off your credit cards. Limit yourself to one card with cash rewards. Purchase only what you can afford at that moment and pay it off regularly.

5. Borrowing money for cars.

If you’re in your twenties, you don’t need a fancy ride. Period. You definitely don’t need a car note. What you need is a reliable vehicle with great gas mileage. You may not be able to afford a car immediately. Urban areas likely have buses or van pools; rural communities may have ride-sharing boards. Get creative.

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6. Neglecting the future.

We never know what the future holds but, with proper planning, we can prepare for it. Start saving for retirement now, with an eye toward investment options that earn tax breaks, such as contributions to a Roth IRA.

7. Harboring illusions about the present.

An appropriate emergency fund includes sufficient savings to cover up to six months of living expenses should you suddenly lose your job. More is better. What if you lose your job, your car breaks down, and a child needs braces, all in the same week?  Stranger things have happened, so start building up your emergency fund today.

8. Forgoing insurance.

You are not invincible. You can either learn that now, or when you are plunged into debt to pay the ambulance fee and surgical costs from a medical emergency, when the other driver sues you after a car accident, or when struggling to replace personal items after a break-in. Shop around for competitive rates, then budget and properly insure yourself and your property.

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9. Failing to plan.

A good financial plan is absolutely necessary to maximize your income, help you invest smartly, and avoid unnecessary taxes every year. Invest in an annual session with a financial planning professional, hire a good CPA come tax time, or hit the library and study up on your own.

10. Turning to family and friends.

Relationships end when money gets involved, especially if you borrow and are later unable to pay them back. Preserve your friendships and family ties by going to an appropriate source for loans if you do find yourself in need of extra funds–the bank.

Sound like a tall order? Creating a solid financial state is not easy, but with diligence and perseverance, you can use your twenties to build the foundation you dream of.

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Need more specific guidance?  Check out these tips from a professional financial advisor.

Featured photo credit: Jennifer Correa via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

Some easy ways to save money:

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  1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
  2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
  3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
  4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
  5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
  6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
  7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
  8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
  9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
  10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
  11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
  12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
  13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
      a reusable water bottle and refill it.
    • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
    • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
    • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
    • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
    • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
    • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
    • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
    • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
    • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
    • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
    • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
    • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
    • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
    • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
    • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
    • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
    • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
    • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
    • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

    Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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    Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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