Practical Ways for Young Adults to Sharpen Their Money Skills

As new college graduates, young professionals, and others in their twenties launch their careers, they get bombarded with tempting ways to spend money. For many, handling a more considerable income and “adult” expenses like rent, utilities, and insurance, is anew experience. Now more than ever, money management will be a skill needed to meet future saving and investing goals.

Here are tips for twenty-somethings to help control spending and manage their money.

Buy cheap.

When you were spending mom and dad’s money, it was easy not to worry about the price tags. Now is the time to learn how to spend less and pay more attention to the costs of everything you’re buying.

You’ll find that the budget options are frequently just as good as products that cost more. For example, try generic store brands the next time you go shopping. Buying less expensive items is like getting free money, so take advantage.

Buying used is another way to “buy cheap,” but the idea turns many people off. They think that these types of products might be unclean or defective. The truth is that most people barely use the things they own. These items often wind up at thrift stores or outlets such as eBay. If you buy used items instead of new ones, you can save thousands of dollars each year while getting great deals on items that are almost as good as new.

Dine out less.

Eating fancy foods, or even fast food, can be a costly habit, so cut back. Eating out is almost always more expensive than making something at home.

Restrict yourself to a few visits to a restaurant a month. Simple foods prepared at home are usually healthier, anyway. Prepare your meals ahead of time, then bring them to work with you. Most offices have microwaves, so you’re not limited to cold lunches, either. Try to think of eating out as a rare indulgence instead of a part of your routine.

Make a budget.

Maintaining control of your spending will be a challenge. Many people are perpetually surprised at how much they spend every month.

Start keeping track of every purchase you make. At the end of the month, go back over your purchases and see how many of them were really worth it. Then use this information to set a budget you can stick to for the next month. This practice will serve you well your entire life.

Be careful with credit cards.

Credit cards are a great way to build your credit, but they can also be one of the most common sources of financial disaster. Just remember, credit cards are simply another form of payment. Don’t let the fact that you can push off paying your bill to the end of the month trick you. If you don’t pay off your bill completely every cycle, you will accrue charges and pay much more in the long run.

The decision to get a credit card and use it is a serious one, and it’s important to evaluate the potential risks as well as the benefits. Paying with plastic offers excellent convenience and several other perks, but there are risks along the way. Here is a list of pros and cons associated with having credit cards:

PROS

Convenience – It is hard to beat the convenience credit cards offer. With that little piece of plastic, purchases can be quick and easy.

Less risky than cash – Carrying a credit card can be less risky than carrying cash. If you lose a wallet full of cash, that money is likely gone forever. If you lose a wallet with a credit card, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your money by freezing your card with your card carrier.

Easier tracking of purchases – Many credit card issuers will track your purchases for you and provide detailed summaries that make everything from budgeting to dealing with taxes easier.

Miles, Points, and Other Perks – From airline miles and gift cards to points and money off everyday purchases, credit card users can earn a wide variety of rewards. These rewards can make paying with plastic much better than paying cash.

Less cash tied up – Trying to rent a car or book a hotel room without a credit card can be an exercise in frustration. Even if you can book travel, you will likely have to put down a hefty cash deposit. Using a credit card frees up your limited cash for other purposes.

CONS

Credit cards make it easy to overspend – The same convenience factor that makes credit cards so attractive also makes them risky. When you pay with cash, you are limited to the money in your wallet. When you pay with plastic, your only limitation is your credit line.

High-interest charges – If you spend more than you can afford to pay off, you will likely face some hefty interest charges. Interest rates on credit cards can be 18% or more, so controlling your spending is critical.

Fees for missing a payment or paying late – Credit card issuers love their fees, and it is easy to get caught up in them. If you miss a payment, pay late, or exceed your credit limit, you will pay dearly for the oversight.

Start investing Yes, retirement is decades away. That doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore saving for it. The sooner you start, the more time your money will have to appreciate, making it much easier to have a secure, happy retirement. Check with your employer to see what kind of retirement benefits they offer, or check with your financial institution for an array of investment options.

Even a small amount can make a difference as it grows with time. Besides, putting aside a little money is important in the short-term too. There’s always a chance you’ll experience a financial emergency of some other sort, and it’s good to be prepared.

Money management may not be super cool and exciting, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t essential to your financial health. Don’t wait until after a financial disaster to learn how to save and spend responsibly. You’ll be much happier if you practice sensible money management from the start.

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