When you’re just out of school – within the last few months (or years) – it can be hard to realize you’re a real life adult and start living (and spending) like one. That means thinking beyond your plans for next weekend and wondering how much beer you have left in the fridge. But as summer winds down, it’s time to get serious and think about how you’re spending and saving and start prepping for the colder weather. Think of this as an homage to Game of Thrones oft-heard reminder “Winter is coming.”
Let’s look today at five ways to save, spend and earn more wisely so you’re better prepared for a future that will not always come up wine, roses and good weather (literally and metaphorically).
#1 Put more value on experiences than stuff
When you’re older, although it’s hard to mull on this now, and looking back at your life, what you’ll remember is what you’ve done and felt rather than what you wore and which kicks you were rocking when you did it. Cut back on your expenses wherever you can – clothes, electronics, cable, drinking, eating out – and focus more on saving. Not just saving for a nest egg, but saving for meaningful experiences like your dream vacation.
#2 Make a budget and really stick to it
A budget is the tool that can make or break your financial future. But it’s not something to be rushed into. For the next month, keep track of all your spending – every single dollar – and then throw it onto a spreadsheet to see where your money is going. You’ll likely be very surprised at how much you spend on avoidable expenses. From there, look at your bills and think about how much you need to save to accomplish your long term goals (more on this in #3) and read this on 50/30/20 budget methodology.
#3 Decide what you want to accomplish financially
When do you want to buy a home? Get married? Take your once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation? That stuff won’t fall out of the sky or come your way by wishing. It takes planning and sacrifice. Figure out what your goals are and your timeline for them and then incorporate saving for these into your 50/30/20 budget without sacrificing your long-term savings for your retirement. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be (even if this is hard to think about now in your 20s or 30s).
#4 Learn how to do things for yourself
One of the best ways to spend less and save more without reducing your quality of life is to develop some life skills. Learn to cook – to really cook – so you can enjoy good food without eating out and spending a fortune. This will also leave you tasty leftovers to take to work. Learn to sew so you can hem your own pants and take things in. This will save big on taking things to the tailor. Learn to do basic car and home repair. If you have to call in a pro for every little thing, you’ll be spending a pile.
#5 Find a way to earn some scratch on the side
Having a second part-time or full-time job can be a bummer, but having an occasional side gig can be a great way to have money for a splurge or to save toward a specific goal (like a trip) without making a dent in your budget. Can you design web pages, write a weekly blog, recap TV shows, work as a cater-waiter once a month for weddings, sew drapes? Figure out what skill(s) you have that people will pay for and put it to work to earn some side dough that can add up to room in your budget with no guilt.
One of the best weapons in your financial arsenal if you have student loans is Tuition.io’s free student loan tool. Be sure to read our blog daily for lots of money advice and check out our Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Private Student Loans.