Financial planning tips: How to manage your money as a millennial
Get it together
Let's address the big white elephant in the room: Money. A touchy subject that we're naturally wired to evade. When couples can't even discuss how much their monthly gross salaries are, or when you're too embarrassed to admit that you can't afford your plans for the weekend of late-night cocktails and $30 dollar cab rides home.
And while some might think that the 20s is the best time to splurge and go big on luxuries, before real-life commitments like housing and babies come later in life, they're not exactly wrong. It's true to a certain extent, but also the reason why some guidelines need to come into the picture. The 20s is when we should be living it up, not scraping by while burying our financial issues in a bottomless pit. It is also the time where we should be planning for the future of said commitments like sky-high apartments and cute baby clothes. Financial expert Erin Lowry, founder of BrokeMillennial.com, lists a few important tips in her book, Broke Millennial.
THE CASH DIET
You are bound to spend more when you're swiping plastic. Putting all your transactions on a credit card makes it simple to forget how much you've spent by the time your bill is due. The cash diet essentially means, paying for everything in cash. How to start? Add up your monthly income and subtract your fixed bills, that may include rent, cell phone bills, that Netflix/Spotify subscription, transportation costs, and designated savings etc. The amount you have left is yours to spend for the month. Keeping the cash in your wallet helps you eyeball exactly how much you have left to spend.
When you're out of cash? You're out of cash. No more spending for the week or month. Doing this allows you to see how easily you're spending on mindless purchases. It provides you an immediate look at what you think you value versus what you actually value because you're the one holding the purse strings.
OWN YOUR CREDIT CARDS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND
The right way to use a credit card: Don't charge more than you can afford to pay off every single month. Then, pay it off. All of it, and not just the amount that's parked under "minimum due". Paying the minimum would be giving the credit card company the smallest amount possible and to keep yourself from being considered late and missing a payment. It's also a sureproof way of incurring a lot of debt.
Set up alerts that inform you about credit card activity as well as every transaction that you make. You get bugged with reminders of your overall balance so there's no way you'll be startled by your credit card bill at the end of the month.
START AN EMERGENCY FUND
Pay yourself first. Sure you have debt, but pay yourself first. This could mean just a mere $100 from your paycheck — start small — it matters at the end of the day. Once you start getting use to having $100 less to spend each month, you adapt to that spending habit. The first savings account you should start is an emergency fund. It's the panic box that you activate when life starts to go awry. And sometimes, bad unfortunate things can often happen all at once.
DON'T PAY FOR THE DRINKS YOU DIDN'T ORDER
We've all been there. A group of close friends head out to a bougie restaurant and order a few small and large plates to share. Some of them order wine, while the rest of the non-drinkers stick to table water. When the bill comes, majority decides it should be spilt evenly — mainly a result of laziness and social compliance. Don't be that person. Rise up to the occasion and be the designated accountant. Especially if we're talking about paying an extra $30 for alcohol that you did not consume.
Be honest ahead of time if you're not comfortable to how much the entire evening will amount to. Set a budget and express cheaper alternatives to your friends. Also, establish what your financial friendship dynamics are. Longtime pals might take turns picking up the tab while going dutch would be an unspoken rule between your colleague and yourself.
For more life-altering tips on financial planning, Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry is now available at all major bookstores.