These are the tips I wish someone had hammered in me when I was fresh out of college!
I fell into the credit card trap super early and spent many years digging myself out. Saving money is actually easy if you follow some of these tips. Give it a shot; you won’t regret it.
Tip 1: Don’t wait. The moment we start making money, whether we are a 13-year-old babysitter, or we just landed our first good paying job fresh out of college, saving money in some way should be a huge priority.
Tip 2: Don’t get a credit card. Credit cards are traps. When we have a credit card, we usually end up living beyond our means because it’s easy to spend a lot and pay it back little by little. Credit cards can hold us hostage our entire lives if we are not careful.
Tip 3: Obey the 10% rule. For every $20 we spend, we should actively save 10 percent (that’s just $2 for the math wizards). If we do this religiously, we can absolutely amass a handy little bag of money over time. We don’t realize how often we fritter away $20. It’s not much, but it can chip away at our bank balance. That tiny $2 goes a long way. Let’s work it out: We spend $20 a day on coffee and food. We set aside $2. That’s $14 a week. $14 over four weeks is $56 a month. $56 a month x 12 months is $672. In 10 years, we’ll have $6,720 just because we saved 10 percent of $20 a day. And, of course, it would be twice that amount just saving $4 a day. Saving this way becomes a habit that you don’t even feel. Watch your money grow!
Tip 4: Buy a coffee maker. For heaven’s sake, stop buying your coffee elsewhere (most of the time). It’s the dumbest thing imaginable and a real cash sapper.
Tip 5: Buy only what’s on sale. Seriously.
Tip 6: Just stop buying. We need to stop thinking that our job and our cash flow will always be there. Saving is about having a backup when something goes wrong. Financial freedom is about saving, which brings peace of mind. We don’t realize how much we need it until the moment comes when we do. And guess what? That moment comes for just about everyone at some point.
Tip 7: Use reward cards with point systems. For example, I use the Plenti-Card. I use it everywhere it’s accepted (businesses like Mobil and Rite Aid are partners for example). Because of this, I get rewards and kick-backs (extra savings and discounts). This leads to more in my savings account. If you are spending anyway, why not get some cash back?
Tip 8: Stop hoarding. We all buy consumer goods we don’t actually need yet (like shampoo and home cleaning products, for example). Chances are that on any given week there will be a sale. We do not need to be brand loyal and we should get into the habit of only buying what we actually need. We should think about these consumer goods the way we think about milk. We wouldn’t buy five cartons of milk (knowing that four might expire before we drink just one). To be a saver, it’s important to be a minimalist!
Tip 9: Recognize spending habits. Do you tend to spend more or less when you have cash? I always spend less when I have cash in my wallet. For some reason, I try to conserve my cash—it’s just the way I am. But, when I don’t have cash on hand, and only my debit or credit card, I tend to spend away like money is falling off trees. Understanding how we react and operate around actual dollar bills is important for tweaking spending habits.
Tip 10: Also recognize group spending habits. Don’t be a jerk when it comes to splitting up the tab with friends, but do recognize what the trend seems to be when it comes to the group. If Molly has three martinis and the surf-and-turf while you get a glass of wine and a salad every time you go out, it’s really okay to pay for your portion and not split everything evenly. Most friends don’t care. It’s not about being a cheapskate, it’s about saving money.
Now if this scenario is not the case, just go out an have a good time with your friends—and pay evenly if that’s what floats your boat. Just be aware of patterns and how “splitting the bill evenly” all the time can send your savings into a nose dive. Spending more than what you personally owe on Friday and Saturday nights can and will affect your account. If your friends become annoyed with this financial policy, let them be. You’ll have a nest egg in 15 years and they might still be paying down their credit card balances.
Tip 11: Buy small gifts. It’s the thought that counts. No one needs a $150 watch from you for their birthday. Movie passes and/or treating to lunch are perfectly fine. Go easy on expensive gifts. If we start giving expensive gifts, we are setting a precedent (sort of) for future gifts that is difficult to maintain. Keep it simple, keep it small.
Tip 12: Save those coins! Put your coin change into a jar every day, and cash it in once a quarter. That cash goes directly into the savings account.
The hardest part about saving is simply creating the frame of mind to form the habit. Once the habit forms, there’s no going back, because saving actually feels good.
Oh, and college grads? You will blink and it will be 10 whole years from now. If you have some money in the bank, you can thank me then.
Author: Kimberly Valzania
Image: Jeremy Paige/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell