You’re in your 20’s, and you’re probably not making a lot of money. But the good news is this is likely the lowest you’ll get paid in your adult career. With time, more experience, and a larger professional network, you’re likely to enjoy better opportunities and salaries as you age. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to save and invest the money you have coming in. In fact, in your 20s, your savings habits can not only help cushion financial blows later down the line, but get you in the habit of living lean and prioritizing your savings each month.
For instance, if you learn to save 10% of your post-tax income each month when you earn $2,000 a month, you’ll be much more comfortable saving 10% a month when you earn $6,000 a month and more. From there, you have more options for investing for the future, saving for retirement, and living a more comfortable lifestyle.
Here are a few proven tips for saving money while in your 20s.
When it comes to everyday shopping, you’ll always end up paying more for top brand name items. While you may prefer the quality of some name brands over generics, for the most part, brand name goods are excessively expensive without providing additional benefit to you. In fact, for most items like razors, groceries, and clothes, the off-brands offer the same quality for much cheaper. Start comparing prices at the grocery store and ditch the big brands as often as possible. You may notice an impressive saving at the end of the month.
Stop Buying New Clothes
Especially if you enjoy looking good, the thrill of shopping can be euphoric. It’s not just about the clothes for you, but the way the clothes make you look and feel and how they can change other people’s perception of you.
Do you really need a new pair of shoes? Sometimes you do, but sometimes you don’t and can get what you’re looking for at an upscale thrift store. Save your money—find a thrift store you trust and that carries styles you love and go there first whenever you’re looking for a new addition to your wardrobe.
Pro-tip: Go to thrift stores on holidays like labor day. They often have huge sales and you can get gently used clothes for only a few dollars.
You don’t need us to tell you that eating out is expensive but did you know that simple items like coffee and pastries can really hurt your overall budget. In fact, a recent study showed that Americans who drink coffee at home will save around $427 per year compared to those who buy coffee from coffee shops. If you buy coffee every day, you could save over $400 a year—imagine the other ways you can shave expenses from your food budget!
Make coffee and your everyday meals at home. Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, there are plenty of cheap, 4-ingredient crockpot meals that can last a week or several days and live in the freezer for future meals. Spend some time researching recipes you’ll love eating and making.
Before you spend $20 at a restaurant, eat a small snack before you leave the house, order an appetizer as a meal, and order one less drink. Even those small adjustments can help you save a ton each month on food.
Get Creative With Travel
While you might be reading this in the middle of a pandemic, one day we’ll return to in-person office settings! Instead of driving everywhere and making the daily commute to work, find cheap or free alternatives that fit your lifestyle. You can save up to $20 each week on gas by carpooling to work with a coworker in your neighborhood, taking the bus, or a combination of the two. If you live close enough to work, you can even ride a bike to and from to swap out the gas expense for a fitter, healthier lifestyle.
Stop Shopping Hungry
The saying is true: If you shop while you’re hungry, you think you need much more food than you do and end up buying more food than you need. You’re also more likely to feel flustered and in a rush to get home to eat so you might end up forgetting items and need to return later for more grocery runs.
Instead, go as prepared as you can—plan your meals for the week, write a list, and head out for the store at least 30 minutes after your last meal. This will ensure you’re not shopping out of a short term feeling of hunger and you’re more prepared to stick to the purchases you absolutely need to make.
Stick To A Weekly Budget
A monthly budget might feel too high-level to help you manage the weeds of your finances, but a weekly budget is a powerful tool to help curb unnecessary spending. There are plenty of cheap or free budgeting apps you can choose from. Find a platform you like, link it to your bank, and set reasonable weekly spending limits. You’ll want to start with necessary expenses like food, gas, housing, and bills then move to discretionary spending.
Make sure your limits are doable for you—it’s pretty discouraging to break your budget consistently and, after a while, you’ll feel too dismayed to continue working toward better spending habits. If your budget doesn’t work several weeks in a row, take some time to figure out why. Maybe you had some unforeseen expenses crop up or maybe you need to re-evaluate your spending limits.
Invest In Your Retirement Fund
Even though you can’t draw money from them on a moment’s notice, retirement funds are considered savings. With retirement accounts, you keep your money locked away and out of reach, with the threat of a costly financial penalty should you ever decide you just have to have it in order to address some want or need.
You’ll think much harder about withdrawing from a 401K or IRA than you will a regular savings account when the threat of losing up to 30% of it to taxes. Plus, when you do retire, you’d be happy you saved so much toward your retirement fund.
Entertain At Home More Often
No matter the time of year, it’s always a good time for a good, old-fashioned potluck. Invite your friends or family over, have everyone bring a dish, or you can cook a simple dish and enjoy each other's company. Break out the movies, games, or bottles of wine instead of defaulting to bars or fancy pizzas places. By hosting at home, you’ll have plenty of time to relax at your table and won’t have to deal with a huge check at the end of the night.
Just like intermittent fasting can help reset your digestive system and help our bodies feel refreshed, fasting from spending can have amazing benefits to our savings. Start small—fast from spending money one day a month and grow from there. What you’ll find is that you start questioning your purchases more and more, clearly differentiating wants from needs. By the time you're fasting from spending once a week, you’re likely to start naturally questioning more of your purchases and refraining from those unnecessary purchases. It’s also an excellent exercise in delayed gratification. Instead of breaking your money fast to buy ice cream or another fun treat, tell yourself wait and enjoy the anticipation of really enjoying that treat when you finally buy it.
Don’t forget to be intentional about your fasts. Track some of the purchases you were going to make and didn’t and consider transferring most of that money to your savings account. You can also check your budget at the end of the month for an unusual surplus and save that money.
Subscriptions are deceiving because companies know it's easy to get smaller monthly charges out of your pocket every month without you noticing. Cut down where you can—cancel your Audible, Hulu or Netflix subscriptions to save some extra cash. If you are still a traditional cable user, consider switching to a cheaper option like Netflix.
If it’s too difficult to pass up a service because it’s the only one showing your favorite sitcom, check with your friends or family members. There’s usually at least one person in every group who’s willing to share their subscription logins with you.
Save your coin, sis! We believe in you!