“This is a major one. If you want to quickly save money after college, you MUST adhere to this.”
Today we’re going to talk about how to save money as a young adult. If you’ve clicked on this post, you’re probably here because you recognize the importance of saving and are ready to start doing so effectively.
As a young adult, more money saved means having less debt and a bigger safety net. It means quickly achieving those big financial goals, like buying a house or getting a new car. And it means freedom to travel and to have fun life experiences.
While money isn’t everything – no, it definitely isn’t – it is needed to live a life of comfort in modern day society.
So if you’d like to learn how I tucked away a pretty large chunk of money within only 1-2 years of graduating, you’re going to want to keep reading.
Does the job/your income matter?
Having a decent, steady income certainly helps. I mean, you’re not going to save $50,000 per year if you only make $25,000.
But having a high income isn’t everything. It’s all about what you save.
That and developing healthy spending habits at a young age.
Healthy spending habits to develop NOW
My parents taught me from a young age to live within my means. That is, don’t spend money you don’t have. And don’t live extravagantly if you can’t afford it (yet).
Because of my parents, I have an unwritten list of rules that I’ve brought with me into adulthood (which will be written out for you for the first time today). Healthy spending and saving is a mindset. It gets easier the more you do it, but at first it can be extremely hard. Stick with it and trust me. This is exactly what I did.
1. Don’t spend what you don’t have
Okay, I’ve already said this but this is a major one. If you want to quickly save money after college, you MUST adhere to this.
What does it mean?
If you don’t have the money for a purchase in your bank account, don’t buy it. Debt has a snowball effect. It starts small and then suddenly you’re drowning in it. And I have seen loads of people drowning in it.
Don’t let that be an option. Don’t buy it if you can’t afford it. Period.
2. Use a credit card only to build credit
The only reason I opened a credit card was to build credit for my first apartment, my first car lease, etc. Credit cards should not be used to hold you over until your next paycheck.
Like I said with only spending what you have, be sure that you can pay off your credit card every single month.
I’ve NEVER paid only the monthly minimum. I’ve always paid off my credit card in full every month, and let me tell you – it’s a wonderful feeling.
And it’s not because I’m filthy rich. It’s because I only buy what I can afford and thus use my credit card only for it’s credit-building benefits.
After all, isn’t credit supposed to indicate how well you manage your finances and pay back your loans? So pay them back every month.
3. Send money into your savings account every paycheck
Some people call this paying yourself first. I call it paying your future self.
Do a little calculation and tally up your total month’s necessary expenses: rent, car payment, car insurance, renter’s insurance, pet insurance (which if you have a pet, you MUST have!), pet food/litter costs, grocery shopping, gas costs (if applicable).
Some other things to keep in mind: other types of insurance if not covered by an employer, income taxes if not taken out,
property taxes, public transportation costs, and any recurring fees such as Netflix, apps, gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, etc.
After figuring out your expenses, decide on a set amount to transfer into your savings every paycheck. It shouldn’t be the rest of your money left over. You should definitely keep some of that in checking for unexpected expenses. And for eating out with friends, a needed purchase here or there – we’re not trying to make you miserable here.
Once you have your set amount, either have your bank automatically transfer it to savings (likely the easier option), or make sure to go in each payday and move that amount over.
Another thing to do is have a max on your checking account. What that means is when my checking account exceeds a certain amount and has a decent cushion, I’ll move the excess over to savings as well.
Here let’s say that cap is $4,000. If I were to hit $4,300 and have another paycheck coming before rent is due, I’ll move $300 over to savings. Rather than thinking, “Nice, I have an extra $300 to spend on clothes,” I think, “Nice, I have an extra $300 to put in my savings.” This technique is a good way to save money after college much faster.
4. Save on the little things
Living frugally isn’t always super fun or easy, but I made the necessary sacrifices in order to quickly save money after college. Here are some compromises I made:
– Lived in a simple, lower rent apartment
– Had a roommate (aka my boyfriend, which for me was a win-win)
– Grocery shopped and meal prepped
– Brought my meals and snacks to work every day
– Made my coffee at home
– Rarely ate out (maybe once a week)
– Exercised in my apartment gym and local parks rather than joining a gym
– Accepted hand-me-down furniture from family/friends
– Refrained from getting cable
Once you live this way for awhile, it’ll show you what you actually need and what you can live comfortably without.
5. Save a little with every purchase
One thing I love about my bank is that for every purchase with my debit card, $1 is automatically transferred into my savings. It’s such a small amount that I don’t realize it’s gone. But every once in a while I’ll look at my savings and be surprised by how much it’s grown. My bank also gives rewards for using and paying off my credit card.
Such a great trick!
So my advice is to either find a bank that will also do this for you (definitely find a credit card with good rewards), or arrange these minuscule transfers to savings with an app.
Acorns is one such app that does this. I haven’t tried it personally, but I’ve heard pretty good things. What it does is round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and transfers those cents into an account that becomes invested. Thus it will get to grow as well. Remember: investing is a waiting game, so expect some rises and falls and plan for that money to be invested for awhile.
While it may seem like mere pennies are transferred at a time, it’s pocket change you won’t miss. And it will add up quicker than you’d expect. I love this idea.
Another app is iBotta, which I have used before. It provides cash back when you purchase certain items. I was a fan because it showed me deals I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. It was also really nice getting offered cash back on purchases I would normally make anyway. My only warning here is make sure you don’t get swayed by the deals and buy things you don’t need.
That being said, I do think it’s worth checking it before your shopping trips to see if you can get any good deals. Check it out! Here’s my referral code: ttokeyt
6. Don’t touch your savings! (except in big life events)
When I put money in my savings, it stays there. This is a habit I developed that I think has made one of the biggest differences.
Checking is for spending. Savings is for just that: saving.
Know what you want to save for long-term. Retirement, of course. But also a house, new car, a wedding, vacations, children, your children’s college funds…whatever your financial goals, you’re going to need savings to do it.
There’s only been 2 times I’ve dipped into my savings:
1. When I moved across the country a year after graduating college. A big move like that costs a ton. The Uhaul itself was about $1,500, and then we had to pay a bunch to break our lease at the time – though, for us, it was worth it.
2. When my cat got really sick. One day I came home to find my cat looking awful. I took him to the vet and learned this was because his bladder was blocked, which is a life-threatening condition. Four days in the emergency vet later, it was necessary for me to dip into my savings. This is why I ALWAYS recommend getting pet insurance! We’d had ours up until a month before my cat got sick. Yep, that’s how life works sometimes…
So yes, it’s sometimes necessary to reach back into your savings. That’s why you should have a bit of a cushion. But for the every day – if it’s not an emergency – once you transfer your funds from checking to savings, don’t touch them!
7. Perform a monthly check up on your spending
At the end of every month, take a look at your bank accounts.
How are you doing? Did you “live within your means?” Are you able to pay off your credit card in full? Have you put the expected money in savings?
If yes, great! That’s amazing!
If not, what happened? Did you have an unexpected expense? Did you overspend somewhere? Where was it?
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your bank account. You need to be on top of it in order to achieve your goals. Hold yourself accountable and perform a monthly financial check up.
8. Stick to your shopping list/wait to make splurge purchases
Splurge buys no more!
A lot of people give different advice on this, so I’ll share what’s worked for me.
After graduating college, I would rarely buy things without planning ahead and thinking hard about it first.
So I would only go shopping if I needed something in particular. If I happened to find something else I loved while out shopping, I wouldn’t buy it right away. I would go home and think about it. For me, if something stays on my mind and I still really want to go back and get it a week later, I’ll go back and get it (if I can afford it, of course).
What often happens, though, is that I’ll forget about that item or decide to wait longer to buy it. Then I save money I would have otherwise spent.
9. Ask for splurge buys as gifts instead
Another thing I do is write down items I want on a list and give the list to my family for holidays or my birthday.
It’s a win-win; they get to give me something they know I’ll love, and I’ll get to save money on an item I really wanted.
For example, my brother and (really soon to be!) sister-in-law just gifted me a stove-top tea kettle. I’ve wanted one for so long, but held off on buying it because I was saving money. Now I’ve received a gift I absolutely love and really wanted.
Waiting can be tough, but it’s a huge part of living frugally and saving money.
10. Figure out what’s important to you
When making frugal lifestyle changes, you don’t have to give up everything! This is a perfect time to figure out what’s really important to you and spend money on that.
When I first graduated college, two things I really valued were cooking healthy meals at home and attending exercise classes. So I decided that my extra funds from work would go to buying a variety of fresh ingredients from the grocery store and paying for OrangeTheory Fitness classes.
At the time, that’s what was important to me. And of note, they still allowed me to save.
Currently, my money goals have changed. As some of you may know, I just quit my nursing job to become a full-time blogger. Since that’s been my plan for awhile, I’ve made any lifestyle changes in order to save for that goal. This means attending my apartment gym and exercising outside rather than attending group exercise classes. It also means making meals out of less expensive ingredients every week.
These changes have allowed me to save up and continue to minimize my monthly expenses in order to live my dream.
So my last tip to you is this: spend money only on what’s most important to you so you can save the rest for what’s important in your future.
Looking for more?
If you’re looking for more information on saving and managing your finances, I highly recommend the book Smart Women Finish Rich by Charles Bach. I’m obsessed with this book! It has tons of helpful financial advice laid out in an easy-to-read format. I cannot recommend it enough.
And for more posts money and budgeting, check out these below:
Disclaimer: I am not a financial expert or accountant. These are the things that worked for me, but this post is not meant to replace the advice of a financial professional or accountant.
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