As a 23 year old woman, I often feel like I am stuck in limbo. I am legally, socially, and financially considered an adult, but I don’t feel like it yet. Sure, I can vote and pay rent and I have a real 9-5 adult job, but I still feel funny booking my own doctors appointments and quite frankly I sometimes (read: all the time) feel like I don’t quite have a handle on this whole adulting thing yet. I don’t know if anyone is ever ready to be tossed into the real world after college, but it happens—and so do bills. Lots and lots of bills. Something they don’t teach you in school? How to manage your adult finances. That can be anything from balancing a check book to starting a retirement fund. It can be daunting and stressful if you don’t know where to start.
I have been navigating my way through many financial endeavors, and along the way I have picked up a few great suggestions for those of you looking to become a smart saver. Money can be a tricky, fickle thing; one day you have it, the next day its gone. BUT! It is possible to set yourself up for a healthier bank account, even if you don’t quite feel ready to be an adult.
Open an IRA
The first thing I did after graduating college was open an IRA account. For those who don’t know, an IRA stands for “Individual Retirement Account,” and essentially serves as a savings account with big tax breaks, making it the ideal way to save money for retirement. The sooner you start saving for your retirement the better, and if you start your new adult job with a percentage of your check already being put into your IRA, it is less tempting to use that money right now.
There are many different options when it comes to IRA’s, so you may need to shop around before deciding on which one to open, but at the end of the day those of us who start saving earlier will be at a greater advantage than those that don’t! It is a great way to get a jump start on your financial future.
Learn to Budget
Budgeting is hard and sometimes time consuming, but it is essential if you are looking to save money and build a better savings. Once a week try and spend some time going over your finances and make realistic goals for yourself. If you have a trip or event in the future that you need to be conscious of, start planning earlier rather than later. Always have an “oops” account for when life throws you curve balls (think car problems, or any other sudden and unexpected expenses). Whatever it may be, budgeting can help you make those numbers work.
There are many different tools available for you to use like Quickbooks or even a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but at the end of the day it is important to know what you’re making, what you’re spending, and how to save where you can.
Invest in yourself
Now a days, having one set of skills sadly isn’t always enough. That money you’ve been saving should be invested into something important, and that something should be yourself. Take an online class, buy a new camera for your photography business, go get that new self help book you’ve had your eye on. Whatever you choose to spend those savings on, be sure it will help you in the long run. When you look to make career moves you will be better off with a surplus of knowledge or skills than shoes and handbags (though you can always splurge on those later!).
Spend Smarter – Buy in Bulk
Speaking of shoes and handbags, a great way to save money and get ahead financially is through smarter spending. I have started doing most of my major shopping trips during the major sales or off seasons. When it comes to clothes, you are almost always better off buying in the off seasons. Summer clothes go on sale the end of July and into August, while winter clothes are discounted around Christmas time. You can also find great savings around Black Friday.
Try to break your clothes shopping up and wait to buy those items on your list all at once. If I know I need a slew of winter clothes I wait to buy them until everything is on sale, that way I am sure to be getting the best deals and saving the most money. For a more detailed list of times to buy clothing for less check out this great article by WhoWhatWear. The same can be said with traveling. You can find discounted flights and hotel rates in the off seasons, but it also pays to book in advance!
Food is another area of our spending that can add up quickly if we let it. It can be hard to find time to cook when we live such busy lives but even adding a few more home cooked meals to your diet can save you hundreds. Eating out (especially in cities) can put a dent in anyone’s bank account. Buying in bulk at the grocery store not only grants you more for your dollar, but multiple meals for less.
If you are tight on time but short on money, meal prepping your food can be a life saver for you. Pick one or two nights a week dedicated to cooking in bulk and preparing your meals for the week. You’d be surprised just how much you start saving!
Keep Your FOMO In Check
Building your savings and getting ahead financially means learning and practicing self control when it comes to your spending. At the end of the day it all comes down to priority. Which is more important, new boots or a long term financial goal you have set? Whenever you are tempted to spend your disposable income try to think long term. Is this a worthy investment? Do I need this or just want it? Will I need this money down the road? As soon as you start to have more of those internal conversations, you will notice that your spending gets smarter. We spend a lot of money on what we eat and wear—find smarter ways to do it!