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Have you heard the news?
Millennials are killing breakfast cereals.
They’re making firm handshakes obsolete.
They’re destroying the napkin industry, canned tuna, bar soap, and even fabric softener.
If you believe the headlines, millennials are pretty powerful—except, it seems, when it comes to their finances.
Millennials are drowning in debts.
So, if you’re a millennial yourself and you want to tame your spending splurges, read on—
You’ll get 8 money-saving tips I tested myself to keep my head above water. And they worked.
Inside Millennials’ Wallets
Here’s a look at the financial picture for millennials:
- 75% of U.S. millennials have some form of debt
- 34% are holding off on buying a home because of debt
- 31% are holding off on saving for retirement because of debt
- 46% of millennials say they have $0 in their savings account
- 67% of millennials say they would have difficulty paying an unexpected bill of $1,000
- About 50% of millennials experience chronic stress over money.
Yes, those statistics are grim. But it’s not because they’re throwing their money away on avocado toast.
The truth is, coming of age during the 2008 recession has set millennials back.
The employment rate for younger Americans has been slow to recover. Fewer millennials are employed than their parents were at the same age.
And while salaries have stagnated, the cost of education, housing, and health care has skyrocketed. Millennials have 300% more student debt than their parents and are earning lower salaries.
It’s no surprise that millennials are likely to be the first generation to be worse off financially than their parents.
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are steps you can take right now to improve your finances.
Below, I’ve outlined the 8 steps that I used to save up money to start and grow Transizion, a college and career prep company.
These tips will help you achieve your goals, slowly but surely. It will take time to develop new habits and change aspects of your lifestyles, but these tips are worth it.
8 Financial Tips for Millennials
Want to increase your wealth, reduce financial stress, and build a more secure future? Sure, we all do. Here’s how:
1. Evaluate your finances
The first step is to get an accurate picture of your finances. How much money is coming in? How much money is going out? And where exactly is it going?
You can’t start working on your finances until you can accurately answer these questions. It can be scary to finally stare your finances in the face, but it’s exactly what will make developing new habits so much easier.
Consider every expense. For example, how many subscriptions do you currently have? How often are you really using each subscription? Are they worth it?
Luckily, there’s an app for that: Mint. Link your credit and debit cards to Mint, and it’ll categorize your transactions and show you how you’re spending your money. Plus, it’s free!
It can be alarming to see how much you’re spending on categories like fast food, but knowledge is power.
2. Build a budget (and stick to it)
Once you have a clear picture of your finances, create a monthly budget.
Start by listing all your expenses. Begin with the most important (rent and other bills) and end with the least important (categories like entertainment).
Decide how much money you’ll spend on each category. Some expenses, like most bills, will stay the same every month. Others may be one-time expenses, like attending a special event or purchasing a gift. That’s why you have to customize your budget monthly.
You should also budget for savings. Experts recommend saving at least 20% of your income. If that’s not practical for you, decide on another percentage that’s more reasonable. Treat your savings like a required bill that you must pay each month.
Of course, creating a budget is pointless if you don’t stick to it.
Remember that budgeting doesn’t mean you can never treat yourself. It’s simply designed to prevent impulse purchases that you’ll regret later.
If you really want something, add it to the budget for that month. Depending on your financial situation, that may mean sacrificing in other nonessential categories.
If it’s still hard to stick to your budget, try the envelope trick:
- Pay your bills online or using your usual method.
- For each additional expense category, label an envelope: Entertainment, Coffee, Groceries, Clothing, etc.
- Place the amount of money you’ve budgeted for that category (in cash) inside each envelope.
- The cash inside each envelope is the only money you can spend on that category until the month is over.
- If you absolutely must have more money for one category, you’ll have to take it from another.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to physically see and touch the money assigned to each category, especially if you’re a budget beginner.
3. Use technology
Mint isn’t the only helpful personal finance app.
You might also want to try:
- EveryDollar: The EveryDollar app uses the zero-based budget method, giving every dollar a purpose. It tracks your expenses and shows the amount you’ve spent on each budget item for the month and how much you have left to spend.
- Wally: Wally is a simple, easy-to-understand financial tool. It helps you compare your income and expenses, track spending, and set and achieve personal financial goals. It allows you to scan and save receipts and see how much you can spend per day to stay on track with your goals.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB): If you get off track with your spending, YNAB helps you see what you should do differently to balance your budget. Online classes with a live instructor are included, and you can budget for individual projects like Christmas gifts. YNAB does carry a fee, but users say it’s worth it: The average user pays off $500 in debt in the first month.
- Credit Karma: A free, easy way to monitor your credit score, Credit Karma also offers useful tips for building credit. You’ll learn what’s affecting your current score and how you can make improvements.
4. Reverse engineer your future
Sometimes it feels scary to sit down and look at the big financial picture. But they say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Reverse engineer your future following these steps:
- Think about where you want to end up. What are your ultimate career and professional goals?
- Figure out how you’ll get there. Write down all the steps between where you are now and where you want to be.
- Budget for the steps in between. How much will each step cost? How will you pay for it?
- Determine what actions you can take now to start moving toward your goals.
5. Don’t be afraid to switch industries
As you map out your future, you may find that major changes are necessary to achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to switch industries if needed.
Think long-term. If you stay where you are now, where will you be in 5–10 years? Depending on the situation, switching industries may be a minor setback. But, in those 5–10 years, will you be farther along?
If you make the decision to actually change your career, make sure to check out: Career Change Resume: Sample and Writing Guide
You shouldn’t be afraid to move either. If the cost of living is high where you live, try to find a job that pays similarly in an area where the cost of living is lower. Or offer your services remotely from an inexpensive area.
For real-life success stories and tips on how to start working from wherever you wish, see: How to Find and Land a Job in Your Dream Location
6. Manage stress
Sometimes, stress leads to reckless spending. And reckless spending leads to more stress, creating a nasty cycle.
Trust me, while I’ve been running Transizion, I’ve faced plenty of stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, and self doubt. I’m sure plenty of you have encountered the same struggles while pursuing your own goals.
Taking action is one thing that will help you alleviate stress.
Manage your stress levels with strategies like:
- Engaging in enjoyable/relaxing hobbies
- Talking to your support system
- Getting plenty of rest
- Laughing (at funny friends, videos, shows, stand-up routines, etc.)
- Limiting screen time
- Spending time outdoors.
7. Keep building your skills
If you want to move up the ladder (and make more money) in your industry, you have to continuously develop your skills.
Subscribe to blogs and podcasts related to your industry. Keep up with the latest trends and scope out the competition. Read books, take online courses, and get relevant certifications.
You’ll keep improving as an employee, and your boss will appreciate your initiative. When you ask for a raise, be sure to mention your growing list of credentials.
8. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses
Studies suggest that millennials spend money they don’t have just to keep up with their peers. Images of nice cars, designer clothes, and expensive vacations on social media likely magnify this issue.
Slow down and be conscious of your motivation for spending money. Do you really need the item? Are you trying to impress someone? Are you buying this because it’ll make a great photo on Instagram?
Wanting to keep up with your peers is natural. But living comfortably and without financial stress is worth much more than any number of Instagram likes.
If comparison is a struggle for you, limit social media usage with apps like Offtime, Moment, and Forest.
So, what do you think?
What financial tips have helped you the most? How do you find the discipline to stick to your budget? Are millennials really responsible for the death of breakfast cereals?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!