How difficult is it for millennials to start saving? Pretty difficult. Ninety two million Millennials have more debt than their previous generations. On average, Millennials borrow a total of $30,000 to pay for college. Stagnant wages and rising living cost also make it harder to save.
It can be particularly hard for a millennial (or anyone, really) to offset all these expenditures with only one income.
But the good part about being single is the freedom to make all your financial decisions, and getting your money life together is the first step.
Here are some budgeting tips for single millennials.
Step 1. Create a budget
The first step to gaining control of your finances is by making a budget. A budget is like a blueprint for your financial future. Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint: How would the builders know what to do? It’s the same for your financial planning.
To create a budget, you need to estimate your cash flow. Ask yourself: How much money do you have coming in and how much money do you have going out? Take a long look at the money you have left over. That’s what you need to allocate toward saving, investing, and spending on the things you want to do in life.
Watch out for lifestyle inflation. People tend to spend more when they have more
Saving money isn’t always easy. Making manual transfers to your savings account can be hard to remember to do. Stash is a great tool to start your budgeting plan. Stash offers “Smart Save,” a free personalized saving tool to help users save the right amount of money at the right time.
If you come up short, you’ll have to find a way to boost your income (by working more hours or asking for that long-overdue raise) and/or reduce your expenses.
Step 2. Spend wisely
When you’re single, you’re responsible for making the right money decisions. It’s important to keep track of where your money is going on a regular basis and figure out if you’re paying for things you no longer need – such as unused cable TV service, magazine subscriptions and inactive memberships. Be honest with yourself and get rid of the unnecessary expenses that are eating into your savings.
Next, try to negotiate better rates for the expenses you still have. For example, you can call your cell phone service provider and ask for a discount, or switch to another carrier which offers a more competitive plan. In addition, keep an eye on promotions and new plans. Based on the average experience, you’re likely paying more than you need to for at least one service.
Once you trim your expenses, work on spending wisely. Every purchase matters, no matter how big or small it is. Think about the financial consequences of each discretionary purchase you make. Ask yourself: “How badly do I need this item? What am I willing to give up to buy it?”
Keep in mind, every dollar you spend now is one less dollar you’ll have in the future. You may choose to splurge occasionally, but try to stay on track with your budget for spending, saving and investing.
Step 3. Make sure you stay on target
When creating a budget, it helps to know where and how much you are spending. Here are some guidelines for your expenses:
- Housing. This is typically your single largest expense, whether you rent or own. In general, spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent (no more than 28% is better), and no more than 28% if you have a mortgage. If housing is really pricey where you live, you might want to consider other alternatives, such as a roommate.
- Total monthly debt. Keep your combined housing costs and debt payments (student loan, car loan, minimum credit card payment, etc.) below 43% of your income (36% is better if you can swing it).
- Student loans. Spend between 10% and 20% of your income on student loan payments. Be sure to take advantage of any student loan repayment benefits.
- Car expenses. Spend between 10% and 20% of your income on auto expenses, including car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance. If you don’t have a car, budget for public transportation and ridesharing services (Uber, Lyft).
- Retirement. As the saying goes, “Pay yourself first.” Set aside 10% to 15% of your income for retirement each month, and you should start as early as you can. An IRA is one way to get started and you don’t need large sums of cash to begin. Stash users can actually start investing in an IRA account with as little as $15.
Step 4. Plan for big expenses
Budgeting helps you balance your regular income and expenditures, but there may come a time when you want to save for a big, one-time expense, such as a vacation, a new toy (such as mountain bike or a new laptop) or a wedding. There’s nothing wrong with buying things that you’ll love to use. But it helps to make a plan.
To get started, set a dollar goal and a deadline, and then determine how much you need to save each month to make it happen.
Here’s an example. Say you want to buy a new carbon mountain bike with a price tag of $4,000, and you’d like to have it within 10 months. (Think of it this way: Any money you spend on fitness can be considered an investment in your health.) You’ll need to set aside $400 each month to reach your goal.
If that’s not realistic, push out your timeline a few months so you have more time to save. Keep in mind, you might have to give up something to reach your goal: To find that extra $400 in your budget each month, for example, you may have to cut back on weekend drinks or lunches out with colleagues.
Of course, the bigger the expense, the further out your timeline is likely to be, but no matter how big (or small) the expense is, the key is to set a goal, make a plan – and make it happen.
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Step 5. Commit to your budgeting plan
It’s easier said than done. Budgeting takes a lot of effort and determination. A few tips here can help you commit to responsible budgeting:
- Make a conscious effort to spend less. Instead of thinking about what you’re doing without, think about what you’re saving for. It helps to put a positive spin on it.
- Watch out for lifestyle inflation. People tend to spend more when they have more. It’s okay to splurge occasionally. Consider spending money as if you never got that raise or shortfall.
- Think long-term. Your budgeting will help you enjoy a comfortable retirement. Think of the future and the kind of life you’ll want when you’re older.
- Rainy days. Storms happen. You could lose your job, be forced to leave the workforce to take care of a family member or have health issues of your own. Committing to your budgeting helps you save for the unpredictable future.
An app like Stash can make saving easy. Stash helps you invest and save automatically each month in your choice of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), keeping your risk tolerance and risk capacity in mind. The key is to start today so you can put your money to work and take full advantage of the power of compounding.
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