“It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” —Robert Kiyosaki
According to a study by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 34% of millennials say that saving money is a top priority for them, but impulse spending prevents them from achieving this goal.
In a recent survey done together with the Ad Council, putting money aside for the future ranked as the top goal for one in three millennials, followed by living a healthy lifestyle (20%), paying off debt (19%), and losing weight (14%)
“The good news is that millennials are internalizing the message that saving is important,” says Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman. “With things like one-click payment, it’s become so easy to buy without really thinking about it.”
Ecommerce certainly has seen growth in leaps and bounds these last several years. With a wider variety of online specialty shops, savvier digital marketing techniques, and more expedient ways to make an online purchase, it’s understandable that millennials– and just about everyone else shopping online, really– can easily fall into the trap of impulse buying.
Particularly for the older millennials, those born between the early 80’s and early 90’s (which should put them in the age range of 28 to 38 years old), saving is considered to be very important as they are now working towards major milestones in their lives, such as getting married, starting a family, or preparing for an early retirement.
So how are millennials today faring when it comes to setting aside money for savings?
“Many young adults think saving is impossible,” said Gregory Anton, CPA, CGMA, and chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, also pointing out that, according to millennials, other top impediments to saving include:
- Not making enough money or currently having a low salary (84%)
- Racking up too many bills (81%)
- Having too much debt (79%)
- Not establishing a personal budget (62%)
With that in mind, here now are 27 useful, money-saving action items you can do today:
1. Establish a Personal Budget
“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” —James W. Frick
“While low salaries and high debt levels can certainly be barriers to saving,” Anton posits, “the key is to create a budget and stick to it. Establishing a disciplined saving strategy early in life and avoiding missteps will reap substantial long-term dividends.”
A budget allows you to have a big-picture view of your spending habits, as you’d see where your money tends to go even without you realizing it.
- Are you actually spending more money than you are making?
- If your goal is to save money, which of your usual expenses can you do away with?
- Are there debts and other obligations you need to take care of first?
Aside from answering these crucial questions and more, a budget gives you a no-nonsense, realistic assessment of your spending habits.
A budget also encourages you to set your own personal finance goals, so you can now strategize how to spend less in certain areas of your daily life so you can finally see some money trickling into your savings.
There are even apps available to help you with your budget. Three of the more popular apps currently out are Digit, Acorns, and Mint.
- Digit is a free, FDIC-insured app that tracks your spending habits. You can set it to transfer a small amount of money each day from your linked checking account to a special Digit savings account.
- Acorns is free for students if you sign up using your .edu email address. Every time you make a purchase with a linked checking account, Acorns rounds up to the nearest dollar and automatically invests the change into a diversified portfolio for you!
- Mint helps track all your finances for you and create a special budget based on your income and your spending habits. The app also provides you a free credit score and even gives you tips to improve your credit.
2. Set Up a Savings Account with Another Bank
Two thirds (66%) of millennials aged 20 to 32 have nothing saved for retirement or an emergency fund.
Now as the saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”. So here’s a tip that can help you start accumulating a bit of money as savings.
Having a second savings account at a bank other than your main checking account greatly helps in building up some extra money. At the very least, there’s less temptation for you to quickly funnel some more cash into your card to fuel your impulse spending.
While you’re at it, make sure your bank isn’t charging you unnecessary fees, or giving you a measly interest rate for your savings.
3. Give Your Savings Accounts a Name
Never underestimate the power of visualization
Label your savings account (or accounts) with a specific goal in mind, like “South Korea Vacation 2020” or “Portland or Bust 2021”. Name your account after something really close to your heart– a passion project, a pressing need, or a long-delayed reward.
You can even have several if you so choose.
Knowing you’re actively working to fund a very personal project might actually discourage you from spending frivolously, and may even spur you to get more proactive in making more cash.
4. Choose a Low-Interest Credit Card
You don’t have to ditch your credit card altogether. After all, credit cards are great for helping build credit and for developing excellent money management skills when used correctly.
For your first credit card, go for a low-interest credit card; specifically, one that might give you a 0% APR (annual percentage rate) period, no annual fee, and free credit score services.
5. Consolidate Your Debt to a Credit Card with a Lower APR
You have an obligation to pay off your debts, and we understand it can be challenging.
Paying off your credit card debts will be a lot easier if you have a card with a much lower APR, as this determines how much interest and how much balance will be carried over each month.
So go through your cards, and figure out how much you need to transfer, especially if you have multiple credit cards with balances.
Then you can go shopping around for a new card, but don’t forget to look out for the best possible offer and promos you can get. Watch out for hidden costs or other limitations that might surprise you when you start transferring.
Compare your available options. MoneyUnder30.com recommends you get a BankAmericard (from Bank of America), a Truly Simple card (from Fifth Third Bank), or a Chase Freedom (from Chase) if you can due to their low APRs and other benefits.
Your main considerations:
- What the promotional offer is
- What the transfer fees are
- How much time you’ll need to pay it back
- How much you can actually afford to pay each month
- And what the rate goes to after the promotion ends
Two things to remember here: first, be strategic with your choice of credit card given your options. Don’t trade off a short-term benefit (like a really low APR) only to have it balloon to a much higher rate after the promotion ends.
Secondly- and most importantly- that new credit line of yours is not an excuse to buy new stuff. We’re using this to specifically pay off debts, so adding even more debt to it just serves to hamper your efforts.
6. Live Life on Your Own Terms
Another bit of advice that’s easier said than done, but let’s face it: you have to live for yourself, and not for your Facebook or Instagram feed.
Social media is tons of fun, we get it. But it also feeds our tendency to compare ourselves with others within our sphere. Whenever we see someone more successful or more glamorous than we are, we tend to get a little green with envy, and perhaps even resentful, but this shouldn’t necessarily be the case.
Understand that a lot of social media is curated; that is, the beautiful, the popular, and the most engaging tend to show up first on our feeds.
There is no need to weigh your self-worth against others. It’s alright to get a bit of inspiration, but just be careful not to get too consumed by your social media feed. Keep your eyes on the prize: stick to your own goals, and have faith in your own abilities.
7. Live Within Your Means
Over 75% of millennials want to have the same clothes, cars and technological gadgets as their friends, according to the report from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
No need to get into debt when you don’t have to. A little bit of debt from an impulse purchase here, and another one there can really add up, and before you know it, you’re buried so far deep, you’re not going to make any progress with your savings goals.
Right now, around half of millennials have to use a credit card to pay for basic daily necessities such as food and utilities This doesn’t have to be the case. Remember, when you’re using your credit card, you’re spending money you do not yet own.
Instead, allot a modest yet realistic amount to cover just enough of your daily/weekly/monthly expenditures, even include a little bit to splurge on or have a good time every now and then.
This way, you don’t go overboard on your spending, but you still get to enjoy life the way you want and still have a bit of cash left over to funnel into your savings.
8. Get a Roomie
If you think you’re paying way too much on rent, maybe it’s time for you to consider getting a roommate or two to help defray your costs.
It’s possible you might value your privacy, or you’d want to have your apartment all to yourself, but if we’re talking about achieving a particular savings goal in a couple of years, then a roommate is only helps you achieve that objective faster.
You get to split the cost of rent, utilities, and perhaps even food and drink. This way, you can cut your living expenses significantly, and make some progress towards actually saving some money.
9. Reconsider that Visit to Starbucks
“A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some.” —Joe Moore
Look, we gotta hand it to the marketing team over at Starbucks. Or even your favorite chain restaurants and coffee shops.
We get it– you can’t do without coffee. But maybe you can home-brew your own cup of joe. Even if you do get fresh beans (which taste great!), we’re sure you have a lot more cash left over than when you get your coffee from Starbucks on a daily basis.
10. Cook More Often
In the same way that you should make your own coffee at home (or at work), you should also make the effort to cook more often.
Join the growing global Slow Food Movement— it’s a community of folks who take greater pleasure in being more hands-on with their food and all the joys that come with cooking and sharing a meal.
Not only do you save money by not eating out as much, but you’re also healthier as you don’t stuff as much fast food into your system. Working with fresh, locally available ingredients is also a lot more environment-friendly, and your family and friends will appreciate your ever-improving cooking skills.
11. Entertain Guests at Home More
As opposed to having a night out on the town where you might spend a hefty sum on food, drinks, and entertainment, consider inviting guests over at home instead and have your social gatherings there.
You and your friends can take turns alternating as hosts, and take turns coming up with ideas for an interesting evening.
12. Pack a Water Bottle and Bring Your Lunch With You
Especially when you’re out at work, you’ll notice that those little trips to the nearby cafe or restaurants can really add up in terms of expenses.
Drinks are particularly sneaky in this manner, so bring a water bottle with you to minimize having to purchase bottled water or soda whenever you’re thirsty.
Likewise, you can do the same with your food for the day. Pack yourself an awesome lunch you’ve prepared at home, and even some snacks and other munchables while you’re at it.
13. Use Public Transportation
Having a car of your own does entail a lot of other costs, including gas, parking, checkups and maintenance, insurance, and other emergency costs. You can forego owning a car for now, at least until you can afford it or when you’re a lot more cash-positive.
If you do need to get around, instead of taking a cab, a Lyft, or an Uber, instead make use of the bus, subway, and rail systems.
Especially in bigger cities where mass transportation is organized like a well-oiled machine, you probably wouldn’t be needing a car anyway.
14. Ride a Bike
Another great option for local transportation is having your own bicycle. At least for short errands in and around the neighborhood where it’s a bit farther to travel on foot, a bike is also great for your health as you can get some cardio in while getting things done.
15. Refinance Your Current Loans (Like Your Car Loan)
There’s a good chance your obligations do carry some interest or a heavy monthly amortization. So, it’s in your best interest to renegotiate your debts and go for a more manageable payment scheme.
If you do have some outstanding loans, do yourself a favor and get in touch with them and work out a plan that will allow you to pay them off eventually, but without having to shell out extra money for interest or other fees.
In the case of a car loan, for example: maybe you’re having a hard time meeting your monthly car payments. If this is the case, you should seriously consider refinancing your auto loan.
Refinancing makes good sense: it’s relatively quick, free, and easy to do, and it can save you hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of dollars over the course of your loan.
Let’s go through how you can refinance your car loan:
- Get your payoff amount details. Contact your lender, find out everything you can about your existing deal: what your outstanding balance is, your monthly payment, APR, number of months remaining, and so on.
- Check your car’s current value. Services like the Kelley Blue Book and Edmund’s can give you an idea how you’re doing with your contract in mind.
- Check your credit history. You’ll want the best possible scores to get the best possible auto refinance rates. You can quickly check your credit reports for free at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
- Shop around for the best deal. Take this opportunity to compare terms among available lenders– usually within 14 to 45 days so your multiple credit inquiries only count as one (and thus won’t harm your credit score).
- Calculate your savings. Websites like Roadloans.com has a calculator specifically for refinancing scenarios like these. Enter the payoff amount, the monthly payment and APR of your current contract, along with the terms of your new loan to see how much you save in monthly payments and interest charges.
- Choose your vendor. Now that you know which lender is best for you, complete the application and steps to refinance your car! Just keep making those payments until your loan is completed.
16. Reduce Your Subscriptions
When was the last time you’ve read all those magazines you’ve been subscribing to? What about those monthly gift boxes? Or all those streaming services?
Understandably, you can’t do away with them, but you don’t really need all of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. all at the same time, do you?
You’re probably paying a lot in monthly overhead– utilities, subscription services, and even apps can cost you. Cut down your monthly bills in half– this would somehow force you to let go of the not-so-important services and lessen your monthly expenses.
17. Reconsider Buying Books on Amazon
Look, reading is great. And we’ll be the last people to discourage you from picking up a book you like so you can lose yourself in the pages.
However, you don’t have to buy a book every single time. At least not right now when we’re trying to get your finances in order.
Instead, visit your local library and consider borrowing a few titles for your reading pleasure. Or you and your friends can borrow books from each other.
18. Go Pre-Loved
There are some things you should buy brand new (mostly for the warranties), but there are also some things that you can purchase pre-loved. That is: slightly used by other folks, but still very much serviceable.
We’re talking about pretty much everything from clothes, to athletic gear, perhaps even electronics and other appliances, furniture, and other personal items.
This way, you not only save a good deal of money, but you also do the environment a favor by reducing waste and recycling/upcycling.
19. Sell Stuff You Don’t Need or Use Anymore
While we’re at it, you could also take the opportunity to do some cleaning up and selling all the other stuff you don’t need anymore.
Hold a garage sale, sell them off on Craigslist or eBay, or offer them to family and friends.
It’s not a lot, but you do get some extra cash in the process while getting rid of junk you don’t otherwise use.
20. Get a Side Gig
Do you know what can give you a bit of extra money? Taking on a side gig.
Nothing beats getting a real job when you’re young: you gain proficiency in some pretty useful skills, you learn to be part of a team, and you develop a good work ethic in this manner.
However, in your spare time, consider turning your hobby or your passion into an income-generating activity.
- If you love animals, consider offering a dog-walking or pet-sitting service in the neighborhood.
- If you’re into crafts and hand-made items, consider selling some of your work on sites like Etsy or eBay.
- Sites like Care.com, Rover.com, Poached.com, and even Craigslist all have great options for one-off gigs or part-time work so you can pick up extra cash. Just be careful with the projects you take or the sort of personal information you might give online.
21. Shop at Sales
Get the most out of your money and be on the lookout for bargains and sales– and only for things you really need.
As stores try to get rid of as much old inventory as possible to make room for new stuff for Christmas, the fall season is the time to purchase that new laptop or even some home furnishing.
Even outside of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, just about everything is marked down, allowing you to get some pretty cool stuff for a fraction of regular prices.
22. Travel During Off-Season
If you must do some traveling, avoid going when everyone else is going.
Most vacation spots have peak seasons and low seasons, and if you’re looking for some great deals, do your traveling during the off-season.
This way, you can take advantage of significantly lower rates on airfare, accommodations, restaurants, and other travel-related expenditures, and save quite a bit of cash in the process.
23. Start Investing Online
“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.” —Will Rogers
It’s never too early (or too late) to start investing.
Today, there are automated online investing platforms (known as robo-advisors) that young investors can start signing up for. With robo-advisors, young investors can start to make some money in the market without being so hands-on.
Two of the most popular robo-advisors are Wealthfront and Betterment. While both may have similar offerings for personal investment accounts, The Balance has pointed out that each of these services is better for a specific type of investor.
Wealthfront does have a very strong offering, even more than Betterment, but you’ll need a larger portfolio to take advantage of it ($100,000.00 or more). Wealthfront is definitely worth considering when you’re a lot more flush with cash for investing.
Betterment is the best option for new investors with no minimum opening balance, low fees, and a simple investment setup. It also has tax-loss harvesting built in, a tactic formerly reserved only for the wealthiest investors.
Other available robo-advisors worth checking out include:
- Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
24. Invest in CDs (Certificates of Deposit)
Another great way to invest your money (or your savings so far) is to put your cash into certificates of deposit, or CDs. CDs are great because they’re a low-risk investment for cash you don’t normally plan to use right away.
The more long-term the CD, the more you’ll earn. So make sure you won’t be needing your funds before the term is up.
Key to investing in CDs is that:
- You not only have enough money to cover your day-to-day expenses, but you also have a significant emergency fund. So whatever you have invested in CDs wouldn’t have to be pulled out prematurely (and thus incurring severe penalties).
- You stagger your CD investments, sort of like putting eggs in multiple baskets. This allows you to periodic access to funds within your CDs in the event you might be needing them.
Investing in CDs is a great way to build up your savings, so that even as you’re putting in more money into your nest egg, the little wealth you do get to accumulate grows slowly but steadily.
Especially as you’ve started scraping together a sizeable amount of savings, you might want to consider even more passive income-generating activities.
25. Look Into Other Passive Income-Generating Opportunities
We’ve covered two excellent ways to grow your otherwise idle money: investing online via robo-advisors and investing in CDs.
Financial Samurai had done a great job at ranking some of the best passive income investments around. For young adults with a bit of money to spare, a couple of additional options worth considering are:
- Investing in bonds. These are a great way to diversify your investment portfolio, and also providing a terrific defensive allocation to it.
- Real estate crowdfunding. You can invest as little as a few hundred dollars into a residential or commercial real estate project with comparably high annual returns.
- Creating your own products. Especially if you’re the creative type, consider putting your talents to good use.
Other passive income projects you might want to consider a lot further down the road might include:
- Actual (physical) real estate
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending
- Dividend investing
- Private equity investing
26: Read a Book
There are a lot of great books on saving money, but one particularly great read is Erin Lowry’s “Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together,” a collection of stories and finance wisdom from the founder of BrokeMillenial.com.
Now known as a millennial money expert, Erin shares a lot of actionable advice on personal finance via her best selling book.
Of course, Erin Lowry’s bestseller isn’t the only book on saving money out there, as there are lots of other great works on the topic from other authors.
27. Hang Out with Folks Who Also Value Saving
Saving money is so much easier when you’re with people who also share your goals.
Having a healthy support group of like-minded people is truly invaluable. Your friends or family might be on board with your efforts to save money, but there are even more passionate folks– just like yourself– out there who are really bent on making smarter financial decisions.
These tips we just shared are not the only financial nuggets of wisdom out there to help you achieve that bigger, fatter savings account you’ve always wanted.
Surely, there must be more out there, and having that network of people who share your same goals gives you to even more tips and advice based on real-life experience.
A Final Word
“If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.” —Benjamin Franklin
The truth is, these tips we just shared can be of benefit to everyone– not just millennials or young adults.
For as long as you’re not independently wealthy, you’ll always be struggling with money. You can make some more, or grow some money from what you have on hand, or you can be more judicious about your spending habits and save some money.
A lot of people might be giving millennials a tough time, but they do have the advantage of having their entire life ahead of them.
Saving money is a crucial step in learning how to make more money. Sure, you can use your savings for future purchases further down the road, but you can also use the money you’ve accumulated towards investments to help you grow your savings without being too hands-on.
Today, there’s a growing movement of millennials and young adults who now recognize the value of frugal living. Hopefully, with these action items we’ve shared, you too can make better decisions with your finances than your elders ever had.