Because Andrew and I met so young, we have always felt that our lives were in different stages than our friends and peers. That feeling continues even now that we’ve both finished our higher education and are living in the “real” world learning how to maintain our own finances.
Currently, we’re working on filing joint taxes, making countless spreadsheets about finances/future plans and budgeting our money. Most of our friends (& 21 year olds in general) are not at this stage in life yet and while this brings us closer as a couple, it’s hard to not be able to talk to your peers about such big events. Due to this, I thought a post with tips to deal with finance and budgeting for 20 somethings might be useful to another young person because I would’ve loved chatting with someone who had recently been there. If you are in a serious relationship/marriage as a young adult, it’s incredibly important that you’re on the same page as your partner when it comes to finances. You don’t want this huge part of life to be a sore subject on a fresh marriage. I’m not an expert on the subject but this is what works for us in our relationship.
1. You guessed it– Organization.
Being organized has always been one of my top priorities but I find it even more necessary now. Invest in a nice file cabinet and file folders to store ALL important documents. I now wish I would’ve kept more of my past receipts and confirmation documents– this is still a lesson I’m learning. Going along with organization is having a well structured planner (or something similar). I like to write things down whereas Andrew prefers using technology for his organization– we all know there’s an app for everything.
2. Plan Ahead— but not too far.
I say not too far because you’ve probably realized by now that planning very far in advance can often be a waste of time/lead to disappointment. However, it’s useful to remind each other of where you’d be if you or your significant other encountered a loss of wages– this will definitely help you save more! Saving at least 3-6 months of the amount of money you’d need to live on if laid off is going to help ease your mind.
3. Set (attainable) Goals.
Similarly to #2, I think there’s a balance to setting goals. They must be challenging enough to keep you motivated and working diligently but not highly unlikely or unattainable to the point where you feel defeated and unsuccessful when they are not met. We like to set goals when budgeting or saving for big events such as a down payment for a home. However, we always allow for unforseen expenses or times where we don’t follow our budget closely so that we’re not disappointed in the end. We also try to set loose timelines for when we want to meet a goal such as buying a home or starting a family. Talking about these things is not only healthy for your bottom line but also your relationship.
4. Obviously, Budget.
Whether you’re highly pleased with your income or living paycheck to paycheck, we think that budgets are key. Sometimes just seeing all of your bills and spending written down will trigger your brain to exactly what you need to work on within your financial situation. It’s easy to save less and lose track of where your money is going when you’re just swiping a card and never looking at the receipt again. With the help of many apps, you can even see exactly what percentage of your income is going where with just a click of a button and this can be quite eye opening.
5. Pay Off Debts!!
It is a reality that most students graduate college with some type of debt. Whether that’s student loans or credit cards, it’s usually a fact of life. We all know that paying off these quickly is key to saving money. However, it can be enticing to see the low monthly payments associated with extended amounts of payments. It is to your benefit to look at how much more money in interest you’ll be paying during the life of the debt and choose to make the biggest payment you can comfortably make in order to spend less money overall. This seems like common sense, but we all know how much better that lower payment looks on paper.
6. Do Research. On everything.
After high school and college, the biggest thing I noticed were how many choices are available for every aspect of life. While this is great, it can also be very scary. I have to remind myself to not second guess my choices. Part of how I do that, is by researching all of my options and making educated decisions over time. There will always be a choice to make– whether to upgrade into a different apartment or not, what bank to put your money into, to buy or rent, when to have children or to go back to school or not. Fortunately for us, we live in an age where someone has already been through the same event and has also written about it online.
7. Buy Only What You Love / Sell or Donate What You Don’t
When you’re no longer as broke as you were in college, it can be easy to spend money more leisurely. While I don’t think it’s healthy to not treat yourself to things that make you happy sometimes (whether that’s clothes, travel, restaurants, décor or whatever your hobby may be) I think it’s important to ask yourself a couple of questions before buying. I try to take a step back and ask if the item/event is really going to interest me for an extended period of time or just for the moment and if it is worth the price. I do this for every single purchase I make that’s not a necessity and I’ve found it so helpful. I also take full advantage of online sites and groups that make selling things that no longer spark your interest SO easy. This is a great way to make some extra money AND clean out your space.
8. Coupon and Shop Sales.
There are not many things in life that I buy without a sale or coupon. In fact, I do not buy anything that’s not a “need” item (necessity) unless there’s a sale or a coupon. I’m not going to be on a couponing show anytime soon but I couldn’t begin to explain how much I’ve saved by putting in a small amount of time and effort. I highly recommend downloading apps such as Retail Me Not. It takes seconds to search for a store to see any possible discounts and can save you big. I’d never be without that app. Check to see if the grocery store you shop at has an app too– if it does, they will likely have app exclusive coupons and often give free items or gift cards with purchase. (Kroger and Target are excellent for this)
9. Worry Less. (For your health and relationship)
This might seem silly, but my biggest worry after moving out on my own was simply remembering to pay all my bills on time and keep track of so many different accounts. Furthermore, the first time we had ever written a check was for our rent at 21 years old. Seemingly basic skills are no longer taught in the way they used to be and I know how challenging this can be to young adults because we hear it ALL the time from peers. Of course in the end, these aspects of life are not worthy of any stress. As I said before, buy yourself a planner or download an app and write down everything– due dates, account numbers etc. Before long, you’ll have your monthly routine memorized.
I hope this eased someone’s mind or will motivate YOU to grab some hot cocoa and plan! 😉 Thanks for stopping by!