I’m good at a lot of things. I make a living writing – a skill that is rapidly diminishing in both popularity and sex appeal. I am a good driver, in spite of the three accidents my insurance agent would be quick to point out. I am talented in the kitchen, patient with animals, and a capable – if not quick-tempered – kickball team captain. I can even make origami penguins.
I am not, however, good with money. As a young professional, I don’t find myself flush with cash to begin with, so my tendency to part with it quickly and indiscriminately has always been a cause for concern. Luckily, this cross is not mine alone to bear; Millennials are notoriously careless with their cheddar. With this in mind, I’ve taken measured steps in the past year to improve my relationship with money. While these changes have dramatically distanced me from the poor house, take this advice with a grain of salt – after all, I recently paid for a beer in quarters. Warren Buffet, I am not.
Prioritize Your Life – I’m an impulsive person by nature, and while I frame it nicely on my Tinder profile (“spontaneous and adventure-prone”), the truth is it’s not always the best trait. You don’t have to sit down and budget your entire life down to the last nickel. Instead, try taking a few minutes to make small decisions based on your priorities. The difference between seeing a movie in the theaters and renting it a few months later is significant. How badly do you need to see it right now? Your new favorite BBQ joint sells t-shirts. How many times will you wear a $25 “Nice Rack” shirt before the joke gets old? You’d be amazed how far a few prudent decisions a month will get you.
Find a Better Price – I love Amazon. I love their business model, I love their interface, I love their color scheme, and when the time comes, I will love their drones. But the thing that brings me back to Amazon time and again are their prices. Before any purchase, of any size, I check Amazon for a better price. Sure, large retailers hate people like me, but my checkbook sure doesn’t.
Buy Used – Soapbox time: I get worked into a lather preaching the gospel of used goods. We live in a disposable and superficial culture, so it might take some serious mental energy to part with your fascination with all things new. But once you make the change, you’ll be amazed how quickly your savings add up. Books are my favorite example; a new hardcover runs $20-30. For that price, you could buy five or six used books and have money left over. Do some digging and you’ll find almost everything you would otherwise purchase at full retail is available used. Furniture, clothes, art, appliances…the list is endless.
Avoidable Expenditures – This one is a no-brainer: identify avoidable expenses in your life and – well – avoid them. Parking tickets, moving violations, overdraft fees, late fees – it’s all money down the drain.
Microsavings – A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. In addition to collecting my pocket change, I’ve begun using Digit and Acorns to squirrel away a few bucks here and there. These tools are fantastic because they work automatically with your bank account to accrue money slowly but surely. Anything that makes me a marginally better person without any actual effort earns my stamp of approval.
I’ve still got a long way to go in becoming more diligent with my finances. But as with most things, the sooner you get started, the better. How are you saving money daily? Let us know @StarterNoise.
James Stuart is a failed astronomer, paleontologist, and amateur beekeeper turned writer. Once described as “enervating, but fun,” his interests are varied – including things, stuff, places, and events. He is on a lifelong pursuit to know as much as possible about everything, and will ensure you always have something interesting to talk about at the bar.