Young, Fabulous, and Broke: A Beginner’s Guide to Beating Budget Stress

Your twenties: You’ve flown the nest, secured your first real job and have the paycheck to show for it.

If your budget doesn’t match your expectations about your lifestyle needs at this age, you might be tempted to take out the plastic and charge your way through. Or, you can make some simple adjustments to your lifestyle and not be paying for those need-it-now purchases ten years later.

Stress about money can lead to serious health complications, so breathe easier by learning to be happy with what you have. Here are five ways to squeeze extra cash out of your budget, without ruining your social life.

Entertainment

This is a broad category with many opportunities to save without feeling deprived. Here’s how to cut back:

  • Bring back the potluck! If you go out to eat with friends a lot, this is a great way to still have a fun, social evening without breaking the bank. Or, start a regular game night and just invite people to bring healthy appetizers to share.
  • Read more, pay less. If you buy a ton of books, dust off your public library card and start enjoying free reads. Many libraries also offer e-books and movies you can check out.
  • Speaking of movies … Watching flicks at home saves major cash. Make movie night special by popping your own corn and dimming the lights.
  • Seek out free activities. Check your local municipality’s website for free museum days, concerts, festivals, and more. Depending on the event and season, bring along a picnic to round out the day. Biking, hiking, and other low-cost recreational activities are a great way to get together with friends and get some exercise while you’re at it.

Clothes and Household Goods

If you ever shop out of boredom rather than necessity, this could be a good place to scale back. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if the item is something you really need and/or love. Odds are, you don’t need it and we’re guessing it might not even be something you’ll truly cherish. Save spending for those items you just can’t stop thinking about, that you can see yourself wearing or using for years to come, or that you really do need. Another little black dress or tie is NOT a need. Neither are more throw pillows or decorative soaps.

Tip: If you have a big event coming up, try first looking at upscale consignment shops. You might be able to score a dream outfit at a fraction of the cost.

Grooming

Do you currently pay other people to perform grooming tasks you could do yourself? Perfecting an at-home manicure, pedicure, spa or hair treatment could save you a lot of money each month. With a little extra time and practice, nobody will ever know you’re not seeing a professional.

Dues and Subscriptions

Check your last bank statement. Identify the non-essential monthly fees you’re paying, such as magazine subscriptions and online video streaming services. Evaluate how much you use those services and whether you’re really getting out of them what you’re paying. Maybe you are, but there might be potential to eliminate some expenses or negotiate a lower level of service that will allow you to pay less. It’s worth a look.

Vices and Fees

You’d also do well to look at items you routinely spend money on. Things like coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, ATM fees (fees seem small one at a time, but added up they equal big money over the course of a year). Try cutting back on “vice” purchases where you can and set up payment reminders on your phone or automatic payments to avoid late fees. If you’re constantly getting hit with ATM fees, it might be worthwhile to switch your accounts to a bank that’s more geographically convenient.

Affordable Living 

Moving into your first housing unit (whether it is an apartment or house) is a daunting step towards true independence. Assuming you have secured your new home, here are some ways to budget for your housing expenses:

  • Household meals: It may seem easier for the first few weeks to spend your money on takeout, but that will eventually start to add up. Here are some healthy and affordable meal options for your first few weeks:
  • Budgeting from your income is a very important step to make sure you have money for emergency situations. An important step is making sure to divide your paycheck into various forms. However you would like to even it out is up to you, but here is an example:
    • 60% – Bills and Expenses
    • 25-30% – Savings
    • 10-15% – Shopping, Food, etc.

Start with one or two of these ideas and see how they work for you. By taking control of your spending now, you’ll be freed up to save for your future. Learn about specific steps you can take to make your budget work harder for you.

What are your favorite frugal tips? Let us know in the comments.

Photo credit: Rich Brooks

This blog post is part of #HealthyMe, a personalized web experience based on your health and wellness goals. To sign up today, visit http://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/healthyme

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