For an overwhelming majority of young people, living paycheck-to-paycheck has become an art form. Some of us have perfected it, some have not. If you’re looking to move away from this lifestyle, I’ve got a few pointers that can serve as a checklist for your financial journey. Saving can be stressful so start small with these pointers and gradually build up to your goal.
1. Open an online savings account and deposit $5 each week. If you want to dedicate more, go for it but if things are really tight, start with five. I’ll bet you have more than that in your car, couch and kitchen drawers. The important thing about this tip is to KEEP YOUR HANDS OUT of this cookie jar. I like to pretend once I submit any money to savings, it’s gone forever. Use whatever Jedi mind trick works best for you.
2. Clean House. I know this task sounds daunting but I don’t mean dusting and vacuuming. Get inside the dark corners of your closet and the storage spaces you’ve been avoiding for a while now to really find the good stuff. Pull out any and all clothes, shoes, books, electronics that you feel comfortable parting with. eBay is a marketplace giant but there are plenty of other, more-targeted sites to choose from. For example, use BookScouter to get a comparison of all buyback prices. If you’re unsure of any of your item’s value, search for the item in these marketplaces to see how much others are listing it for.
3. Let go of your major vices. Yes, you heard right. Smoking, drinking, gambling, coffee, shopping – they are a black hole for your hard-earned money and most likely for your health. I know giving up your crutch is easier said than done so start with cutting back. If you’re getting Starbucks four times a week, make it two. If you’re smoking a pack a day, cut that in half. If you’re heading to the mall on every lunch break, take a walk in the park instead. This advice is always a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a necessity if you truly want to save more money.
4. Negotiate your bills. Get on the phone with each of your service providers and simply ask for a better deal. Most times they will not update existing customers on more enticing offers but will honor them if you reach out yourself. If this whole paragraph gives you anxiety (I get it), you’ll be delighted to know there are companies that do this whole process for you. BillCutterz.com will do all the heavy lifting and split the savings with you 50/50. Remember: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no!
5. Organize and pay your bills on time. This may seem like a no-brainer but you might be surprised at how much late fees add up. Start by organizing your bills, their due dates and balance due- I use a good old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet for this. I also pay most of my bills via autopay but if this makes you uncomfortable, go ahead and write checks and place them in pre-addressed, stamped and dated envelopes. Not only does paying late cause late fees but it can negatively affect your credit score. Avoid all the missed calls from bill collectors and make paying bills on time your top priority.
You probably know by now that making your financial life healthy is hard work, but by making some good habits and setting goals for yourself, you will have money in the bank in no time! Breathe…you’ve got this!
Last updated on 01/27/2015.