If you are a millennial—between the ages of 26 and 41—you are among history’s most well-educated but most financially-challenged generations. Many of you are just starting out on your own, working hard to pay off student loans and other debt. It can be a super stressful time in your life.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by all the financial advice flying around, start with these simple tricks when you want to get your money squared away.
Top 5 money hacks
1. Know what you make; know what you owe
Setting a budget may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. First figure out how much you take home each month, then figure out how much you spend each month. Be sure to include everything, from rent, student loans and insurance to gas, food, phone and clothing. Compare the two—your income and your expenses—and then figure out how much you can spend on ‘wants’ such as eating out and travel, versus ‘needs’ such as rent and insurance. You now have a budget. If the numbers clearly show that your expenses are larger than your income, you need to make some changes.
2. Do all you can to stop living paycheck to paycheck
Rent is one of the biggest expenses for millennials; some are spending half their take-home pay on an apartment. Best way to save? Get a roommate or consider living at home for a year. Cut your everyday expenses; pack your lunch, brew your own coffee, take the bus instead of Uber, and just generally scale back on spending.
3. Knock down your credit card debt
Even if you have a balance of just a few thousand dollars, you are spending hundreds on interest. And, if you only pay the minimum each month, that debt could be hanging over your head for years. Use our easy Credit Card Payoff Calculator to learn how much you can save just by paying a little more each month.
4. Build an emergency savings account
Once you’ve cut your credit card debt, take steps to keep it from building again. One of the most common reasons millennials go into debt is because of unexpected expenses – car repair, medical bills, or things like that. Your goal should be to set aside at least three months of living expenses, but even a little bit helps. Set up an automatic savings plan, where money goes into an emergency account before you even see it.
5. Don’t forget your future
This is one of the biggest money mistakes millennials make. We know it feels like retirement is a million years from now, but if your employer offers a retirement account contribute the maximum amount that you can. It may sound like a luxury right now, but your future self will thank you. The longer your money sits in your retirement account, the more it will grow. If your company matches contributions to your retirement account, make it a goal to take maximum advantage. It’s basically free money.