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Honestly, I’m a dork, but I can embrace that, so I’m going to say this.
I love saving my money. I think saving money in your twenties should be a really exciting thing. Every dollar you set aside is another step toward your independence! There’s a lot you can’t control in this crazy world, but you do have control over your money decisions. You can save, invest, gamble, get Chipotle, whatever. It’s YOUR decision.
That’s what I wanted to talk to you about today. There are a million and one blog posts that tell you what you HAVE TO DO to save money. You have to stop eating out. You have to stop buing coffee. I have a novel concept for you: how about we do what we’re comfortable with? We all have our own priorities. I LOVE going to Dunkin before work every morning. I feel connected to all the other people out-and-about early in the morning, and I get to see my coffee guy, Bob. He knows my order and my life story. My me-time in the morning is self-care. Giving that up to save money wouldn’t be worth it for me. It goes against my whole philosophy for this blog.
If you’re new, the philosophy for this blog is that I’m here to help you strike a balance between building for your future and living a good life now.
Your twenties are the prime of your life, and you shouldn’t have to choose between them and your future. In some posts, I help you strike that balance by talking about mental health or dating. But sometimes we gotta talk about money. Today’s post helps you find that balance by giving you ideas for saving money in your twenties. I’m going to give you a whoooole bunch of ways you can do it, but I’m not asserting that you need to do all of them. The only ones I’m REALLY going to push for are the first two. Beyond that, you’re aware of what methods of saving will crush your soul or make you feel empowered. And like I said at the beginning, saving money in your twenties can really be empowering!
Saving Money in your Twenties Without Hating Your Life
1. The first step to saving money in your twenties is writing out concrete goals.
This is one of the ones I’m pushing for. If you don’t know what your saving goals are, you won’t feel empowered when you save. You’ll feel like you’re punishing yourself. So, what are you saving for? Personally, I’m saving up for financial independence. But that’s really vague, so I stepped it up with some specifications that make sense for my life. I’m saving up to be ready to move out by my 25th birthday. In that time, I’ll be six months out of grad school. So, I’ll hopefully have a career-oriented job (another goal!) and six months of savings ready to go.
That’s the BIG goal. But of course, becoming financially independent, even by a certain date, is going to feel really elusive when you’ve decided to cut out Chipotle but you need a burrito more than oxygen. So, you need to set baby goals leading directly to the big one.
Literally today, I found an apartment complex I’d love to live in, in the area I’ve been dreaming of. It’s perfect, but waaay too expensive for me right now. I have to make little goals for myself like “okay, this month, the blog has to make x dollars.” Then, when you hit that, you work on the next, bigger one. It’s a lot easier to put in the hard work if you feel like the finish line is within reach. So write those goals, all the way from the tiniest, barely-anything step, to the big one.
2. Write out your budget
This is the other one I’m pushing for. Your goals are’t the same as your budget. You write out your goals so you can write out your budget. Ya feel me? Once you have your big goal and your mini goals, you have an idea of the amount of money you’ll need to cut from your budget.
Everydollar is a budget planning website that allows you to create your budget and easily track it. You can even link your bank accounts to automatically track what you’ve spent. There’s a free version and a paid version, and that paid version comes with a 15-day free trial.
If you’re not so keen on giving out your bank info to websites, or if you’re just a little more old-fashioned, tons of bloggers out there are offering budget sheets. Here are a few that I love:
- Living Well Spending Less– this link should take you straight to a PDF, but you should definitely check out Ruth’s website. She has an insane amount of resources, and her products are super cute!
- Just a Girl and Her Blog– Abby has a whole budget binder that she shares with her readers! Not only does it have everything you could possibly need to track your expenses, it’s also really pretty!
- Natalie Bacon– You do have to give Natalie your email to get access to her budget resources, but they’re great! In addition to the budget worksheet, she also offers a net worth spreadsheet so you can always keep track of how much money you have.
3. An Incremental Cash Savings Plan
An incremental cash savings plan is a great method of saving money in your twenties, because it’s really tangible. It goes back to the reasons why you should have very specific goals- you don’t want them to feel so elusive that you give up. This is actually one of my favorite ways to save, because I can clearly see and touch my progress.
So, this is basically an envelope system. You have a whole bunch of envelopes, and they each have incremental numbers on them. The one I usually do is $4, $8, $12, etc. all the way up to $208. Each week for a year, you save the dollar amount of the next envelope.
This can sometimes be pretty hard because you might not have $208 to save in week 52. I know this firsthand, because I have the most inconsistent paychecks in the world. So, what I do is just put aside all the money I’m willing to save from my paycheck each month, and then fill as many envelopes as I can all at once! I like to start with the biggest envelopes first, so it gets easier, not harder as I go on. Watching those envelopes fill, and physically seeing yourself get closer to your goal is really fun and exciting. Plus, it’s like a competition to see if I can fill them all before the 52 weeks are up!
(Also, putting fun inspirational quotes on them helps!)
4. A Change Jar
This one is another game-like method of saving. It also gives you the opportunity to do a fun DIY project and decorate the jar with your goal in mind. Are you saving for a trip to Disney? Paint a mason jar to look like Mickey or Minnie! You could dump all your change every day, or you could do something more specific like only saving your dimes.
Did you know that if you were to fill a two-liter soda bottle with dimes, you’d have about $700? Start flipping all those couch cushions over!
5. Start Meal Planning
Again, saving money in your twenties isn’t supposed to suck the fun out of your life just so you can have a life later. You should be able to enjoy your life all the time. So, if cutting eating out isn’t the best plan for you, skip this one! For me though, I’m aware eating out is probably my biggest money-sucker. When I go to work, I buy breakfast at the Dunks and then get lunch wherever my little heart desires. I spend easily $10-$15 a day on food during the week.
I’d never cut eating out from my budget because like I said, it’s self-care, but do I really need to eat out TWO meals a day? I could probably be okay with just breakfast if I actually took the time to plan my meals. I found this amazing post from The Project Pile that has 40 recipes conducive to meal planning. Now, if I were to just plan three lunches, I would save almost $50 every week.
And I could put that $50 in my envelopes from #3.
6. Rebate Apps
I talked about Ebates in a post of mine about ways to earn money without doing anything. Basically, it’s a rebate app that allows you to save money on your online shopping. As long as you use it for things you were already going to buy, you can save money on a crap ton of websites. They literally have hundreds of stores! Some notable ones are Etsy, Ulta, Aerie, Barnes & Noble, and Stubhub.
Th cashback amounts usually range from 1%-15%, but I’ve seen as much as 40%! They also offer exclusive coupons that you can’t get anywhere else, and a $10 cash bonus to start! It’s completely free, too. Hit that button below to get started! Even if you never use it again, creating an account gets you an automatic $10, so you can’t lose!
Ibotta is another one that does a very similar thing, but it’s more grocery oriented than Ebates. You unlock rebates by watching/reading ads. Then you take a picture of your receipt, and it gives you a percentage of the money back on all your eligible items! You can sign up for Ibotta here!
A third is Shopkick. Shopkick will be a really fun way to help you with saving money in your twenties! It’s techy, simple, and convenient. All you do is turn on your bluetooth and open the app, and it’ll give you points (called kicks) just for being in the store! Then, you can go scan various items for more kicks, and purchase them for even more! Those points can be used to earn gift cards and items from popular stores anywhere from Target to Tiffany & Co. Sign up for Shopkick here, and use my personal referral code GOAL528042 to get a free 250 kicks on your first scan!
Swagbucks is the last one, and it works a little differently. They don’t give you CASH back for your eligible purchases, they give you SBs. Their SBs are points you earn toward gift cards to tons of really popular places. You can check them out here!
Your town or university’s library might really surprise you! They actually tend to be really up on the trends because they’re trying to stay afloat in this technology-based world. My town’s library has a ton of books that have just come out this year. They also got themselves a 3D printer! I dunno how to use it or what it’s for, but it’s super high-tech. Millennial paradise.
In case your version of saving money in your twenties also involves finding cheap or free events in your area, the library is a great place to start! Mine has free Tuesday night movies every week.
8. Use Cash Instead of Cards
Again, this tech-based world makes not only saving money in your twenties a lot harder, but all throughout life! I think this is common sense at this point, but haven’t you noticed that when you use your cards, you feel less guilty? Feels great in the moment, but unfortunately that lack of guilt is making you feel more comfortable spending what you should be saving. You can also take your change from any purchases and put it right in your envelopes!
9. Automate your savings
An automatic savings option helps you save without even knowing you’re doing it! Your bank account takes either a super small amount, or an amount you choose, and switches it over to your savings account. Some do it every time you make a purchase, and for some, you can choose when it happens. Here’s a list of a few national bank chains in the US that offer some sort of automatic saving option.
- TD Bank– you can set your own dollar amount to be automatically transferred, on a schedule you set yourself! This is not marketed as a specific type of account, but it’s a semi-hidden option you can find in the “transfers” section of your account.
- Wells Fargo– automatically transfers $1 from checking to savings every time you make a purchase with your debit card.
- Bank of America– all debit purchases are rounded to the nearest dollar, excess going from checking to savings.
- Chase– just like TD, you can choose how much you want to automatically transfer, and how often you want to transfer that.
10. Cut your cable in favor of Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Tons of people are cutting their cable because they only really need the shows on Netflix, HBO Go, etc. In fact, according to Fortune.com, people are paying $103 for cable on average. If you cut your cable and bought Netflix AND Hulu, you’d save over $80 a month. If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, you can also get Amazon Prime Video for free with that. So, three services for the price of one fifth of cable.
11. Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover Plan
Lots of people write blog posts about Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I think most of the posts I’ve seen that lead with “How One Couple Saved…” are the work of Dave Ramsey. It’s a seven-step plan with a goal of getting people out of pretty severe debt, and I’ve only ever seen positive reviews of it. It spent over 200 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, and gets 4.6 stars on Amazon.
Here are the seven baby steps the book takes you through:
- Creating a $1,000 emergency fund
- Using the “Debt Snowball” to pay off ALL your debt
- Creating a savings account that holds up to 6 months worth of expenses
- Investing 15% of your income into an IRA.
- Funding for college
- Paying off a home
- Building wealth
So, as you can see, each baby step not only helps you build your savings, but helps you gain financial security so you don’t ever end up in debt. If you’d like, you can buy The Total Money Makeover right here, along with a workbook with exercises that’ll help hold you accountable.
12. Cut out bottled water and invest in a reusable one
I don’t know who made me this way, but I’m a bottled water snob. I’m lucky enough to live in an area where I could probably very safely drink the tap water, and I still drink bottled water. This is a definite area where I could save money. I bought myself a reusable water bottle, not only for this saving money in your twenties thing, but also because I have the hardest time remembering to drink water.
I got myself a water bottle from Aquamotiv just like this one below. Mine is blue and the quote is “drink your effing water,” but the general idea is the same 🙂 It has a fruit infuser so you can make your water taste more interesting, and also a time tracker on the back so you can easily keep track of how much you should drink. It’s a great replacement for plastic water bottles because it’s motivational, it saves you money on water bottles, and it’s good for the environment! Get yourself one by clicking the picture!
13. Buy used- join a FB group for your town/county or utilize the marketplace feature
Yup! Your town or county has a Facebook group for buying and selling. And if they don’t, Facebook has set up a local marketplace feature. You can find it at the bottom center of your screen on the mobile app, or on the top left under your name and messenger on the desktop version.
14. Eat a few meatless meals per week
If you really want to eat meat, here’s a tip: at least get the tougher cuts. They’re cheaper and you can use a crock pot to tenderize them.
Here’s some info I didn’t think I’d be giving in a post about saving money in your twenties. The tougher cuts of meat are the ones that were the stronger muscles on the animals they’re from. So, in the case of beef, those are the cuts that come from the legs and shoulders. The rule that chefs use has to do with “the distance between the hoof and the horn.” The farther you are from the hoof (foot) and horn (on it’s head), the more tender your cut of beef will be. So, the meat from the center of the animal will be more tender, and the meat from the outside of the body will be tougher.
15. Don’t waste your tax return
This is one that people might not agree with me on, but I’m gonna say it anyway. Again, you’re free to choose which of these tips works best for your life.
So, your tax return is money that you probably didn’t put in your budget. For some, that’s license to use it as discretionary income. Personally, I see that as a reason to save it. You didn’t put it anywhere in your budget. You don’t NEED it for anything. So, if you put it right in your savings, it’ll be as if it were never there.
16. Spend more time at the Dollar Store.
Did you know the dollar store carries name brands like Kraft Mac & Cheese and Pop Tarts? I didn’t for most of my life. They also have some great deals on freezer foods! Saving money in your twenties is a LOT easier when you know you can get your favorite brands for a buck.
17. Rewards cards.
Not credit cards, even though they have the better incentives. Rewards cards. Like with rebate apps, as long as you don’t buy anything extra just to get the rewards, these are a great way to be saving money in your twenties that you might not be utilizing as much as possible.
18. Quit the gym.
You don’t go. And there are TONS of workout plans that cost way less than the gym.
19. Be wary of DIY projects.
I know I talk about how DIY projects like the canvas cutout project will help you with saving money in your twenties. A lot of the time, they will! But sometimes buying all the materials costs more than buying the finished product. It’s tempting to believe that anything you do yourself is saving you money, but it’s definitely not the case.
20. Get techy with it
I’ve said it a few times now, but the key to saving money in your twenties seems to be using technology to help us. There are a few apps I’ve found recently that can be really helpful.
The first is Qapital. It’s another way to automate your savings a little more creatively than your bank. You set your savings goal, and then it gives you options of “rules” for automatic saving. Here are some of the cool ones:
- Come in under budget, put the rest in your savings
- Put in a little savings whenever you buy the things you’re trying to stay away from
- Save $1 in week 1, $2 in week 2, just like the envelope rule but without the envelopes.
The second app is Flipp, which you may have seen commercials for. There’s a couple anxiously standing at the cash register of a grocery store waiting to see their bill. Sadly, they find they’ve gone over budget again, so the cashier lets them in on a secret: Flipp. It gives you circulars and coupons for over 800 stores. You can add your loyalty cards, too!
Next is Retail Me Not, which is a website and an app. Just punch in the store you want to find a coupon for, and it’ll pull up everything it knows about recent coupons there. The downside is that some of them don’t work because they were just rumors, but a lot of the time, I’ve been able to find something helpful!
Finally, there’s Digit, which is also for automatic savings, but it actually monitors your income and spending, and transfers small amounts of your money into a secure, FDIC-insured account. Personally, I think this one is a little much, but it certainly is convenient.
Freecycle is a website sort of like Craigslist or Ebay, except everything on it is free! It’s the internet equivalent of leaving a couch at the end of your driveway with a “free” sign on it. It makes saving money in your twenties easier if you want something, and you can also get rid of those big fat TVs from the early 2000s.
22. “Visit” new purchases
I got this idea from The Busy Budgeter. She suggests that whenever you want to buy something, you should put it on your calendar for 30 days from now. In 30 days, you ~visit~ the idea of owning that item and see if you still feel like you need it. She says that about half the time, she changes her mind! Those are some great stats if I do say so myself.
I’m not here to tell you to stop eating out. Like I said in the beginning, saving money in your twenties is NOT about sacrificing this phase of life for the next one. So, if you don’t want to stop eating out, at least use Groupon and find some great deals and new places to try!
24. Shop at Smart Times
I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again. I freakin love Dunkin Donuts. The donuts themselves aren’t my favorite in the world (ever heard of Fractured Prune?) but sometimes I get a craving I just can’t quell. In those moments, I go at night. Dunkin throws out their donuts at the end of the day so there’s no chance of selling stale ones. A lot of the time, if you go maybe fifteen minutes before closing, they’ll offer you a big bag of whatever’s left! Not the healthiest thing, but if you’ve got the craving, you might as well satisfy it for free.