Congratulations, hard working Millennial. You beat the odds and landed that job you wanted so badly. The one with the salary and benefits and prime office location.
You conquered high-stake interviews and sent out resumes until you could only comprehend life through bullet points. Well, the effort has paid off, and you’re officially a Millennial with a grown-up job and some money to spend.
You also moved out of your parents’ house. Finally. Your refrigerator is as empty as the department store display models, but that’s okay. At least the WiFi is working.
Now it’s time to wake up early, work hard and watch that savings account grow. Or is it?
The problem with so many Millennials who find themselves with their first five-figure salary and a place of their own is that they fall victim to the temptations of overspending.
A bad overspending habit is like a cavity: You may not even know you have one until you take a trip to the dentist and he starts drilling.
Or in this case, until you realize you have the comfort of a steady paycheck, but your savings account hasn’t experienced the growth spurt you’d expected.
For many members of the Gen-Y workforce, overspending comes in many shapes, sizes and brunch menus.
From eating out one too many times a week, to celebrating your existence on every day that ends in Y, a life devoid of even minimal financial planning will ensure the money you earn from your job feels all too similar to the allowance your parents provided you with as a teenager: never enough.
It’s time to start optimizing your savings, in a way that doesn’t mean fully comprising your social life. Here are seven easy steps to do so:
1. Brown bag your lunch during the workweek.
Nobody wants to be the lonely desk eater who says "no" when his co-workers invite him to the gourmet salad spot up the street, but purchasing a meal every day of the week is the absolute worst overspending habit there is.
Assuming an average workweek meal costs approximately $10, you’ll have said goodbye to a hefty $2,500 by the end of the year if you eat out every workday.
You can find other ways to bond with your new office buddies. Like drunken karaoke.
2. Bring back the piggy bank.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Another just as useful variation of that saying would be, “Keep your change if you’d like to save some money in this world.”
My parents saved over $300 in change over the years, which they decided to put towards their dream trip to Italy a few summers ago.
Whether it’s a jar, a pig or an empty whiskey bottle, let the change add up and cash out whenever you see fit.
3. Turn your "get rich quick" scheme into a "get rich slowly" mindset.
If you’re a Millennial who has taken the route of entering the more traditional workforce, you do realize you’ve accepted an annual salary, right? This means you’ll be making the same amount of money each week.
Daydreaming of becoming rich tomorrow is a great way to pass the time, but you’d be better off accepting your salary and saving appropriately.
Put a certain amount into your savings weekly, bi-weekly or monthly and stick to the plan. No excuses.
4. Learn to spend time alone.
Bear with me, because this is going to sound crazy. Next time you’re really tired on a Friday night, ready to collapse on your bed from the exasperating workweek, and your friend shoots you a text about that night’s last minute plans to spend money on greasy calories, watered-down drinks and a cover charge, why don’t you just say "no"?
Sure the "yes" attitude is great and FOMO is very real, but most of the time, we can predict how these nights will turn out. So save the money and avoid the hangover. At least until the next day.
Watch a movie. Read a book. Write something. Cook. Sleep. The possibilities are endless.
5. Here’s a bright idea: Turn the lights off when you leave your place.
I’ve never seen my parents rejoice quite like the time they realized they’d saved over $20 a month on their electric bill after I moved into my own place.
Bad habits are hard to break. Though, bad habits can also break the bank.
6. Rethink the brands you’re buying for the simple things.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a “brand whore.” I enjoy quality items, and when it comes to clothing, restaurants and the brown liquor that fills my glass, I am extremely conscious of the choices I make and the price tag that may come with it.
After all, you should be spending your hard-earned money on the things that matter to you, but not at the total expense of your savings.
When it comes to the smaller, less flaunt-worthy necessities in life – think dish detergent, paper towels, toiletries and basic groceries – brand name products are more often than not offering the same quality as their lesser-known competitors, though for an inflated price.
Next time you grab the brand name baked beans, check the exact same ingredients that are in the less expensive store brand. Besides, nobody Instagrams Brawny paper towels.
7. Party at your place.
How does it make you feel to know that bottom shelf liquor at your local watering hole is marked up over 1,000 percent?That glass of wine? You’re looking at about a 300 percent markup. Those are numbers that will drive you to drink.
Take advantage of the space you’re paying for monthly and play host. You'll save money and your bed is only a few steps away -- for the various reasons you'd need a bed close by.
Photo via Home Alone