Adulting (otherwise known as growing-up) is hard. Having your own responsibilities and making your own money can be an adjustment when you’re used to living at home and being taken care of. But there’s nothing like getting that first paycheck and knowing that all of your hard word amounted to something. You, and only you, just got paid!
Now that you’ve got that paycheck, what should you do with it? All that talk of saving for retirement so young can seem like it’s too far away to care about, but is it? The truth is that it’s never too early to start saving or learning the smart way to spend your hard-earned cash.
To help you out, the experts from CAPA's very own finance department have come up with some tips to keep you on track toward financial stardom. Following these steps will put you on the right path toward saving and spending money efficiently:
1. BUDGET. Set a budget for yourself and keep to it! Base it on monthly income or per paycheck to get a real sense of what is affordable for you. Set aside half your income for necessities (apartment, food), a quarter to be saved or used toward debt payment if you have it, and the last quarter to spend on fun (clothes, going out).
2. SET GOALS. Set specific goals with numbers and dates instead of words. Tell yourself, “I want to buy ___ item by ___ date, so I have to save ___ from my next ___ paycheck(s) to do so.” If you’re paying off debt, make sure to check the date a payment is due and see the date you need to have money saved up by to pay it on time.
3. TRACK YOUR SPENDING. Understand your spending habits. Track your spending for a couple of weeks and see where you are spending the most and where you can cut back. If you spend a lot eating out or shopping, try to change those habits by keeping your greater goals in mind and only purchasing necessary items.
4. THINK TWICE. Compare your purchases before you make them by asking yourself if one thing is more worth it than another. For instance, if you see a pair of shoes you like, you can ask yourself, “Is this more important for me to buy these shoes or save the money towards a spring break trip?”
5. USE CASH. After setting a budget, take cash out for the week and only use credit cards for emergency purchases. If you can only spend the cash, you’re less likely to go over budget, because once you’re out, you’re out!
6. SAVE. Start saving as soon as possible. Don’t make it a “New Year’s resolution” or tell yourself you’ll start saving with your next paycheck; you’ll be more likely to keep putting it off.
7. LOOK FOR DISCOUNTS. Check Groupon or similar sites for deals on events and activities you were planning on doing anyways. There are usually additional percentages off; it just takes some searching and persistence to find them.
8. FIND FREE ENTERTAINMENT. Research free activities in your area. There are Facebook groups and websites for different cities that compile lists of free activities each month, week or weekend or just gather your friends and use your own imagination!
9. COOK. Make your own food. Going out to eat for lunch every day may not seem like a large expense, but it adds up more quickly than you realize! Pack your lunch ahead of time. You’ll save yourself some money and most likely eat healthier too.
10. GO THE EXTRA MILE. Get a second job and put that money solely toward your savings. It can be part-time, working a few nights a week or on the weekend, but that extra money can be useful in addition to another job you have. (Bonus tip: You can cash your paychecks and keep the money in a safe at home. If it isn’t in your wallet while you’re out shopping, you can’t use it!)