5 Ways Millennials Can Start Spending Smarter
News As you buy tickets for that upcoming show or instantly transfer cash with your smartphone, take a minute to think about your financial future.
We all know Millennials are burdened with debt. The average young adult starts with undergraduate student loan payments around $300 per month. When you add housing — at about 40 percent of monthly income — along with groceries, utilities, transportation, and health care costs the financial strain increases. That doesn’t even account for retirement savings.
These are the realities causing many young adults to delay life goals like marriage and starting families. And what happens once Millennials become parents? With a price tag of more than $304,000 — that’s the projected inflation-adjusted cost of raising a child until age 18 not counting college — you get a clearer picture of the mounting stress of this generation.
Two in five young parents rate their financial health as unsatisfactory and 40 percent said financial stress is putting a strain on their relationship. Shockingly, more than half of Millennial parents concede they would surrender a year off their life to have more financial security.
Whether you’re single or married, have a family or not, the New Year is an ideal time to evaluate where you are financially. Here are five steps to gaining control:
1. Make debt reduction a priority
Make a plan to pay off excessive debt, particularly credit cards. Set a goal to reduce your debt load next year by 5 to 10 percent. Tackle your lowest balance first to gain momentum, then take on the next smallest. Pay attention to higher interest rates that are costing you a lot of money.
2. Use a budget
Get a budget and spending plan in place to have an idea what your expenses are. Try an envelope system — either real or electronic — with monthly allowances for things like groceries, entertainment, utilities, etc.
3. Start small
Build an emergency fund. Aim for a small, achievable goal as low as $500 and then set the bar higher. Participate in your employer-sponsored savings program to boost retirement savings, especially if there is a match. Make it an automatic payroll deduction and increase it when your paycheck goes up.
4. Shop for better services
Where can you come up with $500 for an emergency fund? Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value in the services you use. How long has it been since you shopped your insurance policies? Any chance you can save money on your cell phone plan, internet or utilities?
5. Save for the future
Put money for short-term expenses (one to two years) in safe investments, such as savings accounts and certificates of deposit. These low-interest-rate investments will not grow dramatically, but they will not lose money, either. Money you will need beyond five years should have the opportunity to grow at a risk level you are comfortable with. Use a combination of steady-earning savings accounts and more volatile stock and bond mutual funds to help protect you against long-term losses.