Look to the future!
Chronologically speaking, we get why you’d think this. College and grad school come first, and, frankly, while you’re still in school retirement couldn’t feel farther away. But here’s the deal: you can’t borrow for your retirement, but you can take out loans for your (or your child’s) education. So start by enrolling in an automatic savings plan, or, if your company matches it, a 401(k). Allow your bank account to get used to the monthly savings, and then reevaluate how much you can reasonably afford to put aside for higher education.
Leave some wiggle room.
We’ve agreed with this one in instances of coming into some extra dough; i.e., using your tax refund to pay down credit card debt. But for the day to day, you need a buffer of savings in the bank in case something comes up. In the event of an emergency or job loss, you don’t want to dip into even more debt to cover it. Instead, pay down debt and build savings at the same time. Try this: make the minimum payment on your credit card plus 10%, which will put you slightly ahead for next month, and also stash away 10% of your monthly paycheck into savings. As you grow more comfortable with this strategy (and hopefully make more money), ramp up the percentage on both.
Be a smart shopper!
Hey, we all love a great deal. But buying some items in the bargain bin will only cost you more in the long run. We shouldn’t have to tell you that safety products like bike helmets, car seats, and anything for a child is a huge no-no; these items are made for safety, so buy them new to ensure full protection. When shopping for a computer, opt for a used desktop instead of a used laptop; laptops are more likely to have been dropped or spilled on while desktops tend to be kept safely at home. Shoes, especially those used for exercise, are another don’t; even if the outside looks new, their cushion system is likely broken down which can cause foot and back pain. Finally, anything for the bedroom: mattresses, sheets, even stuffed animals. These are safe havens for all kinds of germs, human and otherwise. Gross.