Your twenties are when you learn how to be good at life. An unfortunate reality is that this takes many years and a lot of mistakes to accomplish. And of course, you never feel like you’ve mastered everything, but by the time you reach 30, your blunders become less and less serious.
Learning how to be good with money is one of the toughest parts of growing up. How do you balance having a low-paying job and college debt with once-in-a-lifetime weddings, trips, and other costly activities?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that allows you to do everything you want to. But with a common-sense approach, you can get the most out of your money and avoid digging a financial hole that you’ll have to deal with in your thirties. Here are four mistakes to avoid:
1. Not tracking where you spend money.
Whether you sign up for Mint, make a spreadsheet in Excel, or simply transcribe receipts into a notebook, tracking your spending is essential to reining it in. Once you list all the places your money goes, you can identify what you can cut back on.
For instance, if bar tabs or restaurant bills are making a disproportionate dent in your wallet, you can slowly cut back on going out. When you get more choosy about when you go out, you’ll start appreciating the experiences more. Understanding that you can’t try every new restaurant or go out for every occasion is a tough but necessary lesson to absorb.
2. Not Contributing to a Retirement Fund
Many people will shake their heads at this. How can you contribute to a retirement fund when you can barely pay rent?
There’s no easy answer to this, but the most important thing to remember about retirement funds is that they grow over time. This means that the earlier you contribute, the more time that money has to increase itself.
If you have a job where your employer will match contributions to a 401k, it’s essential to contribute the maximum allowed amount. Doubling your money right off the bat gives you a huge financial advantage that you can’t afford to pass up.
3. Trying to do everything.
There will be many weddings and trips, and fear of missing out can cause you to attend every event—even when you can’t afford to. Determining when you should dish out the money for something and when to walk away is a skill you’ll learn over time.
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that every get-together will be unforgettable and worth going broke over. Just like you can’t buy every outfit you like or go to every restaurant that looks good, you have to make some sacrifices in the social realm too. By saying no to less important events, you’ll ensure that you have the cash to participate in the truly unmissable ones.
4. Increasing your spending as you make more money.
There’s a phenomenon that is undeniable, where people spend more money as they make more. It’s easy to understand why you’d want to enjoy your money as you have more responsibilities and stress. But if you always spend more as you get raises, you’ll never be able to save and create a nest egg.
Think about how a new car really impacts your budget. It’s not just the down payment and monthly payments. You’ll also have to deal with sales tax, higher property taxes in some states, and higher insurance premiums. If that’s worth it, then buy away. The key is to know the true cost of every purchase and be aware of where your money is going.