A good number of young professionals in their twenties are either deep in credit card debt and student loans, or are living from paycheck to paycheck. However, there are some who have learned to rein in their finances. They don't have special secrets, they just learned from time-honored financial practices that their grandparents lived by.
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The following tips are based on financial practices and methods that have worked and have helped many individuals stay afloat and comfortable even in these uncertain times.
1. Save for purchases. Saving is a habit a lot of people are learning to forget because of the convenience of credit cards. For instance, it's easy to get tempted by offers such as this one by Chase Visa cards, that will give you cash back upon your first sign up. Sounds great, but only in the hands of those people who are confident about paying off their cards.
Because of the consumer-oriented nature of businesses nowadays, people are enticed and conditioned to buy, buy, buy, even at a young age. So instead of learning how to save for those things we want, we choose instead to just swipe that card. Whatever happened to setting aside the money until we have enough to make the purchases we'd like to make?
2. Save for the future. If there's anything that you can do for your financial health -- which you should keep doing regardless of how boring or challenging it can become -- it would be to save and invest for the long term. There are a lot of goals to save for and by getting into the habit of saving, you'll eventually find your money growing on its own accord.
Avoid using credit indiscriminately and work to build a savings fund that's dedicated for emergencies, and another one that's dedicated to your future goals. Build your emergency fund and have a backup plan to keep you from getting an overdraft or from accumulating credit card debt that could arise from coping with a calamity or an unexpected event. Grow your other savings fund into an investment portfolio that you keep in mutual fund companies or well regarded investment brokers (some, like ETrade, have both a banking and investment arm you can peruse).
Long-term goals include saving for your retirement. If you have kids, you should save for their college education as well. Don't get tired of saving! It could be your financial salvation!
3. Live within your means. True, it can be a downright test of your will each time you walk by your favorite gadgets, clothes or insert-your-shopping-addiction-here store. In your mind, you may be thinking about how easy it would be to make a purchase by simply using the plastic. So you start to reach for your card. But wait! You just finished paying off your credit card debt! Must you kill yourself financially once again?
Living within our means is a habit that many of us have lost. However, we have to accept the fact that we have to practice a bit more will power and live within our budget. If it's not in the budget this month, make it part of the budget next month. If need be, sacrifice a bit of your food allowance, or cut the budget allotment in other areas in order to afford the one thing you want. Maybe you don't really watch cable TV. Maybe it's time to have it cut off? How about switching to a lower plan? How about cutting down on going to the theater? There may be more affordable alternatives such as Blockbuster or Netflix services that you may want to use instead.
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If you need to have that something shiny from your favorite store, make financial space for it. And while you should think about making room for it, be careful that you don't let it edge out everything else. Don't just give in to the lure of today's modern financial conveniences.
While credit cards have advantages, like cash back rewards and other benefits, make sure that you use them wisely. Don't let them rule you. Instead, be the one in financial control.
Go back to the basics. Save, save, and save some more. Tighten your belt by living within your means too. Then, when you're ready to take risks, maybe it's time to look into mutual funds and get into the game of saving on steroids. The point is, it's all about saving.
Silicon Valley Blogger is a full time blogger and online entrepreneur who writes for The Digerati Life and The Smarter Wallet sites that cover general personal finance topics ranging from investing and saving to credit and debt management.