When you land your first job after graduating from college, lots of exciting new things happen. You might move out of your parents’ house and into your first apartment. Maybe you buy a new car to drive to your new job, or maybe you relocate to a new city. But the most exciting thing? Your new paycheck.
It’s your first taste of true financial freedom, and it’s tempting to blow it all on apartment decor, nights out with friends and professional clothes. As enticing as that is, though, as a recent graduate, you should be focusing on how to save money, not how to spend it.
We know that we sound like a total drag right now (what are we, your mother?). And we are not saying that you shouldn’t treat yourself to a couple of nice things as a reward for getting through four years of ramen-noodle-eating and shopping at Forever 21 as a broke college student. You should! But before your new adult lifestyle gets out of hand, put a plan in place to save money.
Why Should I Save Money?
There are lots of reasons to save your hard-earned dough, and many of them will be personal. Perhaps ever since you moved into an apartment where you can hear your neighbors doing the deed, your dream is home ownership. Maybe you want to roll up in a car that doesn’t smell like Parmesan cheese. Maybe those student loans are looming and you want them out of your hair.
Whatever your personal motivation is, is A-OK! Don’t feel like you need to come up with a reason to save that doesn’t resonate with you. But you should find a why that will motivate you when the urge to spend comes to play. If you’re having trouble coming up with one, we made a list for you to consider.
10 Reasons to Save Money
- You’re saving for a down payment on a house.
- You want to move to a more expensive state.
- Getting out of debt (student loans, credit cards, etc.) is a priority.
- It would feel amazing to stop stressing about money.
- And to stop relying on your parents for things.
- You are dying to buy a car.
- You don’t feel comfortable funding an emergency if it comes up, and that’s anxiety-inducing.
- It would be nice to stop living paycheck to paycheck.
- Imagine being able to retire early!
- For our future-oriented friends, you want to be able to pay for your kid’s college tuition.
How to Save Money
We’ve covered why you should save money, so now let’s get to how you can actually do that. And contrary to popular opinion, cutting out avocados from your grocery trip and skipping your daily Starbucks run aren’t the only ways to save a buck.
Even if you’re not exactly rolling in it (who is as a new grad?), you should get into the habit of saving something every month. Even if it’s only $100. But try to save as much as you possibly can each month.
We rounded up a list of money-saving tips for recent grads with no experience in the arena. Please keep in mind that we are not financial experts, and all of our advice is simply anecdotal. It works for us, and we hope it works for you, too.
5 Easy Ways to Save Money as a New Grad
1. Create a vision board.
When it comes to saving money, we’re all about finding your why here at Adultescence. After all, if you feel like you have nothing specific to save for, you’re going to feel way less motivated to do it at all.
One easy way to figure out what your financial goals are and work towards them is to create a vision board to hang on your wall. We recommend displaying it somewhere that you look at every day so that your money saving goals will always stay top-of-mind. You can also create a collage on sites like Canva and set it as your phone background, and use Pinterest to find inspiring images.
Vision boarding is a form of manifestation. If you put pictures of your dream house on your board, for example, you’ll imagine living in that house every time you look at it. According to Dr. Gail Matthews, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals by writing them down, which is another way to increase the efficacy of your vision board. Kind of like how you’re much more likely to remember to get eggs at the grocery store if you write it on the list. Which reminds us…
2. Make a meal plan (and stick to it).
Instead of going to the grocery store, wandering around aimlessly, and walking out with a cart full of stuff you’ll end up throwing out next week, make a meal plan. Think about what you want to eat that week, and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need. Check your pantry and fridge to see if you already have some of it.
By taking these simple steps before you head to the grocery store, you’ll decrease the chances of you buying things you already have or won’t use. According to Feeding America, nearly $140 billion in food is thrown out each year. Think about how much money you could save by only buying what you’ll use! Bonus: you’ll attract fewer rodents to your apartment, too.
3. Create a basic budget.
We saved this one for third so we didn’t scare you off. But before you scroll away, hear us out! We know the sound of creating a budget is enough to make your skin crawl, but it’s not as soul-sucking as it sounds.
First, change your mindset around budgeting. We were trained to think that having a budget meant we couldn’t spend our money on anything fun. In actuality, the opposite is true! A budget is a useful tool so you can keep track of your money, and make sure you’re only spending it on what you truly value.
Here’s an example: at Adultescence, we were curious about how much we were spending on Ubers in 2019. After looking at our spending habits over the course of two months, we were horrified to discover that over $200 per month was going to Uber. And to be frank, Uber rides weren’t something we really valued. No shade to Uber.
But, if each Uber ride cost an average of $20, then for $200 we took 10 Uber rides. By switching to public transportation, at an average of $2 per ride, our cost plummets to $20 for 10 rides. That’s a savings of $180 per month! For us, planning ahead and budgeting a little extra time to get to our destination is worth the immense savings of skipping the Ubers. But, without creating a budget and taking a look at where our money was going each month, we never would have had that insight.
Budgeting isn’t a torture device to deplete your life of all things fun. Instead, it’s a useful tool to track where your dollars are going and ensure you’re spending money in a way that makes sense for you.
4. Find free or low cost hobbies.
One way that a lot of recent graduates spend their cash is on expensive nights out with friends and other social activities. It’s all too easy to blow $100 in one night at a trendy bar. If it happens every weekend, that’s $400 a month on nights you might not even remember the next day.
Instead of defaulting to hanging with friends at restaurants and bars, find other free or low-cost hobbies and activities to do with your pals. You could go for a walk around the neighborhood, window shop (and leave your card at home to resist temptation), take a hike or cook dinner at home. Invite your friends over, split a cheap bottle of wine, and make your vision boards!
You could even take up a side hustle, like bar-tending, starting your own online business, or getting your real estate license. You’ll be so busy making money, you won’t have time to spend it.
5. Find things secondhand.
If you do find yourself needing something expensive, look for it secondhand first. There are so many ways to do this, like using Facebook Marketplace or hitting up your local thrift shop.
Not only will you find secondhand shopping easier on your budget, but you’ll also be helping the environment. By shopping at thrift stores, you’ll find unique pieces that are well-made, rather than defaulting to buying cheaply made furniture from Ikea or Wayfair. That whimsical, vintage vibe is way in right now, too, so consider yourself a trend-setter.
Final Tips on How to Save Money
We know that saving money isn’t the most fun or glamorous topic. But, it’s super important to start doing it while you’re young. Keep in mind that saving money is a lot easier when you surround yourself with like-minded people. If you have friends that pressure you to spend money on things you don’t care about, you might want to rethink those relationships.
There are tons of resources out there if you’re interested in learning more about saving money. By investing time and energy to learn about good money habits, you’ll set yourself up for success. Check out our additional resources for more info. But get the books from the library to save money, k?
More Resources: How to Save Money
- Listen to the Adultescence podcast episode about saving money and being more financially savvy.
- Read our article about the 5 Financial Creators you should follow to get your spending on track.
- Listen to the Adultescence podcast episode about awkward money situations with friends, like splitting the bill and how to be friends with people who have different financial habits.
- Read the Broke Millennial books by Erin Lowry for a step-by-step guide that’s straightforward and non-intimidating.