7 Budgeting Tips I Wish I'd Learned in My 20s

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Masooma Memon155
May 24, 2024 at 2:28PM UTC

Our twenties are a soul-crushing, mind-shattering time when the sudden realization that being a teenager was way better that adulthood hits. On top of that, money matters keep striking left, right, and center. You can either let the financial attacks bog you down, or be on top of your twenties with the proper budget planning and thought-out expenses. I’ve sailed through most of my twenties with good saving skills and proper records of how much and where I’ve spent. A big round of applause to my mother for passing those traits to me. Still, there are always things to learn, which is why here are some budgeting tips that I wish I knew from the dawn of my twenties: 

1. Find a system to separate your needs from your wants.

It has taken me a long time to understand and convince myself that the want for a Coco-Cola is different from the need of a fresh juice. I still find myself mentally-debating between the two. This is just one example of the difference between wants and needs, though. You will have to follow suit when you plan a budget, stick with it, save for your future, invest in your business, and so on. The sooner you realize to pick your needs from your wants, the better you will get at your money matters. 

2. Wait 72 hours before purchasing an item that you don’t need.

NerdWallet survey confirms that 67% of the millennials blame emotions for causing them to spend more than what they can afford. However, this can quickly turn you into Rebecca Bloomwood from Confessions of the Shopaholic, who shops so much that she ends up drowning in debt. 

Playing a trick on your emotions can help prevent your budget from blowing to bits. Ask yourself to wait for 72 hours before adding any particular item to your cart. 

This will give your brain the time to think if the purchase sits well with your budget and if you really need it or not. In the end, you are likely to see your brain score over your impulses, with the result being an intact budget. 

3. Separate your finances from your parents.

The fresh morning when I crossed the invisible boundary to my 20s, I felt nothing new. I also didn't become sharp or financially independent overnight. Although that’s kind of what we secretly think will happen every time our age takes a step up the ladder. 

Everything proceeded slowly from there on. So slow that I didn’t bother to separate my finances from my parents. I shared a bank account with them. However, your 20's are the time when your chief goal should be self-sufficiency. It took me some time — or specifically, a few years, to understand that. You can’t go hopping to your parents for help every time a financial calamity strikes. Therefore, the quicker you are with cutting the cord, the better. 

4. Stow away money for emergency expenses.

Don’t turn to help unless absolutely necessary. One way to keep this promise to yourself is by setting up an emergency fund. It’s essentially a touch-me-not fund that you should only spend when a real emergency befalls — not when you desperately need a chili-cheese pizza to recover from a breakup. 

Before I crossed my mid-twenties, I had to scrap my budget every time an emergency decided to barge through my door. This meant lots of grumbling, and several goodbyes to savings. Until, one day, I came across personal guru, Dave Ramsey’s advice of saving an emergency fund of $1,000. My life has never been the same.

5. Follow finance experts. 

Since I mentioned Dave Ramsey above, I think it is only fit to share that you should follow some personal finance mavens in your 20's. Their advice tends to be golden compared to that of your friends. 

Besides Ramsey, my personal favorite is Farnoosh Torabi. She’s taught me several lessons that completely changed how I spend. Two major ones include using cash instead of card for shopping, and tracking all your expenditures online.

6. Set money aside for personal development.

There’s a lot of truth to the idiom ‘money makes money.’ You’ll probably witness the practical version of this if you set up some money for professional development and investment in your twenties. Save something for taking the courses that can sharpen your skills, or put away money for webinars that you’d like to attend. 

7. Keep financial documents organized.

My parents were the ones who gave birth to me, right? So, they should be the ones holding the birth certificate as well? Wrong. Growing up, I’ve always relied on my parents for keeping my documents safe — whether it was the science fair certificate I won in fifth grade or my bank account documents.

You don’t want to rush to your parent’s place the moment you need something. Gather your birth certificate, banking and investment account details, insurance policy and household bills in your home. Don’t forget to keep all the documents in one folder. If you have a knack for maintaining different files, glue an I-contain-X-documents sticky-note on each. Chances of forgetting which folder contains what are high, so tread carefully.

To wrap it up, be mindful of your money hygiene. Plan carefully, and stick with the set budget. Don’t forget to set apart a small portion for entertainment as well, without overspending on anything. 

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