The following guest post is written by Erin Lowry, a personal finance blogger for Broke Millennial. Erin created her blog to increase financial literacy and is known for her smart yet attainable advice to thousands of broke millennials.
Starting off your life as an adult means getting your financial house in order. Simply put: you’re going to be your own financial boss. Sure, you might be working a traditional job – but no one is handling your money decisions. It’s on you to pay bills without missing due dates, to chip away at debt, to build your credit history and start to saving for the future. Before you panic, take a deep breath, you can step up your financial boss-ness in just three steps.
Step 1: Adulting 101 means you need a budget
The idea of a budget sounds so restricting, except it should be considered empowering. A simple budget can take stress out of handling your money because you know exactly how much is coming in and how much is going out. Sure, you may be wishing the in-flow drastically outpaced the out-flow, but at least it means you understand your balance sheet. Mindlessly spending and just hoping you have enough to cover all your bills is how you’ll end up in trouble. A budget can redirect your focus to prioritize your true money values. You can start saving for a trip, or put more money towards paying off debt or maybe it encourages you to work for a promotion or pick up a side gig.
Start your budget journey by writing down all your fixed monthly expenses + put a percentage towards savings + a buffer of $100 (things happen) and subtract it from your monthly income. The remainder is what you can use to spend. This is the most basic of budgeting styles that will at least put you on a track towards being a financial boss.
Step 2: Credit cards for beginners
Credit cards often strike fear into the hearts of fledgling adults. You hear horror stories about people getting tens-of-thousands of dollars in debt and unable to dig out. Your parents may have warned you about the evils of credit cards. Or maybe you got access to one in college and didn’t quite use it properly.
Truthfully, credit cards can be a valuable financial resource if you understand three basic principles.
- Never charge more than you can afford to pay off in a month: ideally you want to spend no more than 30 percent of your total available credit limit.
- Always pay your credit card bill on time: missing your payment can not only crush your credit score, but also result in fees and hiked interest rates.
- Always pay the balance in full: there is never a need to carry a balance on your credit card (I don’t care what anyone tells you). As soon as that bill comes in, you pay off the entire amount due – not the minimum due. Paying the full amount means you don’t owe the bank any interest.
By adhering to those simple rules, you can build a healthy credit history and score, which makes the rest of your financial life much easier. Your credit history and score can impact whether or not you can rent an apartment, the rates on loans and, in some cases, even employers do a credit check.
You should also look for a card with no annual fee and don’t focus on rewards early on. The rewards program may lead you down the rabbit hole of overspending, so proceed with caution.
Step 3: How pick the best financial products
Suddenly making all your financial decisions can feel daunting, so it’s common to turn to your parents or friends for advice. Listen respectfully, but be sure to do your own due diligence. What is ideal for your parents, or was ideal when they were your age, may not be the right fit for you.
For example, Metromile is the perfect solution for you city-dwelling-often-public-transit-riding millennials. Instead of opting into traditional auto insurance, you can instead pay according to how much you drive with pay-per-mile insurance. This saves the average customer over $500 annually – that’s easily an extra student loan payment or way to boost your emergency fund.
If you find yourself on public transit more often then behind the wheel, you could benefit from pay-per-mile car insurance. Get a free quote here. For more financial advice, check out brokemillennial.com.