One weekly date I always look forward to is with my favorite bubbly bank teller, Jeniffer. Yes, one N and two Fs. I have become that customer who strategically falls in line at just the right moment to try and make my deposits with her while we briefly catch up on girl talk. Jen loves to read Live & Love in L.A. and suggested I write a post about how I stay financially secure at a young(ish) age. She went on to tell me she does not see many girls my age having a weekly appointment to stash cash in their savings and had me convinced this topic would be a hot one! So, this one’s for you, J.
I have been told many times over that I have somewhat of an old soul. I would agree I am not your typical 24-year-old girl wanting to rage every weekend and shop ‘til I drop. I guess it’s because I started everything early; I threw big “kegger” parties in high school while my parents were out of town, went out in Hollywood with my older sister’s ID since I was 18, and foolishly spent a ton of money on God-knows-what when I was making more cash than I knew what to do with as a 19-year-old waitress at Hooters. As crazy as it all sounds, I don’t regret any of it because all of that experience of “getting it out of my system” has brought me to where I am today. Now, there’s nothing I enjoy more than intimate evenings with great friends listening to Tchaikovsky classics at the Hollywood Bowl and staying home on Friday nights cuddling with my English Bulldog—a far cry from my Hooters Girl days! More importantly, one of my main priorities now is staying financially fit! Along with relationship advice, my girlfriends turn to me for money-saving tips and tricks knowing I’m a Suze Orman believer and avid follower.
Here’s a short list of my secrets to financial fitness!
1. Use plastic wisely. Thank God my parents taught me from day one to always, always pay off my credit cards in full every month. Credit cards should STRICTLY be used to build good credit for future major purchases like cars, homes, etc. and NOT to pay off that pair of Jeffrey Campbell shoes over six months. How does paying interest on any shopping impulse make any sense? I only buy things I know I currently have money for in my Checking account that will definitely be paid off in full. Get out of the mentality that it’s nice to pay little by little because that small amount becomes a lot with interest and one penny over retail price is too much!
2. Get out of debt and stay out. Aside from school, car and home loans, there’s virtually no reason you should have debt in your 20s. Every dollar not being used for rent or food should be going towards your debt. Paying off the minimum balance due will keep you constantly treading water. Pay off hundreds of dollars at a time. If that means not going out that entire month, deal with it!
3. Live within your means. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, or now the Kardashians when you make a teeeeeny tiny fraction of their income. For trendy clothes, there are so many discount or vintage boutiques that can give you a very similar look of the stars for a modest price tag. As long as you rock it with confidence, I’ll bet no one could really tell the difference. The Louboutin red-bottoms, Hermes handbags, Michael Kors watches—it’s all just STUFF! Unlike Miss Carrie Bradshaw, I like my money in the bank and NOT hanging in my closet.
4. Do your research. The world of financing can be overwhelming so read books and ask questions. My favorite finance guru is the tell-it-like-it-is author Suze Orman and I stand by all her advice wholeheartedly.
5. Have multiple streams of income. Aside from your 9:00 to 5:00, find something you can do on the side that generates supplemental income. Most people in their 20s have the energy and time to juggle all sorts of responsibilities with no excuses. Find something you truly love to do since it’ll be a commitment in addition to your career; blogging, bartending, babysitting, dog walking, selling clothes/accessories online are all things you can do on your down time.
6. Work smarter, not harder. Try to find jobs that allow you to make extra commission or tips. I cannot tell young guys and girls enough how much of a blessing bartending has been while I’m going through registered nursing school. I get so many inquiries about how to get into the industry when they realize bartenders can work three nights a week and make just as much as full-time employees at corporate offices. If you don’t have interest in serving up cocktails for rowdy crowds, there’s a plethora of side jobs out there just as lucrative and fit for young workers. Think outside of the box.
7. Save! Save! Save! It’s never too early to save for a down payment on your dream condo or house, future kids’ expenses and retirement. Set aside a realistic amount of your paycheck every month and commit to putting it away. If you ever get a big chunk of change like tax refunds, put it in the bank and don’t look back. Having the discipline is much harder than I’m making it sound but sometimes you just have to quit things cold turkey. Drop unnecessary spending like a bad habit! If you don’t trust yourself to be strict with your money, look into direct deposit of a portion of your paycheck into a 401k through your job’s payroll provider.
8. Invisible saving is key. Whatever you put into the Savings account should not be considered when making everyday purchases. Stay in the mindset where that money is untouchable and if you have to, save in a Credit Union account where it’s an elaborate, inconvenient process to withdraw money and may even take days to process.
We can all agree the cost of living in Los Angeles is astronomical, but there are so many other reasons why having financial independence is essential in your 20s. Specifically for my mostly female ages 20-30 blog readers, I wanted to touch on how empowering it is to be financially secure on your own. Our society is breeding us into women whose life goal is to marry a rich, good looking doctor and we’ll be set for life—because there are SO many young, successful white-collar professionals just running around Los Angeles searching for one nice girl to shower with gifts and be faithful to forever and ever (hint: sarcasm). Let’s face it, a lot of incredibly awesome guys we date are working hard for average incomes and that’s okay! If we change our way of thinking and shift our focus to our own success and wealth, we will no longer let money be such a huge make-or-break factor in choosing Mr. Right.
The best relationship is finding someone who COMPLEMENTS you, not completes you.