5 Simple Tips for Saving Money in Your 20s

Here’s the good news about saving money in your 20s: you don’t have to outlaw Taco Tuesdays, or happy hour, or even trips to the movies!

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Like many people in their twenties, I have a few financial issues. In addition to my ongoing struggles with student debt, I haven’t had the most straightforward career path since graduating college. I was on the pre-med track for many years, and I’m still figuring out what my career path looks like with that off the table.

This lack of stability means many things, but mostly it comes down to the fact that I need to keep a watchful eye on my bank account. Not a wary one, necessarily, just… a watchful one. It is, one might say, a good reminder to maintain moderation in all things, but especially in one’s finances. 

Or, if you’re a fan of Julie Andrews (and who isn’t a fan of Julie Andrews), it’s a good moment to recall some words of advice from Mary Poppins: enough is as good as a feast. 

Here are five things that help me keep that watchful eye without feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Saving Money Tip #1: Research.

This is the biggest and most important tip I can offer, and it has saved me many a headache and empty wallet.

Here’s the deal: people are always going to want to go out. Whether that means eating, events, concerts–we like to hang out in situations that aren’t just work or home, and there are going to be times when you can’t (or shouldn’t) say “Let’s have a potluck!” or “How about drinks at my place instead?”

This is where research comes in. For example:

  • Going to happy hour with friends? Look up some places, compare menus, pick one or two that have both good food and good prices, and suggest you try them.
  • Like going to museums? See if your local spots offer lower costs on certain dates or even pay-what-you-want days. Check your local art galleries, too. Sometimes they’ll host event nights, like Philadelphia’s First Friday series.
  • How about concerts? A lot of cities have free summer concert series! Some local radio shows might, too. If you’re in Philly, XPN has an incredible free concert series every Friday called Free at Noon. 
  • Movie buff? See if your theater (or another one nearby) offers discount days. Mine has $5.50 Tuesdays.

Research, research, research. The internet is your friend! You don’t have to drop all of your discretionary spending to $0/month to save money. Just spend smart instead of spending easy. In addition to Google, sites like Yelp and uwishunu are your best friends.

Bonus: Doing your research means you’re budget-ready when you get somewhere. If you want more help with budgets, check out JT’s advice for budgets.

Tip #2: Refinance.

Some of this falls under research, because you’ll want to know some details before you get started with this. As you may know from my last post over here, I recently refinanced my student loans with SoFi. It was a really positive experience, all things considered, and the lower interest rates and monthly payment amounts have really helped my financial health.

So take a look at those student loans (or even your mortgage). Variable interest rates are on the rise, so it’d be smart to refinance before they get much higher. Refinancing saved me $1200 a year and the entire process only took two weeks. Personally, I’d recommend using SoFi–they’re easy to use, efficient, extraordinarily helpful, and gave me opportunities to lower my interest rate.

Bonus: SoFi gives Just Making Cents readers a $100 welcome bonus if you use our link! That definitely falls under the saving money category.

Tip #3: Use your library. Frequently.

Some of you are rolling your eyes–I’m not into books, perhaps, or I already have a library card, or even again with the library, Connor!

Well, I hear you. I know. I talk about books a lot. I recommend books a lot. To keep this habit up, I read a lot of books. Since I am a woman of limited means (and since libraries are awesome), I do rely rather heavily on my library. So, yes, I am a bit biased here, but hear me out!

Arthur had it right, folks.

Libraries provide books for free as long as you have a library card, right? Right. And that’s awesome! But do you know what else your library does? If not, I guarantee you it’s more than you think. In addition to free books and free internet/computer access, libraries support their local communities.

Most libraries offer free after school programs (Including chess club, which JT’s kids love!) and free programs for adults, too. That means classes. Cooking, computer literacy, even 3-D printing… your library is built to serve your needs!

In addition to books–and ebooks, and audiobooks, and comic books, and test prep books–most libraries these days have a decent digital media collection. That means free movies and TV shows. Some of them have paired up with services like Hoopla and Overdrive to offer even more digital content.

Libraries also often have large collections of music, movies, and television shows. I know streaming videos is easy, but a little bit of planning goes a long way when it comes to saving money. If you know you’re going to have a movie night, see if you can find the DVD you need at the library before you rent it on Amazon or iTunes. Those $3 (and $4… and $12…) fees add up quickly.

Bonus: Libraries are awesome. They don’t need bonus points from me to point that out.

Tip #4: Use a cash back credit card.

Now, the first thing I’ll be doing when I have a steadier income is getting a credit card that gives me airline miles instead of cash back. Given my love of traveling (which, JT would tell you, is a good thing), that makes the most sense for me.

For now, though, I need the money more than I can afford the travel, so I use a cash back credit card for most of my shopping. Every time I earn a certain amount back, it gets deposited right into my bank account. That means I’m saving money when I pay with my credit card (so long as I pay it off in a timely manner).

I have enough money to pay off my credit card bill every month. Since I use a cash back credit card, that means I get a certain percentage of what I spent back into my bank account. Simple, but effective.

Bonus: using a credit card wisely (that is to say, not maxing it out) will build good credit! Good credit will help you in the long run, whether that be with a loan application or buying a new car.

Tip #5: Pack your lunch.

It’s really easy to want to eat out a lot for lunch, but this is the single easiest and quickest way to save money. I’m not saying you need to outlaw avocado toast from your budget, but put it this way. If you spend $7-10 on lunch every single day, that adds up to $35-50 a week and $140-$200 a month. $140-$200 a month adds up to $1680-$2400 every year, and that’s only on lunches. That doesn’t include nights out, happy hours, or the occasional fancy dinner.

That doesn’t include your morning coffee or your grocery bill, and most people still have both of those.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather save that $200 every month or $2400 every year that I would spend on fancy salads or sushi and spend it on a really awesome vacation.

But again–research. If you really love a certain food or a certain restaurant, find out if they do weekly specials or happy hour discounts (like, you know… Tacos Tuesdays!). Even if you only bring your lunch three days a week, that would still mean you could save around $1000 in a single year.

You can do a lot of things with $1000. With $1000, you can buy flights to Europe, or maybe pay off student debt, or buy some very nice tickets to see a Broadway show or two. I mean, if you’re past patiently waiting and want to go smashing every expectation? with $1000 to spare, you might even be able to buy tickets to see Hamilton.

(Hamilton would totally approve of your future planning.)

I mean, with $1000 you might even be able to swing two tickets to Hamilton. Or a hotel for the night you see Hamilton. Or–

Well, you get the picture.

Bonus: for extra savings, BYO-coffee. I know the homemade stuff might not taste quite like that fancy latte from your local shop, but the stuff at home is much more cost effective in the long run. I don’t drink coffee (I know, the travesty!), but I do drink tea. I drink a lot of tea. So instead of running to Starbucks or the local shop, I keep some tea at the office and just make it there.


Have more tips for saving money without going crazy? Let me know in the comments! And if you want to take this frugal living even further–if you want to really get financially fit–then you should check out our free, 5-day financial boot camp!

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