Life is exciting at the beginning of your career. You’ve got disposable income for the first time in your life, and you want to spend it! Nights out, new clothes, vacations … But you also have to pay essential bills, and everything combined soon eats up your paycheck. Many young professionals live paycheck to paycheck, with nothing left at the end of the month. They have it, they spend it. After all, life’s for enjoying, right? But if you continue with this attitude, you’ll end up in a financial mess. You’ll have no savings to provide a cushion if you lose your job or incur sudden expenses. In the modern world, no job is secure, and you could be hit by ill health at any time. So it’s never too early to start adopting prudent financial habits that will help set you up for the future.
One of the biggest expenses for young professionals is housing, so it makes sense to look for ways of reducing your housing costs. It’s easy to be ripped off if you don’t know the local market, or if you’re in a hurry to secure a home, so check out prices before you commit yourself. For example, you can pick and rent a condo in the metro using Zipmatch. You’ll be able to compare rental prices so that you don’t overspend. Also consider sharing an apartment; living alone may have its advantages, but it’s also very expensive!
It’s also wise to look at your spending habits and see where your money is going. Remember that you don’t have to spend money just because you have it! Keep a spending diary for a month and you’ll start to spot patterns. Perhaps you’re shopping to fill your lunch hours, or always order takeout because you’re too tired to cook. Once you’ve identified your spending weaknesses, draw up a budget. Calculate your essential bills; what’s left over is discretionary spending. The next step is to transfer a percentage into a savings account; watching those mount up over time will be just as satisfying as spending (try it!). Then decide what you can spend on food and fun items. Set yourself limits for spending on socializing, clothing, food, haircuts, entertainment etc.
Finally, always have one eye on the future. You may think that you’re too young to worry about retirement or ‘what might happen one day’, but the sooner you start saving, the more your savings will mount up. You don’t want to be poor when you retire, so start a retirement fund as early as possible. You should also have an emergency fund in case you lose your job or have a major expense come up. 3-6 months’ living expenses is a good rule. Having substantial savings will also help if you want to start a family one day. Also consider working towards home ownership, which will give you greater security. The higher the deposit you can build up, the better. Who wants to pay rent all their life?