Ever woken up with last night's makeup still on, an uneaten slice of pizza on the bedside table, a jackhammer in your head, and an account balance that only adds to your already building nausea? Ever spend way too much on take out because you're just too exhausted from your job—that doesn't pay you nearly enough for your long hours—to cook? Or maybe, tired of the unhealthy work/life balance your company offers instead of benefits, you spontaneously booked a plane ticket to some Instagram worthy island, and decided you'd figure out the money part later, after all, everyone on Instagram seems to be on vacation. We get it, and we don't blame you.
Being a young professional in 2019 means a whole host of challenges your parents never had to worry about. Between the toxic culture of non-stop productivity, mounting student loan debt, the tendency many companies have to take advantage of millenials, and the way social media forces you to compare yourself to your peers; it can feel like getting ahead financially is a losing game. And when that non-stop stress builds to a breaking point, it's understandable that you may start to let financial best practices fall to the way side in order to stay sane. Your mom is going to tell you the same thing over and over: budget, don't go drinking, eat at home etc. and while that's all good advice, the truth of the matter is your life isn't simple and the world is changing around you all the time. With the specific struggles of the average millenial in mind, here are our top financial tips for people just starting out in, what baby boomers would call, "the real world."
Take a Course
We know, this is adding another expense to your already tight budget, but we promise if you can find the money for an online course in basic finances or economics, it's worth doing. It's absurd that people are just suddenly expected to emerge from college fully equipped to handle things like taxes, budgeting, and investing, when just a month before they were eating ramen in a dorm room doing homework for a class called "the post modern implications of beekeeping." There are even some free options out there.
Get a Cheaper Apartment
We know, sometimes this just isn't an option, but be honest with yourself, how hard did you look for a more affordable apartment? Or did you just make whatever work so you didn't have to think too hard about it? In many cities, there are options for rent controlled apartments, and even housing lotteries to help you take your money farther. As a good rule, housing should be 30% of your income. If it isn't, or that just isn't a possibility for you right now, think about how you can cut down on costs of living. Could you get another roommate? These kind of savings are ideal, because they don't require will power to maintain the way so many financial tips do.
Yes, we know this sounds counterintuitive, but there is something to be said for making investment decisions that don't exactly feel safe. Millenials have been told their whole lives to be careful with money and to work hard to hang on to material security, but the problem with playing it safe is you're very unlikely to see any returns. Investigate the options you have for your savings, and don't be afraid to make minor mistakes, afterall, there is no better way to learn.
Don't Depend on Your Credit Cards
A classic mode of budgeting back in the day was to get all your monthly spending money for the month in cash, divide it up into envelopes (groceries, eating out, drinks, entertainment etc.) and then if the money in the envelope runs out before the end of the month, well, that's that. Most millennials rarely carry cash, but maybe it's time to consider going old school. If you take a certain amount of money out of your "going out" envelope before a night at the bar, you're much less likely to get carried away than you would be with a debit card on an open tab. Once the cash is gone, you know your budget for that particular area of your life is used up, and you're less likely to accidentally overspend.
Pay into an Emergency Fund
Many millenials report having very little back up plan were they to suddenly lose their job or suddenly need a significant amount of money. To avoid this situation, follow the age old rule: pay yourself first. That means pay into your savings every paycheck, even if it's just a small amount. Most importantly, this practice creates good habits of saving, and you'll begin to understand the satisfaction that comes with watching a savings account grow.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.