Financial Tips for the Messy Millennial Trying Their Best
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.
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.