There are two kinds of Millennials.
The first saves a lot. According to CNBC and a recent study by Bank of America, 1 in 6 Millennials (ages 23-37) has $100,000 or more in their savings account.
The second, well, doesn’t save so much. Last year, CNBC reported that 67% of “young Millennials” (ages 18-24) have “less than $1,000 in their savings accounts–and 46% have $0.”
As a Millennial (and a member of that first group), I think money is an extremely important topic. Our generation watched our parents deal with the housing crash in ’08. We took note of how stressful a mortgage could be, and the pains that come with living slightly beyond your means. In fact, a good amount of my own peers don’t even have credit cards yet, because they fear falling into the bad habit of spending money they don’t have.
Money, to Millennials, is both important and also a bit confusing. (School definitely doesn’t do much educating in this department).
So, here are 5 ways you can save more money as a Millennial:
1. Go through 3-6 months of expenses and see where you can cut costs.
You can only build wealth in two ways.
Either you make more, or you spend less.
Whenever I find myself spending a bit more than normal, I take an afternoon and “audit” myself. I pull up 3-6 months of credit card statements and start looking for unnecessary costs. I look for moments I took an Uber when I could have walked, or ate at two really nice restaurants in the same week.
Then, I start circling. Circle items in similar categories–shopping, restaurants, coffee, travel, etc. Then ask yourself how you could reduce the spending in each of those categories. Even things like your electric bill–do you leave your lights on when you leave your apartment?
These little cost cuts might seem inconsequential, but if you go through this exercise, chances are you’ll find a several hundred dollars being wasted every month.
2. Tax yourself 10-20% of every paycheck and put it into a savings account.
I have been doing this since the day I graduated college.
Even back when I was living in a tiny studio apartment and could barely afford treating myself to Chipotle once a week, I taxed myself 10% of my bi-weekly paycheck. A mentor of mine, a very successful trader, had told me, “If you woke up tomorrow and the government decided to tax you 10% more, you would have to figure out how to cover your expenses–and you would. So, tax yourself, and put that money into a savings account.”
So I did. And over the years, those little $50-$100 deposits have turned into thousands of dollars.
3. Open an IRA account and set up an automatic deposit.
If your job doesn’t have a 401k plan, then you can open an IRA to begin saving for retirement.
This was also something I started immediately after graduating college. I had no idea what an IRA account was, but I sought out people who had been successful in the financial world and asked them what I should do–in order to start saving for the long term.
I opened an IRA and set up monthly deposits. Again, I treated this like a tax on myself. In my mind, it was just another expense–and over the years these tiny monthly deposits have turned into thousands of dollars.
4. Open a Robinhood account and set up an automatic deposit.
I’m sure you’re seeing a theme here–but this really is the way to building wealth.
Robinhood is the most Millennial-friendly app I’ve found for building a portfolio of stocks. This came a bit later (once I was making a bit more money out of college), but once I had the ability to tax myself another 10%, I put that amount right into Robinhood.
Then, each month I would go into the app and buy stocks in companies I really believed in. Now keep in mind, I have a personal interest in investing, so I enjoy reading and keeping up with this sort of stuff. If you don’t, I suggest passing this portion of your portfolio over to a financial advisor.
What’s important to note here is that by the time you’re 25 years old, you should be “taxing” yourself in three different departments: savings, IRA/401k, and stocks (or some other long-term investment vehicle). It doesn’t matter how small of a tax you’re putting on yourself in each bucket–$50 each will do.
What’s more important is that you build the habit.
5. Establish a side hustle and don’t spend anything you make.
If there was one thing that allowed me to save money at a rampant rate, it would be this.
For three years after graduating college, I worked tirelessly to build myself as a writer on the Internet. I wrote every single day on Quora. I eventually got a column here on Inc. And then slowly but surely, I started getting people reaching out asking if I was available for hire as a copywriter and ghostwriter.
All of the money I made as a writer outside of my 9-5 job, I saved.
I didn’t immediately upgrade my lifestyle and treat that second revenue stream as part of my primary income. I saw it as a fast track to being able to save more.
Every financially successful Millennial I know does this. They create secondary revenue streams for themselves, and they just let the money stack.
They don’t touch it.