Get Organized: Create a filing system for important documents and keep them in a fireproof and waterproof safe. Give a copy of important documents to someone you trust. Check your bills (credit card statements, phone bills, etc.) for accuracy and unauthorized use. Also, shred outdated documents. Back up computer files to Dropbox, Google Docs, etc.
Track Your Money: Use Mint.com! It will give you a monthly summary of your spending, in categories, so can understand where your money is going. You can also set up budgets for specific categories. Use www.balancepro.net for financial worksheets, calculators, and planning tools. Try our Reverse Budget (PDF) worksheet to determine how much you need to make.
Hourly vs. Salary: If you are paid hourly and work 40 hours per week for 50 weeks, multiply your hourly wage times 2,000 to get your yearly salary. If you are paid salary, divide your yearly salary by 2,000 to determine your hourly wage.
Savings: Keep at least $500 in savings (three months of your salary is better). Spend less than you make… if "living the dream" means credit card debt, that means you're paying much more for the items you purchase.
Taxes: Income taxes are roughly 20% of your salary (depending on how much you make). If you have the option of taking money from your paycheck before it's taxed (e.g. retirement, flex healthcare account, health insurance), it might be worth it. When you're hired, you fill out a W-4 tax form and will be asked to choose how many allowances you wish to claim. The lower the number you claim, the more you are taxed and thus the higher your end of year refund.
Step off the Hedonic Treadmill: This is the tendency to focus on an object of desire, achieve that desire, experience brief (not permanent) happiness, and then change focus to another desire. If we constantly have to buy new things to feel happy, life can get expensive. Once we make enough money to be comfortable, making more money doesn't make us happier and will typically just lead to more spending.
- Most common things that people overpay: auto insurance (shop around), cable/internet (call to reduce rate), cell phone plan (make sure you're on the right plan), big life purchases (home/car/furniture), extended warrantees (often not needed), and not comparison shopping (big and small items).
- Always ask about student discounts. Check out Seahawk Savings.
- Buy used (autos, furniture, fitness equipment, etc.).
- Live closer to work. Each mile farther from work will mean 500 miles of driving per year. A 20 mile commute is 10,000 miles of driving per year.
- Cook for yourself instead of going to restaurants or coffee shops.
- Drink free water instead of costly drinks.
- Buy generic brands and use coupons.
- Share living expenses by getting a roommate.
- Cut out Cable TV.
- Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation when you can.
- Make sure you are buying a good product. Cnet, The Wire Cutter, and Amazon have great product reviews.
Debt: It is usually best to pay off higher interest loans first, because they cost you more (if your credit card charges you 18% and you only earn 3% in your savings account, put your money towards the credit card). If you have multiple debts, consider consolidating them into one loan.