10 budgeting/finance tips for tech-savvy Millennials

10561615_719209188150213_3189399456234969734_n1. Set a Realistic Budget: Easier said than done, you actually have to sit down with your known monthly expenses and find a budget that works for you. Be realistic about it, the numbers don’t lie. Simply writing out a budget may avail opportunities to cut back spending or save money in ways that were previously overlooked.

2. Save Money on Necessities: Many Millennials grew up watching their parents clip coupons out of the Sunday paper. Follow their lead! Most top grocery chains have apps that offer coupons and personalized deals based on your past purchases, the Safeway and Kroger apps even have features that let you build shopping lists on your phone and help you save on gas purchases. Use the RetailMeNot app for all other purchases to save money on clothes and home necessities from major retailers.

3. Be Firm with Disposable Income: Since when has the cost of your girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s birthday been just dinner and a gift? Take into account the incidental costs of a night out like the after-dinner drinks or cab ride home. For gift purchases, most retailers like GameStop offer points programs and send out weekly deals. For weekend getaways, not only do sites like Orbitz and Hotels.com offer discounted rates, they also have points programs to work towards free airfare and hotel stay.

4. Beware of Online/Auto-Payments: Sounds convenient, right? Most online bill pay options have limitations to their usefulness and can bite you if you’re not on top of when the bills are due. First, you physically have to calendar when the money will be debited from your account. Second, keep in mind that there is nearly always a delay from when you authorize the payment to when the bank pays the utility/credit card company, often resulting in unnecessary late fees. Sign up for bill pay and budgeting apps like PrismMoney to easily keep track of due dates and make sure bills are paid on time.

5. Beware of Using Credit: Let’s say you have an emergency or just need to get out of the city for a few days. If you charge this hypothetical $500 expense, you’re not just spending $500. At 18% APR, waiting a year to pay the balance costs you an extra $90. Be credit savvy, use credit cards responsibly to avoid paying the “hidden” cost of interest fees down the road. Also, don’t forget about credit card rewards programs with sites like AwardWallet.com that track your points.

6. Work with your Student Loan Lenders: It is estimated that, since the Great Recession began, student loan debt has increased a whopping 84% with borrowers owing a record $1.2 trillion. Many lenders offer repayment plans based on income and continuing education status. Take advantage of those plans that are tailored to your immediate need. Most lenders also offer a reduced interest rate, usually .25%, if you make your monthly payment using an automatic withdrawal.

7. Extra Income is Out There: Moonlighting is hip again with more Millennials freelancing for primary and secondary income now than ever before. But if you’re still in school, a dedicated second job may not be an option. Any Craigslist app makes for an excellent resource, when used cautiously, to make extra cash when you have spare time. The “Gigs” section is packed with folks in your area who might need help moving or with yard work.

8. Automate you Savings: Setting aside the recommended 10% of your paycheck for savings is easier than you think. Most companies are able to deposit your paycheck into multiple accounts. After a careful review of your budget, have a percentage go directly into a savings account and/or set up an automatic transfer to put a specific dollar amount into savings as soon as your paycheck is deposited. It is much easier to save when the money is transferred out of your checking account as soon as it’s put in.

9. Start Small in Your Investments: Because Millennials came of age during the Great Recession, many are leery of investing. Making small investments doesn’t have to involve great risk or take up a lot of time. Acorns is an app that automatically invests your spare change left over from debit purchases based on your level of calculated risk. For Millennials with a diversified portfolio, Harvest is a social platform that feeds investment advice in real-time straight from top firms and personal investors.

10. Carefully Plan Buying a House: A new study found that 36% of Millennials are still couch surfing with mom and dad. Finally ready to apply for that home loan? Your budget will let you know the amount you’re comfortable spending before you apply. Most lenders suggest that you spend no more that 28% of your monthly income on a mortgage. Use real estate apps like Zillow to track prices and amenities in the areas you’re looking to buy.