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    22 Money Mistakes Millennials Hope Gen Z'ers Avoid

    "Look after your future as early as you can to give yourself the best chance."

    A lot of what we learn about money comes from the conversations happening around us, especially when we're young. But it can be a liiiittle awkward to casually ask someone about their student loan debt and expenses. So I did all the asking for you! I recently asked the millennial members of the BuzzFeed Community what money mistakes they hope Gen Z'ers avoid.


    Here's the advice they had to give:

    1. Don't try to live a lifestyle that you can't realistically afford; live within your means.

    A woman carrying shopping bags and talking on the phone
    Ozgurcankaya / Getty Images

    "I grew up living a privileged lifestyle. When my dad found out I was going to be a teacher, he said, 'I think that’s an excellent choice, but you have to realize right NOW that you will never again live in the comfort you’ve become accustomed to. Learn right now how to live within your means.' I didn’t. I am still paying off HUGE credit card debts. And sure, I spent thousands over the years on my classroom, but most other spending was just stupid — I was trying to live like I had growing up, and I refused to see the reality in what he’d told me. I’m doing better now, but I have no savings."


    2. And on a similar note, stop trying to "keep up with the Joneses" because you have no idea what someone else's financial advantages may be.

    The CW

    "I didn’t realize so many people had generational wealth or that it was even a thing. You might be in your twenties trying to live the same lifestyle as your friends, not knowing that they're getting their education and rent or mortgage paid for. I’m in my early thirties, adrift, and wishing I’d saved earlier. Look after your future as early as you can to give yourself the best chance. Good luck."


    3. Don't think that it's "too early" to start saving for retirement.

    A piggy bank with the words "Roth IRA" written on it
    Designer491 / Getty Images

    "Open up a Roth IRA (individual retirement account) in college and make automatic deposits monthly. Even contributing just $25 a month is better than nothing."


    4. Treating yourself too much in your teens and twenties can cost you money that could benefit you down the line.

    People pouring champagne into glasses
    Ridofranz / Getty Images

    "Get the cheap drinks, the cheap food, and the cheap clothes in your early twenties, and save the rest. You’ll have plenty of time for indulgence later on. Get a zero-interest credit card and use it sparingly to begin building your credit history."


    That's not to say you should feel guilty for saving up for a splurge-worthy item you know you'll use all the time or spending a little more on a nice dinner. Moderation can help you balance the desire to treat yourself with the need to save money. If you're on the fence about what's worth taking the plunge to purchase, try waiting it out and thinking about whether or not you really want the item in question. If you no longer care about it three days later, save the money.

    5. Not doing adequate research when making purchases can lead to wasteful spending.


    "Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap, but also don’t assume that something is better and will last longer just because it’s more expensive. Sometimes cheaper items don’t work as well or last as long, and you’ll end up spending more money than if you'd paid a few more dollars to begin with. Do your research and ask people for advice! Shop around, compare prices, look out for good deals, stock up when possible, and read reviews!"


    6. Student loans can feel like this abyss of terror and confusion, but don't accept one without educating yourself on the type of loan you're taking out.

    A sticky note that says, "student debt" and a stack of cash and coins
    Darren415 / Getty Images

    "My parents couldn’t afford to pay for college, so I worked full time, got scholarships, and took out loans. I don’t regret taking them out, but I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. Also, just being financially educated on topics such as APR and credit cards would’ve help me tremendously."


    If the realm of student loans confuses you, you aren't alone! Here's a handy article detailing the types of student loans that are out there, as well as what other college funding options you may have.

    7. Don't accept the entire loan amount offered to you for college unless you REALLY need to.

    a stack of hundred dollar bills and a graduation cap
    Zimmytws / Getty Images

    "If $10K will cover your tuition, fees, dorm, etc., and they offer you $15K in loans, see if you can reject the extra $5K unless you REALLY need it. Would it be nice to have? Absolutely. Will it suck to have to pay off more down the road plus interest? ABSOLUTELY. I didn't realize this until I was on my next-to-last undergrad semester — I could've saved myself probably $10K or more if I'd known this right off the bat."


    "Student loans are real debt that you have to pay back. It doesn't matter that 'everyone has them' and that they are 'good debt.' Apply for as many scholarships as possible if you're going to college. It's not that you shouldn't take out student loans, but you should take them seriously, and try to make it out of college with as little loan debt as possible."


    8. Don't pile on the credit card debt just because it's "normal" and "everyone has it."

    A person handing a card to a cashier
    Yakobchukolena / Getty Images

    "Credit cards eventually have to be paid off, so if you can't afford it, don't buy it. I used to use my credit cards to buy things I couldn't afford and would make the minimum payments each month. I didn't realize I was getting destroyed with interest charges and other fees."


    9. Stop putting off that budget you've been telling yourself you'll create next week (and the week after, and the week after).

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    Moyo Studio / Getty Images

    "Create a budget and stick to it. Your savings will thank you."


    Budgeting can feel a little daunting, but finding an easy-to-follow template that works for you is a great start! To kick things off, here's a selection of useful budgeting products and tips and some bullet journal spreads that'll help you track your finances.

    10. Don't feel like you have to buy the popular name-brand products at the grocery store — often the generic brand versions are just as good.

    DC Films

    "When you're grocery shopping, just buy the store brand of whatever item you were going to buy. This is a small thing but it really adds up in the end. Ninety percent of the time, the product is the same as the name brand item."


    11. Don’t totally write off the idea of attending a state college or a local school.

    A person in a graduation cap and going holding a diploma in a sunset
    Nirat / Getty Images

    "Going to community college could save you tens of thousands of dollars if you get an Associate's degree before continuing your education at a four-year university. Don’t waste your money paying for a name."


    "If I could do it over, I'd go to community college for the first two years. You may miss out on some of the typical 'college experiences,' but you'll probably save tens of thousands of dollars, which will make life a lot easier in the future."


    12. If you can, avoid quitting one job until you have an offer from another one.

    A person working at a laptop with coffee
    Maryna Andriichenko / Getty Images

    "Make sure you don’t quit a job until you have another one lined up. You never know what the economy is going to do or how long it’ll take you to find a new job."


    13. Try not to take out a spur-of-the-moment loan — if you can help it.


    "Avoid taking out a loan at the last minute, like opening a credit card to pay bills, or taking out a payday loan. It's not worth it — you could end up borrowing more to pay off the debt and may never get out of the spiral. Any borrowing should be methodically considered and slept on first. If it comes to it, paying an overdraft fee or eating humble pie and asking a trusted friend or family member to loan you some money until your next paycheck will be healthier in the long-run compared to last-minute debt."


    14. When it comes to relationships, don't sweep the money talk under the rug.

    A couple looking at receipts
    Ridofranz / Getty Images

    "Before committing to someone, make sure you have discussed money! Once you start sharing accounts, disparities in saving and spending will become glaring issues if you aren't on the same page. Take off the rose-colored glasses! Also, forego the expensive wedding. It's something that everyone glamorizes. My wedding was one of the best days off my life. But when it's over, you realize you could've just used the money to buy a car or put a down payment on a house."


    Speaking of weddings, check these smart money-saving ideas you can use to plan your big day.

    15. As exciting as it may feel to treat yourself to a few splurges, avoid frivolously spending extra money you make from job bonuses.

    A person writing "Bonus" in a book and drawing money doodles
    Andreypopov / Getty Images

    "Make good financial decisions with bonuses and pay increases — either save the money or use it to pay down debt. My first bonus was spent on clothes and stuff I don’t even remember instead of on my student loans! My second bonus went toward my IRA and has allowed me to grow it for my future."


    16. Don't be too quick to move out of your parents' home, if you can help it.

    a row of colorful apartment buildings
    Lechatnoir / Getty Images

    "If you are lucky enough to get along with your parents, live with them as long as you need to in order to save money for a home deposit. DO NOT RENT if you can help it. I still lived with my parents at 27, but it allowed me to put down one-third of the value of my home as a deposit. It got me out of the first-time buyer rates and allowed me to pay a mortgage that is HALF of what I would have paid if I were renting the place."


    17. Don't brush off any 401(k) benefits from your employer.


    "Max it out if you can. You probably aren't going to miss the $20–$50 from your paychecks."


    "When your job offers you a 401(k), take it. If they offer a match (i.e., they will contribute the same percentage as you do), max out the match. It's literally free money for your retirement."


    18. Try to avoid defaulting on your student loans by making payments as consistently as you can.

    A person putting money into a jar for college
    Baona / Getty Images

    "If you can, don't let your student loans go into default. I did this right after college because I couldn't make my payments, and it severely ruined my credit. I spent years getting it back on track."


    According to the Federal Student Aid website, a loan is considered to be in default if you don't make a payment for at least 270 days. If you're having trouble making payments, they recommend getting in contact with your loan servicer for help.

    19. Avoid the seemingly never-ending cycle of credit-card debt by trying not to accrue interest charges.

    A person looking at a credit card statement
    Kitzcorner / Getty Images

    "Building credit is great, and using credit card points for cash back and miles is a good strategy, but only if you’re paying your card off and not accruing interest charges. Write out your annual, quarterly, and monthly financial goals. Also, write out the purchases you want to make, and prioritize them. It’s really easy to get caught up making impulse purchases when you aren’t thinking about how it impacts your longer-term goals. When it’s written out, refreshed frequently, and kept top-of-mind, it’s easier to stick to."


    20. Don't be afraid of being honest with your friends and family when it comes to money.


    "Be honest with your friends and family if a dinner out, spa day, or trip is out of your budget. Chances are, they might not be able to really afford it either! COVID forced many of us to enjoy the simpler things in life. Go on a hike together, make a meal at home together, or play games. I’ve never gotten more enjoyment out of an activity with a loved one purely because it cost more money."


    21. Forego the use of rideshare apps whenever possible, and just use public transportation if you can.

    A train pulling into a station
    Jimfeng / Getty Images

    "If you live in a city, it can be tempting to Uber everywhere instead of taking the bus, but even using Uber Pool is way more expensive than using your monthly bus pass. Plus, using public transportation will allow you to get to know your city so much better. Save Uber rides for things like avoiding driving drunk or getting home late at night. It's a luxury."


    22. Lastly, don't feel like you need to turn into a money-management expert overnight.

    Coins growing as plants grow on top of each pile
    Sarayut / Getty Images

    "You probably aren't going to just suddenly master money and finances. I've been out of college for five years, and this year is the first time I've felt comfortable with my finances. I had to learn how to use a credit card responsibly and realize that I couldn't eat out all the time or buy anything I wanted even though I was 'an adult' — I had to do a lot of growing. My first few years, I had no savings. I literally used to put my rent money in my savings account to make sure I didn't spend it all by the end of the month. However, I eventually began putting a small percentage of my monthly paycheck into my savings account, and now I actually have money saved."


    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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