A while back, we shared some money lessons millennials learned the hard way, and the comments were chock full of even more honest and helpful tips. So I rounded up all the best responses for another round of practical money tips from millennials:
1. "Once you start making and saving money, INVEST. Letting it sit in a savings account is actually letting it lose its value, because the interest you earn in those accounts is pitiful and absolutely NOTHING compared to rate of inflation. The value of the dollar is going down, so the money I made 10 years ago and 'saved' for the future buys less than the same amount today."
2. "If you're currently attending college, or will be in the future, and have to get student loans, check with your financial aid office to see if you are able to reject some of them. If $10k will cover your tuition/fees/dorm/etc. and they offer you $15k, see if you can reject the extra $5k unless you REALLY need it for rent or bills. 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 find this out 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."
3. "Don't pay fees to banks, and score benefits when you can. There are so many credit unions and online banks with easy-to-avoid fees, overdraft protection, and even things like legit interest (0.5% interest on a high yield savings online vs. .00001% from brick and mortar). Shop around and bank with someone that won't bleed you dry."
4. "High yield savings accounts more often than not have balance requirements. If these requirements aren't met, the bank will charge you a monthly maintenance fee. Make sure you read and understand the fine print when you open ANY bank account."
5. "Look for jobs that will help pay for your education. I got a job in a call center for a large insurance company at 19. They paid up to $5,000 a year towards school at the time. I stretched out my education over a few more years than the traditional four years, but I saved so much money."
"Also, if you have multiple job offers, check out the benefits. It’s not just about the salary but how much your benefits are going to cost you, if they offer a 401(k) match, and if they offer other misc. benefits (free gym, food, corporate discounts, etc). While the salary might be more at one job, the benefit package and lower salary elsewhere might be worth so much more."
6. "Invest for retirement in a Roth IRA. Money going in is taxed, but it comes out tax-free. There are contribution limits and early withdrawal penalties. Because you earn less in early years, your tax rate is lower. You can contribute to both a 401(k) and a Roth IRA. Which one to prioritize depends upon your individual situation."
Psst, another great thing about Roth IRAs is that unlike a 401(k), these accounts are not employer-sponsored. This means that you can independently open a Roth IRA and start investing for retirement as soon as you turn 18. If I'd only known I didn't have to wait to start investing until I finally got a job with a 401(k), my retirement savings would be in a much less scary place today!
7. "As someone who works at a bank, I suggest the avalanche method to SO MANY PEOPLE looking to pay off their debts. It actually makes a huge difference, and while interest isn’t everything, paying down your highest rate can really impact you for the better."
8. "Here’s a tip I wish I learned in my early 20s. Any and every time you get a raise at work, notify your credit card companies. Usually, if you’ve paid on time and have a relatively low balance, they’ll increase your credit limit. Don’t use it!"
"Having larger credit limits lowers your credit utilization ratio, which will increase your credit score super fast, especially as you pay off debt over time. I’m 29 and have an 805 credit score, so it was easy to get approved to buy my house with a super low interest rate."
9. "Do the number amount method. If you bought a top for $20, you have to wear it at least 20 times to get the value for the top. Same with any other item of clothing. Get your dollar a day worth in your clothes."
"I do a similar thing with 'how long do I have to work for this.' If an item is, let’s say, $20, that means I have to work for it for little under an hour. It often puts things into perspective."
10. "Getting a 401(k) match is HUGE. It’s free money. If your employer offers a 5% match, that is the same as getting an instant 5% raise. You just have to take it in the form of retirement savings, and contribute the same percentage out of your paycheck. But it’s still free money. Don’t leave free money on the table!"
11. "If you get a vehicle, buy used. If possible, save your ass off and buy it outright. The interest on payments can really screw someone. Also, anything you're actively making payments on can count against your debt-to-income ratio, which can lead to a higher down-payment on a house, for example. Car insurance rates tend to be higher if you don't actually own the vehicle as well."
12. "My Dad always told me, never lend money. If you have it to give, give it as a gift. If you don’t have it to lend or it hurts you financially, don’t lend it. Friends and family will fight over money, and it ruins relationships. It’s worked for me my whole life."
13. "Get a credit card with points or cash rewards, and never ever leave a balance. I have never seen a credit card bill. I go into the app every few days and pay the entire balance. It just takes a few seconds. This makes my credit score awesome and also gives me a few free dollars every month. Do not ever use your credit card to finance anything. Pay it off every day if you need to. Definitely check it every day. And you'll see pending charges instantly in the app."
14. "If you have to take loans out for school, get educated on the type of loan you get. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for college, so I worked full-time, had scholarships, and took out loans. I don’t regret taking them out, but I had NO idea what I was getting myself into."
15. "There are three options most people have when they need more money: 1. Spend less 2. Increase income 3. Spend less and increase income."
"Spend less: Look at where you can negotiate bills. Can you switch internet providers and pay less? Have you had the same auto insurance and have paid off your vehicle and have a good record? Get a quote from another insurance provider to see if you can pay less — insurance providers don’t usually approach you and say you’re paying too much.
Increase income: Have you been in the same job for a couple of years? You now have more experience — typically, you can negotiate upwards of a 7% pay increase by changing jobs or companies. Are there professional certificates you can get in your field? Coursera and Udemy have certificate programs to help add value (especially if your work offers education/tuition assistance) to help get a raise. Can you freelance for extra money, or teach a skill like an instrument or foreign language?"
16. "I’m 30. I grew up pretty privileged and was in for a surprise when I started paying my own way after college. I’m working full-time but will still be $80k in debt when I finish my master's. Here's my advice..."
17. "Understanding interest rates, in general. For savings, interest adds to your account. Understanding APY and compounding can help you save more money. For loans, understand the interest rates and how much of your monthly payment is interest, especially for student loans. For some, interest accrues daily; sit down with your bills and figure out how much of the monthly payment is interest vs. principal."
"My spouse was frustrated because her student loan was now more than the original loan (i.e., it was growing, even though she was making payments). After looking at her bill, I figured out that her monthly payments should have been ~$700/month, but she was only paying $400. She got an income-based deferment where they allowed her to pay a lower monthly amount due to her income. She thought that meant she was absolved of the rest (the $300 difference), but they were just considering it unpaid without penalty — it wasn’t being paid down, and interest was accruing on it."
18. "Definitely don't be afraid to keep living at home if possible. My brother has over $30k in the bank at 23 because he still lives at home! When he's ready to move out on his own, he will easily be able to buy a house and still have plenty of savings left over!"
19. "Get receipts for your rent if you pay in cash."
20. "I left home at 18 and worked two jobs to get by. Community college was the only reason I could afford to get my bachelors and later, to go to law school. I transferred after two years to a great school. I was never in a class of more than 35, even for basic intro courses, whereas at the school I transferred to, freshman classes could have 200 students in them."
"I was terrible at math, and my community college professors helped me and spent a ton of time with me. My professors knew me, encouraged me, and helped me apply for scholarships. Their classes were meaningful and engaging, and they didn't delegate everything to a TA. One of my community college professors even kept in touch with me for years and came to my law school graduation. I cannot say enough about community college, it is a really incredible value for your money, and you get much more personalized attention for your first two years of college."
22. "If you find saving difficult because your friends keep pressuring you to come out to this bar or that restaurant, learn how to say no to them or find new friends. Staying home because you want to save money may seem uncool when you’re younger, but trust me, being in your 30s and having no money and a ton of debt because of too much partying is way more uncool."
23. "This is a small thing, but it really adds up in the end: When you're grocery shopping, just buy the store brand of whatever you were going to buy. 90% of the time it's the same as the name brand."
24. "NEVER EVER EVER EVER take out a payday loan. Once you are in that cycle, it’s very hard to break, because of the very high interest rate. Borrow from friends or family, work overtime, just don’t do it. I paid all mine off, but they are still haunting me because of a payday loan hacking scam that happened about 10 years ago, and my contact info was sold in that scam. So I get threatening calls once in a while about ghost debts that don’t exist."
25. And finally, "Beware of sales and deals that are designed to get you to spend more money. Sometimes, it's good to use a sale to stock up on something, but if you catch yourself saying, 'Everything is 20% off so I can get more,' you need to step back and assess if you're buying more than you need."
What other money lessons do you have to share? Let us know in the comments!
And for more posts about work and money, like surprisingly juicy and deliciously petty office gossip or expert tips on how non-rich people can build generational wealth, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.