As much as we learn certain habits as children and into the teen years, I believe there’s no decade as definitive as your 20’s. Every experience is new, the high school drama is left behind {I hope!}, and you start blossoming into the person you were meant to be. But it can also make or break your financial success.

What you do as a 20-something, will inevitability impact the decades to come, and that’s never been more true when finances come into the picture. Years of frivolous spending can take their toll, and before we know it, we’re 50 years old and don’t have any more than a few dollars saved for retirement.

That’s why it’s SO important to learn these 7 habits now — so they can replace bad habits before it’s too late. However, even if you’ve passed over the 30 mark and beyond, there’s still hope! Follow these same principles and you can quickly turn your path into one of success too.

Learning how to budget in your twenties is key to a great financial future.

1. Learn How to Budget NOW

If you haven’t set up a working budget yet, now is the perfect time to start! Budgeting might seem restrictive, but it’s really not. Instead, this habit gives you the freedom to tell your money where it should go, and also encourages you to live within your means.

You can use my Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting series if you’re new to the whole budgeting concept, but a simple explanation is to write down all the expenses you currently have, and figure out how much you need per paycheck {or monthly} to cover them. Then you can use a cash-envelope or digital system to track what you’re spending.

If you have money left over from this exercise, it’s always great to start saving up for the long term and pay off any accumulated debt, which we’ll discuss next!

Paying off all your debts early in life is beneficial to your finances.

2. Pay Down Student Loan and Credit Card Debt

Before you save for future dreams, you need to get rid of any and all debt as soon as possible. If you carry debt from a college education, or have racked up credit card debt from mindless spending, then you have some extra work to do!

Use this time to get a second job, or do odds and ends to put money towards each balance. These can be things like pet sitting, house cleaning, or even virtual assisting. Don’t be afraid of hard work — embrace it!

Being young means we have more energy right now, and can create a more stable future by putting in the extra effort today.

Saving money for future goals like purchasing a home is a smart financial decision.

3. Save Towards the Long Term

The 20’s are a great time to dream about your future and what lies ahead. Do you want own a house? Maybe invest in a rental property? See the world? Buy a more reliable car? Start stashing away money for retirement? Whatever it is you want, you need to write down these goals, then save to make them happen.

It’s way too easy to go into debt for all these things, and while I don’t think getting a loan, such as a mortgage, is necessarily bad, the more cash you can put towards it, the better. But saving cash does takes time.

Be patient, and live as frugally as possible so you can save money for the things you really want. And even though retirement seems far away, putting any extra you can towards a 401K or IRA account will eventually pay off.

Saving money to purchase a reliable vehicle is a smart choice.

4. Invest in Quality Items

While living frugally is a must, there are some items you just don’t want to buy cheap, or you’ll literally pay double, sometimes triple over time for things that won’t last.

An example of this would be a car. Paying $2,000 or less for a clunker might sound reasonable, but how much will you end up paying to replace all those expensive parts in the long run? It’s often better to do some research, and buy a reliable vehicle that will last you through the 200,000 mile mark.

The same goes for appliances in your home — look for ones that conserve energy and save water — or even furniture that doesn’t fall apart, but stands the test of time. Yes, it will be more money in the long run, but you won’t have to replace it for a good long time!

Learning how to cook your own tasty meals will help you save money.

5. Learn How to Cook

Even if you didn’t grow up learning how to make simple meals, it’s time to grab a cookbook, browse Pinterest, and teach yourself a few basics starting right now.

Making meals at home is going to be hands down cheaper than going out, and can make the biggest impact in your budget. As a 20-something, I know how easy it is to just grab a burger from the drive-thru, or live off delivery pizza, but you can make food that is just as yummy and quick with a few simple ingredients.

When you get the hang of cooking {and maybe even start to enjoy it!}, you can begin meal planning in advance, and even try your hand at freezer cooking.

Educate yourself on finance basics when you're young.

6. Continue to Educate Yourself

In trying to live a frugal lifestyle, I’ve come to realize that continual learning is mighty important. There is always something new to try, or practical advice to listen to from others who have already been there.

It’s easy to hide behind pride and think we have this whole “life thing” figured out, but it’s okay to admit that you don’t. In fact, you’ll be respected even more if you don’t try to have the answers for everything.

Surround yourself with friends who encourage you, and older adults that challenge you. Subscribe to personal finance and frugal lifestyle blogs, and go to the library to check out a few money-related books. I list some of my absolute favorites in the post, How to Think Like a Millionaire.

Learn to be content and happy with the money and life you have.

7. Learn to Be Content

Contentment does not come easy to me, and I’m betting it probably doesn’t for you either. It’s something we must challenge ourselves with everyday — to stop comparing, and to stop trying to “keep up” with those who are further down the road than we are.

Being happy right where you are takes practice, but your soul will be filled with so much joy, and you’ll be able to turn any circumstance into a positive learning experience.

Don’t give up. Learn to love what you have, and focus on the things that last. If you master only one thing, let it be this! Everything else will just be icing on the cake. (These 7 ways to be more content are a great place to start!)


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What habits do wish you had learned in your 20’s?

Financial Habits to Start in Your 20’s

Kalyn Brooke
Kalyn Brooke is a life management expert for busy women who crave a simpler and more organized life. Through her recognizable, down-to-earth approach, she provides a daily dose of inspiration and guidance, whether you’re looking for smart money tips, time saving routines, or anything in-between. When she’s not experimenting with ways to do even the most mundane tasks more efficiently, you can find her crafting detailed to-do lists in her bullet journal, or indulging in—yet another—personal development book. Meet Kalyn and learn how stay on top of it all at
Kalyn Brooke


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