How to Manage Finances in Your 20s

It’s not hard to save up a lot of money, but it does take some effort. If you make it habitual, eventually it doesn’t feel like work anymore but just something you do. Here’s how I took my savings account from $5 to $5k in less than two years, while still in college and without sacrificing my lifestyle.

The App

Download your bank’s mobile app. Seriously, do it now. Set up all your accounts so you can see them on demand.

If you’re afraid of looking at your statements then you’re obviously doing something wrong.

Why it’s important: You should know exactly where your money is going and how much. This allows you to realize what habits are hurting you financially – maybe you eat out too much, go out too much or maybe your online shopping is getting out of hand. Whatever it is, realizing it is the first step, fixing it is the second.

If you’re serious about saving, download Mint. It’s an app that analyzes your accounts and gives you a comprehensive report. Some banking apps already do what Mint does, but I like it better because if I decide to open an account with another bank I can still see it there.

The Accounts

Have 1 checking and 1 savings that are linked. You can have an additional savings account that isn’t linked so that you aren’t able to transfer it to your checking and spend it.

Why it’s important: Linking your accounts should encourage you to transfer more to your savings, more frequently. Make a vow to yourself not to do it vice versa unless it’s an emergency (fashion or drinking emergencies don’t count). Give yourself a year-end savings goal and then work backward to establish a monthly goal.

For example:

By end of 2017: $5,000

By November 30: $4,500 in savings

By October 31: $4,000 in savings


If you’re starting at a lower number, that’s totally OK. But if you’re boujee like me you better step it tf up.

Credit and Debit Cards

If you have more than 3, get rid of them. Seriously.

Keep: either the one with the best rewards or the one you never, ever forget to pay.

Always opt for the rewards card. The interest is usually higher but as long as you pay your bill on-time, it’s free money. Once you qualify for a rewards card with a high limit ($5000 or more) start charging EVERYTHING (without exceeding 30% of your limit) to the card and watch your cash back increase. Boy, do I love free money.

What card is right for you?

Well, I don’t know you so idk. But, this website does a pretty bad ass job at figuring it out:

You can also check your credit score for free and without affecting your score.

The Credit Score

In case you don’t know: a credit score is a nationwide standard that banks and financial institutions use to gauge how financially responsible you are.

millenial finances

Scores vary, but as a general rule of thumb for good and bad credit:

Good Credit: 650-850

Bad Credit: Below 650


How to check:

A personal check of your credit score will not affect your credit, it’s considered a “soft” inquiry. On the other hand, “hard” inquiries that occur when you apply for credit can lower your score.

What lowers your score:

  • Applying to credit cards
  • Paying your bills late
  • Using more than 70% of your credit limit
  • Debt
  • Owning too many credit cards
  • Not using your full legal name in financial documents

What raises your score:

  • Paying off loans
  • Paying bills on-time, every time
  • Spending less than 30% of your monthly limit

Some people our age may not have a credit score yet. I actually didn’t just last year, so in January 2016 I began building my credit.

Building Credit

This is one of the times having student loans is a good thing! Start paying them off to build credit.

Set up automatic payments – make sure it’s a low number you KNOW you will have in your account (like $10), I over drafted my account more than a few times and cried about it, every time.

Don’t be like (the young) me.

When you first take out a loan you should have received an email with login information. Find it, log on and set it up. Today.

If you don’t have credit and don’t have anyone to co-sign, you can apply for what’s called a Secured card. A bank allows you to put up your own money to back a card. For example, last year I opened a Spectrum secured card with BB&T, pretty much I put $400 in a savings account and that became my credit limit (meaning I was allowed to charge up to $400 on the card). I used the card like a regular credit card, spending less than 30% of my limit (so less than $120 – because 30% of 400 is 120) and paying it off each month to earn good credit.

I paid off my student loans little by little then paid them off completely right before graduation. It worked like a charm. By January 2017, I had a near-excellent credit.

Keeping Track & Planning 

Dedicate a notebook specifically to your finances. At least once a month write out your monthly earnings and expenditures, give yourself a budget for living (the things you absolutely need – rent, food, gas, insurance, etc.) and fun (going out, shopping, trips, etc.). Make sure you’re on the right track to meet your monthly savings goal.

How to splurge without getting off-track

If something comes up that you really want but haven’t budgeted for, like a concert or new phone; earn it. Work a little extra to afford what you want. Here’s a list of side jobs I do in addition to my day job that allow me to travel (because let’s be real, that’s all I ever really want).

Easy money making side gigs:

Dog is awesome. You create a profile and define your own schedule, dog owners will send you a request if they like your profile and you choose to book or deny. You can dogsit in their home or yours, walk dogs or run your own doggy daycare. Sign Up 

Event Photography – If you have a DSLR and aren’t afraid to invest a little bit to get started (you’ll need an external flash, 32 GB+ memory card and a good lens) you can begin working as a second shooter to learn the ropes. Second shooting isn’t difficult as long as you can take direction and do a little research first. Google search “wedding photography” and start calling and emailing photographers/companies letting them know you’re interested.

Craigslist “gigs” – I haven’t done this in a while but my first couple years in school I was a gig fiend, it takes a little effort to phish through all the spam and find legitimate jobs but you can make some good money helping people move, registering guests at seminars/conventions, being a security guard, miscellaneous labor, etc.

Selling stuff – Everybody has stuff they don’t really need. Try selling it off to get what you actually care about. Try,, local Facebook Marketplace pages and good ol craigslist.

Uber/Lyft  – I’ve actually never been a driver for either but I did sign up and it was really easy. As long as you have a reliable car (you have to get a special safety check), your own insurance and a clean license, you can make several hundred dollars a week just whipping around.

Other ways to save money

Follow PennyHoarder on Facebook and read all the articles. They rock.

How to do good without donating directly: Shop instead of, it’s the same thing but a percentage of sales goes to a non-profit of your choice. AmazonSmile has donated over $43 million to their charities ❤️.


So, since To-Do lists are my absolute favorite because they keep my life flowing like the well-oiled machine it is, I made one for you.
Check those bad boys off and get ready to live a financially responsible life!

Finances Checklist

□ Download bank app – check it daily

□ Link checking and savings

□ Set up auto-payment for loans

□ Check credit score

□ Establish yearly/monthly savings goals

□ Create a budget


Millenial Financial Survey

Take this 4 question survey to satisfy my curiousity!

Honestly, I may not know you but I care about you (seriously, I do) and I believe everyone has the potential to live debt-free and make their dreams a reality.

That’s all I have for now but look out for more posts on living

life (y)as I know it.

If you have any questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to reach out! I’m no expert, but I’m a savvy researcher so if I don’t personally know the answer to your question I’d be happy to look it up and that way we’ll both know 🙂