Yes, You CAN Save Money in Your 20s Without Giving Up Fun
“It’s good to be cautious and plan for unexpected events. It’s also good, however, to learn how to release and destress. Everything works out, and if you’re smart, able and had a job once, you’ll have one again.”
So says Elite Daily’s Senior Lifestyle Writer, Lauren Martin. Her article, “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong,” has been breaking the Internet since its publication earlier this month.
The article has elicited enthusiastic hurrahs from millennials wanting to validate frivolous spending — and scathing rebuttals from the money-conscious likes of USA Today, Time and US News.
Because it’s already been done, I won’t explain why Martin’s advice is misguided and ridiculous. We’re penny hoarders — we get it, right?
Why It’s Tough to Save in Your 20s
And yet, part of me wants to join the masses celebrating Martin’s oh-so-tweetable claims.
“You can’t make a mark on the world if you’re too cheap to live in it.”
“Refusing to give yourself the luxury of enjoying your money negates the whole point of making it.”
“When you live your life by numbers, you strip yourself of poetry.”
Like Martin, I’m in my 20s. I have no savings. I want to live incredible stories and allow myself to make silly decisions.
Unlike Martin, I won’t advise anyone to do the same.
I’ve neglected saving in my 20s because I’ve been lazy. I haven’t been creative. I simply haven’t tried hard enough.
It’s tough to save in our 20s, because we believe people like Martin who insist we have to choose between saving for the future and enjoying life now.
Six months shy of hitting 30, I wish I had found a better balance in my 20s.
I listened to the Lauren Martin on my right shoulder telling me to live it up, but I ignored the Suze Orman on the other side showing me how easy saving and earning money could be.
You don’t have to choose one or the other. You just have to be smart about how you do both.
Making Money Doesn’t Have to Mean Giving Up Fun
Did you know you could make money hanging out at a bar, instead of spending all of it by last call?
And I imagine you’d get some cool stories working as a pirate, modeling nude, performing with hula hoops or touring with the cat circus!
Even though I’ve given up a lot of luxuries for it, I have no shortage of stories from building a writing career from scratch. Making money and experiencing life aren’t mutually exclusive.
TPH junior writer Jamie Cattanach drove a horse and buggy to make extra money during college.
“I got to play with horses, help guys keep their proposals secret until the perfect moment and meet people from all over the world,” says Jamie. “Plus, over winter break, I’d routinely make $300 in a night.”
When you regale friends with stories from these weird gigs five or 10 years from now, you can enjoy the added satisfaction of knowing you were wily enough to get paid for those experiences.
Having Fun Doesn’t Have to Mean Spending Money
Don’t assume it takes $10 drinks and $50 brunches to have a good time with friends.
Enjoy sports, concerts, entertainment and art without spending a dime. Plan ahead a little, and have a weird and fun birthday for free.
Travel across the country on a $1 bus ticket or drive yourself and find cheap gas. Get creative, and you’ll still eat well on the cheap and sleep comfortably without breaking your budget.
Surprise! Saving Money Doesn’t Have to Be Boring (or Hard)
I’ll admit making money and living frugally are probably the easier parts of this equation. Building that nest egg is the bigger challenge.
The best way for people like me to start saving is to automate it. Get someone (or something) else to take care of saving for you.
TPH editor Kathleen Garvin opened a Capital One savings account shortly after college that automatically pulls money from her personal account once a month.
“I’ve labeled it ‘Forget it Exists,’ so I resist the temptation to dip into it,” she says.
If you don’t have room to “forget” about $50 or $100 per month right now, save pennies instead. Pay with whole bills if you use cash, and empty the change into a jar at the end of each day.
Join an auto-savings program that will round up your credit, debit or checking account purchases and set the “digital change” aside for you. If you use the auto-savings app Acorns, you can even invest those savings without having to learn about things like assets and mutual funds (shudder).
Or, keep it even simpler with this trick: Hide money from yourself.
Save in Your 20s, Enjoy It for the Rest of Your Life
Let’s also note that working and saving in your twenties doesn’t mean giving up your window for life-changing experiences. Older adults have fun, too; I swear!
Saving and investing aggressively now could mean you can retire at 40 or be a millionaire by your thirties. Or, at least you won’t be buried by debt for the rest of your life.
Imagine the mark you’ll make on the world doing whatever you want for 25 years while your cohorts pay off student loans, mortgages and credit card debt.
Your Turn: Do you think saving in your 20s is necessary? Or, are you better off having fun and taking risks with your money?
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Dana Sitar is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes about writing, work, life and love for blogs and books and sometimes things people care about, like Huffington Post and that one time she had an article published in The Onion. Follow along on Twitter @danasitar.