1. It's better to wait and splurge than go for cheap, instant gratification. Get that well-tailored black blazer you've been daydreaming about for a month, rather than five cheapo skirts made of fabric not found in nature that you just stopped in and got because you were kinda depressed that day.
2. Buy grocery basics at the cheapest place and go elsewhere for specific higher-end items. Sure, get the artisanal cheese or whatever at the Classy-As-Shit-Gwyneth-Might-Shop-Here Depot, but you can get eggs and orange juice and stuff at a big chain store.
3. Buy groceries, dude. Rather than getting an overpriced chopped salad and a soda every day ([$7 + $2] x 5), and then going home and hitting up Seamless ($15 or so x 5). If you're just shopping for yourself, around $40 – $50 worth of groceries a week is reasonable.
4. Build credit by getting a credit card and then only using it for one thing, like iTunes or gas money. So then you use it regularly, but the bill is never huge, so you can pay it off every month and still establish credit. Look for one with reasonable interest rates and no yearly fees, and don't carry a balance. It's important to have credit because someday you might want to buy a house and/or be a real person.
5. Pay off any outstanding medical bills before they start dragging your credit down. I have heard horror stories about a decades-old $36 hospital bill dragging a credit score down 100 points.
6. Observe the 50/30/20 budget (after taxes). This handy ratio was dreamed up by Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard bankruptcy professor and the author of All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. Immediate living expenses (rent, utilities, automobills) take up 50 percent of your earnings. Wants (vacations, clothes) take up 30 percent. The Future (savings) takes up 20 percent. Helpful guideline, even if your individual budget is slightly tweaked to meet your specific needs.
7. Having very little savings during your first post-college years is normal. In fact, you will look back on the days of trying to make a decent dinner of frozen vegetables and one egg rather fondly, if you can believe it.
8. But having savings in your later 20s will make you feel so much safer and give you an opportunity for a nicer lifestyle. Even if it seems implausible right now, having a small fraction of each paycheck automatically transferred into a savings account is really effective over time. We're talking like $50 bucks, if that's all you can manage.
9. Don't be resentful of friends with wealthy parents who can rely on their financial support. It may be frustrating to see them be so cavalier about money that haven't even earned while you're obsessing over ways to save and barely getting by, but they undoubtedly have their own insecurities about being supported by their parents. And it feels so much better to be independent, even if you have to skip a few restaurant dinners to do it.
10. Don't rely on a significant other financially. It makes sense to adjust rent to scale if you live together (e.g., if you're making $30,000 a year and he's making $60,000, it's reasonable to want him to pay slightly more), but winding up totally fiscally dependent, like day-to-day, on the person you have sex with is a bad idea.
11. Don't be afraid to upgrade your lifestyle according to your financial capabilities. Say you get a new job where you're making twice as much money as you were. It's OK to want to move to a nicer place, or eat out more, or treat yourself. It feels weird at first if you're not used to it, but TREAT YO'SELF.
12. Taxes! TAXES! They're so horrible. In New York City, you take home like half of your paycheck. I'm serious. Don't forget to factor taxes into every decision you make. Just pretend your official salary doesn't matter, and add up your actual real world paychecks monthly to get your post-tax salary. (Warning: It will hurt.)
13. If you're salaried, enrolling in a 401(k) will help with your taxes a little bit. Because the taxes are done after the deduction, which will make them slightly less.
14. It's not tacky or annoying of you to ask a new boss about the company's expense policy. That's what they're there for. Just remember how much money the company has!
15. Never carry over debt from month to month. If you're not going to be able to afford it that month, don't buy it. Exceptions for things like cars and houses, obviously.
16. Don't open bar tabs if you can help it. Soon you'll be drunkenly telling everyone to put it on your tab and then you'll forget your card there and have to go back the next day and pay your $5 gazillion tab.
17. Set up automatic payments on your student loans. If you miss a payment on those things they charge you like crazy.
18. Never ever get store credit cards. I had a department story card once. It almost ruined my life. The interest is really high, and they rope you in with a slight discount the first time, but then you are HOOKED. :|
19. If you have a bank or a credit card with an app, download it. You can pay your bill all those times you're pretending to text while your friend is in the bathroom so you don't look like a loser.
Photo Credit: Getty; Article via Cosmopolitan.com