The perfect budgeting tips for a digital native

Cash-strapped millennials: this one’s for you. While your parents may have walked into a well-paid job with benefits, chances are high that you’re stuck in intern purgatory, or eking out a living in a job that doesn’t pay nearly what you’re worth.

Your boss might not give you a raise. You might not get a new position with a sweet salary. But at least you can make your income stretch further by understanding your outgoings, and how you can cut back where necessary.

Turn on push notifications

Some banking and credit card apps support push notifications that alert you whenever a transaction hits your account, like when you use your card to purchase something or when your paycheck lands in your bank account.

Push notifications aren’t available everywhere, but they’re hugely worthwhile. They immediately inform you whenever money goes out of your account, allowing you to mentally tally how much money is in your account when out-and-about. And by having real-time notifications for when you get paid, you don’t spend money you don’t have. Among others, the push notification feature is found on the banking apps for Chase, American Express, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Capital One.

Tackle your recurring bills

In our daily lives, we don’t own much. Instead of weekend trips to the record store, we subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music. We sold our DVD collection long ago and got Netflix instead. And to the horror of some paperback purists, we’ve stopped buying books, instead purchasing a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Please don’t interpret this as a screed against subscription services. In many cases, they can save you money. But if you’ve got subscriptions you aren’t using, you’re effectively flushing money down the toilet. (or pouring money down the drain).

Two apps that’ll help you tackle these runaway bills are Trim and TrueBill. Grant them access to your information, and they’ll hunt down recurring subscription services. You can then weed out the ones you aren’t using, while keeping the good stuff. We’re looking at you, Netflix.

Get Mint

Mint is an online budget planner which plugs directly into your bank and credit card accounts. It acts as a central repository for your finances, showing you how much you’ve got across accounts, as well as the total sum of the debt you’re carrying.

Its best feature is the ability to automatically break down your spending by category. This is visualized as a pie chart, which is a great way to see your financial health. By seeing the proportion of money you’re spending on, say, dining out, you might be more inclined to cut back.

Make a budget and stick to it

Many of us are guilty of treating our bank accounts like an opaque box, where we only find out if we’ve ran out of cash when our card gets declined in the drive-thru for Wendy’s, or when we get a dreaded “account overdrawn” email from our bank. 

Fortunately, making a budget is really easy. One resource you’ll undoubtedly find useful is NerdWallet’s free budgeting spreadsheets, which are available for both Microsoft Excel and Google Drive. These come in varying levels of complexity for households with different needs, such as those with investment income.

That said, if you really want to level up your budgeting skills, you absolutely need You Need a Budget (YNAB). This application, available for Windows, iOS, MacOS, and Android, is the gold standard of budgeting software. Unlike Mint, which focuses on showing you where your money is going, YNAB has a philosophy that emphasizes planning. Before your paycheck lands in your bank account, you should have already determined what you’ll do with each dollar. YNAB costs $6.99 per month, but there’s a 34-day free trial, so you can see if it’s something that’ll work for you.

Go Paperless

It’s hard to manage your finances when they’re piled up on your coffee table. Digitizing your important records, like receipts, tax statements and utility bills, will make it easy to see your outgoings when you’re away from home.

The best way to do that is with a high-quality document scanner. The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 is perhaps the best choice for on-the-go millennials. It’s affordable, and can digitize your documents in a matter of seconds. You can also configure it to automatically transfer scans to your phone, tablet, or preferred cloud storage service, like DropBox.

Knowledge is power. And with your bills at your fingertips, you’ll be empowered to make better spending decisions.