It’s time to make those resolutions to save more and spend less. From finally starting to save to using credit cards responsibly, there are tons of steps you can take to live a better financial life.

With the new year comes a ton of resolutions that none of us ever stick to. But I think we can all agree that 2022 should be a year of positive growth, especially after the long, hard year we’ve all had.

So instead of making a New Year’s resolution to exercise more (boring) or eat more kale (ew), try out one or two from this list, and use these tips to make the most of the new year!

1. Think twice before paying off student loans as fast as possible

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This may sound like a weird piece of advice for someone trying to get out of a daunting amount of educational debt. But there’s a way to use your debt as leverage to build more wealth than you could without it.

Consider taking the money you would use to pay off your student loan debt extra fast (you should still be making your regular payments, obvs) and invest it instead. By doing this, you can actually get a return on your money and have it on hand for emergencies, a new home, a car, etc.

But isn’t investing risky?

Yes, investing is inherently risky, but typically the returns outweigh the risks and offer you money that you can actually access. You can’t access your paid-off student loans, ya know?

Want to learn how to start investing? Read our piece: How To Invest: Essential Advice To Help You Start Investing

2. Start saving now (at least a little bit) for retirement

10 Financial New Year's Tips That Will Save You Money In 2022 - Start saving now

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Yeah, I know, you probably keep hearing this and you’re sitting there thinking (just like I usually do) I’ve got plenty of time to start saving for retirement – do I really have to start saving now?

Yes, you do. In fact, you should aim to have about a year’s salary saved by the time you’re 30.

Why?

Compound interest, that’s why! If you start saving now, your money will make money for you, saving you from having to make higher payments, later on, to catch up.

Want to learn more about the power of compound interest? Read our piece: If You Still Don’t Believe In The Power Of Compound Interest, You Have To See This

If you’re lucky enough to have an employer that will match your contribution to your retirement fund, start now. Say you earn $30,000 a year and you contribute 6% of your pay each year and your employer matches 3% of that – if you start at 22 you could have over $40,000 saved up by the time you’re 30!

If you’re interested in what compound interest could look like for you, play around with MU30’s Compound Interest Calculator below:

3. Be scared of consumer debt, but not credit cards

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There are far more benefits to using credit cards (responsibly) than avoiding them.

I put off getting my first credit card until I was right out of college because I knew my spending habits weren’t compatible with all that credit cards can offer.

While this meant I didn’t have a bad credit score, it also meant I didn’t have much of a credit score at all, which was a serious hindrance when it came to getting a car loan and my own apartment.

If you’re like I was in college, and don’t trust that you’ll be able to save the meager amount of money you get from working a couple of part-time jobs, there are credit card options that can work for you!

Read more in our piece: Best Credit Cards For College Students: Money Under 30’s Top Picks

But why shouldn’t you just stick with your debit card?

Debit cards don’t help you build credit (even if you run it as “credit” every once in a while), and there are a lot of benefits that credit cards offer that debit cards simply don’t, like car rental insurance and purchase protection.

4. It doesn’t really matter which rewards card you get, so pick one based off your preferences

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After you’ve hopped aboard the credit card train, you may wonder which card to choose out of the seemingly endless possibilities. After taking your credit into consideration and eliminating the cards you probably won’t get approved for, the cards that are left will offer similar total rewards over the course of a year, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference which you choose.

If a card offers big signup bonuses, they usually make up this money by giving you less in rewards and vice versa.

When looking for a rewards card, it’s best to pick one that blends into your life (i.e. if you’ve got a Chase bank account, then Chase credit cards are a good deal), and they’re accepted almost everywhere you want to shop.

Compare the best rewards cards here: Best Rewards Credit Cards – Get More Bang For Your Buck

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The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is my personal favorite Chase card. It makes earning rewards simple, by offering a few 3% cash back categories (dining and drugstores purchases), a whopping 5% on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and a simple, but rewarding 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. 

The best part, however, is the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers an easy to obtain sign-up bonus of $200 after spending just $500 on purchases in the first three months. AND, you get all of this for a $0 annual fee.

5. Move someplace cheaper to start saving money

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While this may seem like an odd piece of advice for those trying to save money, there are a ton of cities out there in the US where you could be making a lot but spending little on rent.

Take South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame, and Pete Buttigieg, as an example. Number one on Money Under 30’s list of America’s best cities to get rich, they have an average income (with a bachelor’s degree or higher) of $71,829 and an average rent of just $720. That’s a lot of extra money to spend after paying for basic utilities!

Sure, South Bend may not be New York City, but that’s exactly why it could be great for some people looking to live large in a smaller city. (They have a population of 268,291).

Intrigued? Find your next hometown: The Best Cities In America For Young Adults To Get Rich

6. Sorry, but your house isn’t an “investment”

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Most home buyers lovingly refer to their house as an “investment,” somehow justifying the large amount they pay towards a down payment and fixing it up. While it may be a great financial decision that gives you a place to call home, it is not an investment.

When you think of stocks, bonds, and even real estate that you don’t live in, you can mostly control when you buy and sell it. With your home, since it’s most important aspect is providing you and your family with shelter, you have a little less control over buying and selling willy-nilly, since you need it for your own well-being.

Also, if you never plan to sell your house, you can’t consider it an investment since there won’t be a time where you sell and get more from it than what you initially invested.

So, unless you’re a real-estate flipper, your house isn’t an investment.

Still not convinced? Read our piece: The Truth? Your House Is Not An Investment

7. Of course, neither is your car, so pay cash, or at least go easy with auto financing

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Cars lose value the minute you drive them off the lot and there is rarely, if ever, a time when you can sell your car for more than you bought it. Don’t buy more car than you can afford. Pay cash if you can, but if you need to get a loan, finance it in a way that lets you avoid a debt headache. In other words, make sure you pay it off while it’s still worth owning.

Some basic car buying tips that Money Under 30 recommends are:

  • Put 20% down so you avoid long loan terms.
  • Know your credit score and what it means before you go to dealers.
  • If your credit score isn’t great, get financing quotes from places other than your dealer, like a credit union.

8. If you’re thinking of getting engaged, there are better ways to pay for the ring than through jewelry store financing

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You’re probably pretty excited about getting engaged, and you should be! But, now it’s time to deal with the gnawing burden of actually paying off the ring you so lovingly picked out. There’s a couple of ways to go about financing an engagement ring that may make the process a little less of a financial hurdle.

First, try not to pay for an engagement ring through a jewelry store credit account. While initially, rates may be as low as 0%, after this promotional period ends, the interest rates are very high.

Check out jewelers like James Allen, which is an online jeweler that can save you a ton of money and has a large selection to choose from.

Also, consider alternatives to diamonds – they’re usually cheaper and tend to be conflict-free.

You can read more about diamond alternatives in our piece: 6 Meaningful Alternatives To Diamond Engagement Rings

Many people consider paying for a ring with a credit card, which can be a good way to finance it, as long as you do so the right way.

Some credit cards offer promotions that give cardholders 0% introductory interest rates on new purchases for 12 months (sometimes longer).

If you sign up for one of these credit cards right before you buy the ring and pay off the ring before the promotional period, this might save you the most money when financing.

If you know you can’t pay off the ring in this 12-14 month period, a personal loan, while it may seem costlier initially, can save you more money in the long run. Personal loans tend to offer interest rates that are substantially less than credit cards.

*An important caveat to both of these suggestions is that you have to have decent credit to get loans and the best credit cards.

9. Side hustles are great (but rideshare drivers earn less than you think)

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Uber is a well-known rideshare side hustle. And plenty of folks make an entire living off of driving for Uber.

But, you’ve probably heard that Uber has run into a few problems in the past. So, if you’re thinking of becoming an Uber driver don’t let Uber’s promises of an abundance of extra cash fool you. There are plenty of considerations they leave out when they tell you how much you could make.

For a start, Uber or Lyft always get a substantial cut. When you sign up with Uber, they reserve the right to raise their driver fees whenever they feel like.

There are also hidden costs of driving professionally such as maintenance, self-employment taxes, gas, and tolls.

Yes, you’ll make some money as a part-time (or maybe even full-time) Uber driver but, depending on the state of your car, its gas mileage, and where you live, the costs might very well outweigh the rewards.

Learn more about how much you can really make as a rideshare driver: How Much Money Can You Really Make Driving For Uber Or Lyft?

10. Being an adult is hard, but there are ways you can make it easier

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Money Under 30 offers some helpful tips to ease the pain of your new adult life, making it just a little easier (financially speaking):

  • Pay yourself first. Make sure you’re working toward an emergency fund. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Live within your means. Don’t spend more than you earn.
  • Plan for the future. You need to start building credit now so you can use it to buy a car or a house in the future.
  • Set money goals. Start saving now for what you need (or want) later.
  • Be patient. Saving money takes time, and you might not see the effects right away. Don’t be discouraged.

Summary

If you’re looking to better your financial life, follow some (or even all!) of these tips, and remember that making money, saving money, and just learning how money works takes time, so be patient with yourself and know that it’s okay to have questions.

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About the author

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Christopher Murray is a professional personal finance and sustainability writer who enjoys writing about everything from budgeting to unique investing options like SRI and cryptocurrency. He also focuses on how sustainability is the best savings tool around. You can find his work on sites like MoneyGeek, Money Under 30, Investor Junkie, MoneyCrashers, and Time. You can find out more about Christopher on his website or via LinkedIn.