People say that your 20s are for learning and your 30s are for earning – and that may be the case.

Most careers take years to take off; and although more and more people nowadays are waiting until their thirties and beyond to purchase homes and have children, supporting a household of one can still place quite a strain on the pocket of the average 20-something. But there are ways and means to make a little go a lot farther than you might think…

Financial prudence is one of the most beneficial traits you can possess – and unlike many, it's one you can foster. All you need is will power, vision – and these 10 pointers from John Lowe of Money Doctors.

1.  Budget
Perhaps the most obvious piece of advice, this is something many people avoid at all costs – literally. But creating a budget is nothing more than exerting your own control over the financial side of your life in a mindful way. Simply open an Excel spreadsheet, enter a few numbers – and within an hour, you’re done!

Recognise that it’s a way to help yourself to achieve what you want in the long term, not to deprive yourself. Email me if you want my simple to use free Money Doctors budget spread sheet – even tots itself up.

2.  Save, save, save
This is another simple point, but an important one to note. Outside of lockdowns, just 50% of Irish people save regularly – which means half the population don’t. If you find yourself in the latter category, it’s time to change. I’m not talking about putting away €500 or €1,000 a month immediately; look at your incomings and outgoings and save what you can afford but generally the difference between them.

Every provider operates a regular saver account - the best are AIB Bank Bank and Bank of Ireland at 1%, save between €100 and €1,000 per month for up to 12 months with 1 withdrawal allowed per year. Which leads me to my next point...

3.  Set realistic goals
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Treating financial change like a new year’s resolution is one of the quickest ways to trip yourself up; you need to adopt the practice of positive reinforcement. There’s no point in cutting off all socialising, all meals out, all the little pleasures you enjoy: you will hate the process and it will be impossible to continue.

To start, take things easy: save €25 each week; before you know it, a month will have passed and you’ll have €100 you might not otherwise not have even noticed spending. After a few months, increase what you save; and consider reducing an outgoing you know you can do without, instead putting the money towards your savings. Slow and steady wins the race.

4.  Keep your receipts
Trust me on this one. Try it for even a week and you will learn a lot about your spending habits. Keep receipts for everything you purchase from first thing on Monday morning until last thing the following Sunday night. You will be shocked at how little you find you spend on little extras – and how quickly they add up.

5.  Plan for spontaneity
This might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but even impulse purchases can be budgeted for! One of the best ways to stay on top of these kinds of buys is to give yourself a set amount of physical cash at the start of each week and to use that – and only that – for discretionary purchases like coffees, lunches, snacks, drinks, nights out, public transport or taxis. It’s all too easy to lose track of your spending when it’s just numbers on a contactless card.

6.  Read up on what you need to know
Stay abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. In Ireland, where we’re obsessed with house prices, most people know about the difficulties in meeting rent or securing affordable housing – but there’s a lot more going on. It will only benefit you to understand the current financial climate, what international changes like Brexit mean for Ireland and what our government’s choices mean for you.

Read the financial pages of the newspaper; pay attention when the October national budget is announced; buy a good book from which you can glean solid, applicable and independent advice. Now, I am not suggesting ….. this article though is a great start!

7.  Be flexible
As your circumstances change, you should always ensure your financial plan is fluid enough to change with it. If you start to earn more, don’t treat the increase as purely discretionary; start to save more, or look into starting a pension. If your salary drops, adjust your saving accordingly – or dip into the pot if you need to…. if there is one.

8.  Ditch the credit card
They’re great for emergencies, but apart from that, there’s no reason to rely on credit cards. They’re too tempting to use and the fees are too high to be worth it. Remember also that if you choose to only pay the minimum each month, it will take you 20 years to clear that balance! If you can, use debit cards only.

9.  Set goals
Do you want to buy a car? Or a property? Even start renting? When? Do you know a ballpark figure of what it might cost? How much will you need to have for a deposit? Start thinking about these things now, because your 20s fly by quickly.

10.  Tighten the belt
At the end of the day, short-term pain is worth long-term gain when it comes to money. If you’re used to socialising a couple of nights a week after work, cut back; if you drink, challenge yourself to Dry January or Sober October/ November; if you smoke, try to quit. You’ll thank yourself in the future. 

For more information click on John Lowe's profile above or on his website.