There is a paradox that exists when you're in your 20s; you have the energy and freedom to do whatever you want, but not necessarily the funds to do so. Often the two sides are at odds with one another, but they don't inevitably have to be. There are a number of ways to exercise your youthful exuberance, whether it be venturing out into the world on your own or pursuing your passions, without hemorrhaging money. Moreover, as children of the '80s and '90s, there are also costs the preceding generation thought necessary that in this decade can be easily shaken off. Here are a few tips to survive and thrive in your 20s without breaking the bank.
Volunteer With an Organization
Do you like looking at fine art? Attending concerts? Playing with dogs? Look for a business or organization in your area looking for volunteers. You might be surprised at how many of the places you enjoy frequenting will let you volunteer. What these opportunities lack in compensation, they make up for volunteer perks. For instance, some music venues look for ushers and bartenders to work at shows and in return allow volunteers to watch performances for free. The Humane Society also often seeks out volunteers who want to assist them in feeding, petting and socializing the cats and dogs under their care. If you love pets, but don't have the financial means to own one, volunteering at these shelters can give you the opportunity to hang out with them at no cost. While letting you enjoy your passions at no cost besides your time, volunteering has the added opportunity for you to mingle and meet new people.
Learn to Cook
Learning how to cook can boost your finances and cut out unnecessary fat, both literally and figuratively. Suppose you spend at least $3 a day on a coffee and bagel every morning, purchase a lunch at a fast food restaurant for about $6, and order a $10 dollar take out meal for dinner each day of a full week - you're looking at a food budget of $133 a week, excluding snacks and beverages. For the same amount, you can visit your local grocery store and purchase produce, meats, spices and grains which will yield a wide variety of healthy meals that can last you for more than a week. Online resources like WebMD and Mint.com's Frugal Foodie column provide ample amounts of info on healthy and inexpensive foods you can pick up at the grocery store. By simply learning how to work an oven and figuring out uses for basil, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars on food.
Live with Roommates
If you attended college and shared a place with peers, why not continue to do so after you enter the workforce? It's a good way to begin the onset of personal budgeting and household running without having to incur the higher prices that come with a mortgage and a single-bedroom residence. Living with roommates will also allow you to build up some experience dealing with financial responsibility and living under the same roof as other people before you dive headfirst into purchasing property with a spouse. Splitting rent with three other people for a place with a single bathroom, or sharing a fridge where you need to label your food, may not be the most glamorous of accommodations to have in your 20s, but a few years down the line it will save you money while allowing you to maintain some financial independence.
Cancel Your Cable TV Subscription
As the generation that heralded in the advent of the Internet, you have to honestly ask yourself: do you truly need to pay $30 to $85 a month on cable television? With a basic broadband Internet connection, you can be connected to hours of free media from sites such as YouTube and Hulu, and for a few dollars a month you can subscribe to services that cater to your specific tastes such as iTunes and Netflix. Why then, coupled with the cost of your Internet connection, would you pay for a cable package that provide dozens of networks that you likely do not watch? There are multiple subscriptions that the average frugal 20-year-old can cut from his or her monthly budget, but given the amount of media available for a fraction of the cost of a basic package, the choice to let go of cable television seems to be the first obvious choice. Doing so can save you as little as $360 a year.
The Bottom Line
There are numerous cost-effective ways of living your life that apply to all age groups, from bargain hunting to recycling old furniture. While these are handy tips for the average young adult, there are a handful of financial tips unique to 20-somethings that may not be implementable for established generations.