10 Non-Traditional Ways to Save Money In Your 20s

Finding easy ways to save money is a challenge everyone faces. But money management is particularly unique for those of us in our 20’s. We’re starting to make money for the first time, and while we know we should be saving, we also have the freedom (i.e. no children, no mortgage) to do the frivolous spending we know we won’t be able to do later on in our lives.

Can we have it all? The savings account balance AND the Friday night bar-tabs? Maybe…but it requires some creative expense management.

Here are 10 unique ways to save money in your 20s:

You should make it automatic

#1: Increase your 401K by 1% each year

This is as easy as they come Gen Y’ers! It’ll take you five minutes and save you money for years to come. Log on to your 401K account, navigate to the page where you change your contribution, and check mark the box offering to automatically raise your contribution by 1% each year.  (Some companies call this the “Annual Increase Election.”) Here’s what mine looks like:

Increase your 401K by 1% each year

The beauty of the automatic contribution increase is two-fold.

  1. It’s AUTOMATIC. You do it once and never have to think about it again. (This is exactly the type of mindless automation our generation lives for, people. Do this now!)
  2. It’s only 1%. Nobody’s been put out on the street by getting knocked down to 99% of their take home pay. But what you think of as a “measly 1%” can be put to work (and grow exponentially) by being invested in your retirement savings.  Small downside to your wallet, big upside to your future.

#2: Have savings automatically removed from paycheck

We all know money is harder to save once the money’s already in your pocket, and 401K contributions aren’t the only thing that you can have saved for you automatically. Assuming you have direct deposit, at most workplaces you can elect to have your paycheck deposited into more than one account. Why not have the amount you want to save automatically sent to your savings or investment account?

This is another saving method that you set up once and never have to think about again.  Laziness Efficiency…our favorite!

#3: Get more sleep

Garfield sleep save money in your 20sMajor “uncool” alert, but having an automatic bed time or “lights out” will surely lower your monthly expenses. You’ll use less electricity, you won’t do any late night snacking/drinking, and the health benefits of getting enough sleep will help stave off illness. This is provided, of course, that you don’t fall asleep with the TV still pumping out “Real Housewives” reruns.

Get online

#4: Get Rid of Cable

Cable can be a safety net for many of us who love television, but today’s online offerings have made it a luxury more than a necessity. Between your YouTube, HuluPlus, Netflix, HBOGo and Amazon accounts, plus your friends’ YouTube, HuluPlus, Netflix, HBOGo and Amazon accounts (which you know you borrow), virtually everything you want to watch can be found online.

#5: Watch Fitness Classes online

Staying in shape is important at any age, but is of particular importance to the twenty-something, who hasn’t quite settled down and are still in the dating/Tinder-ing scene. According to StatisticBrain.com, the average gym membership costs $55 per month.  That’s $660 a year that in today’s information-rich digital age, does not need to be spent. Today, there are plenty of ways to stay fit without paying for a gym membership.

save gym membership money in your 20s

  • Put your running shoes on; enjoying nature is free!
  • Look for trainers or fitness professionals who post their workouts online, then try them out in the comfort of your own home.  (Admit it Gen Y, we don’t have that much furniture yet anyway.)
  • Are you a dedicated member of the cult of CrossFit? Invest in a set of weights and a pull up bar. The one-time expense will price out less than a yearly membership, and most WOD’s are posted online.
  • If you haven’t canceled your cable yet (see above), check out the “On Demand” listings for free yoga or aerobics classes.

#6: Unplug Plugs

unplug plugs save moneyHopefully by now we’re all old enough to turn the lights out before leaving a room. But did you know, even if the lamp is off, electricity is still being used as long as it’s plugged in? Let the folks over at EnergyStar.gov explain:

“Standby power is the energy used by some products when they are turned off but still plugged into a power/wall outlet… The average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode). On a national basis, standby power accounts for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.”

So, you know that iPhone charger that you keep permanently plugged in next to your nightstand?  Yeah… unplug that.

#7: “APP”ly yourself

Money management…there’s an App for that! If you’re looking for discounts, check out the RetailMeNot app, which searches for on and off-line discounts for the store where you’re currently shopping. Or SnipSnap, which enables you to save coupons to your phone.

If budgeting is what you’re after, apps like Mint.com or Level Money can help you categorize your expenses and set financial goals. For those of us that need financial guidance laid out as simply as possible, it doesn’t get much better than Level Money’s “Mobile Money Meter”. From their website:

“Level Money automatically updates spendable cash as you make purchases each day, providing a simple, real-time picture of how you’re doing in order to stay in the black.”  

Save Money in Your 20s


Lord knows we already spend enough time on our phones, might as well keep track of your spending while you’re at it.

Shop smart

#8: Buy in Bulk

This tactic isn’t just for soccer moms, ok? Groceries are expensive, and let’s face it, you know you eat the same things over and over. The trick is:

  1. to not buy things that are perishable, and;
  2. to not get seduced by the low prices into buying something you don’t need.  However, if you find a sale on something you use regularly, or can be frozen, stock up!

#9: Eat Vegetarian

Calm down, meat lovers, I only mean once and awhile. Steaks are expensive, ok?  If you want to lower your grocery bill, try eating vegetarian dinners once or twice a week. Vegetables will certainly cost less than meat, especially if you buy local produce that’s in season. Here’s a handy interactive map from Epicurious that can show you what fruits and vegetables are currently in season in your area.

#10: Brew Your Own Beer

Anyone else want to fess up to spending an exorbitant amount of money on beer? It’s no secret that any positive effect beer can have on one’s social life unfortunately comes saddled with the negative effect on one’s bank account. And the bad news is, drinking at bars is only getting more expensive. According to research done by Restaurant Sciences LLC, the average cost of a “sub-premium beer” (yes, I drink Coors Light, don’t judge me) went up 6.8% in 2013. Yikes!

brew beer at home save money in your 20s

So why not brew your own? This home recipe’s ingredients only cost $10-$15 (plus ~$25 of one time equipment costs) and will brew you 12 2-liter bottles of beer. Considering that, as a city-dweller and a regular baseball game attendee, I’ve often paid $10 for a single beer… this is a steal. Will it taste great? Maybe not, but neither does that “sub premium beer” you’re already buying.


Whether you’re finding ways to automate savings, using our generation’s beloved internet to find deals, or making smart shopping choices, there are plenty of easy ways to save money in your 20’s. Go ahead, Gen Y, have a healthy 401K balance AND a few pints of beer… just try to brew them at home.  

Let us know what neat tricks you’re using to save money in the comments below!

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