13 “Necessities” That Aren’t Necessarily Worth Your Money

As young millennials like me move into an “adult” lifestyle, it’s easy to get carried away and forget what being an adult really means. We seem to have this idea that we have to own or do certain things to show the world and ourselves that we’re grown up. Here are 13 things you may consider adult necessities that your bank account might just disagree with. Keep in mind, this article isn’t just for young adults, and even you “old timers” (you know, people over 30) might find some cost cutting ideas here. Happy adulting!

1. Networking and Lunches With Co-Workers

Networking and making the right office allies is a necessity in a competitive business economy. But even a $10 lunch special with a tip and drink usually ends up closer to $15. Multiply that by three times a week, and by the end of the year you’ve networked to the tune of about $2,340.

2. Gym Membership You Never Use

Gym Workout Class
Staying fit is important, but if you’re paying $100 a month just to say you belong to a gym, you might want to cancel it and check out some cheaper alternatives. There are now many gym chains with low monthly dues, and some that don’t require contracts. Membership at one of these gyms, along with use of outdoor recreational facilities might be all you need to stay fit.

3. Dry Cleaning

Clothes Line
Unless you have a closet full of Armani suits, most of your clothes probably don’t require dry cleaning. Even if you have to deposit some quarters into the machines, you can wash and dry a whole load for just about the same price you pay to have one blouse dry cleaned.

4. The Newest Tech Gadgets

Smart Watch
This one’s kind of a no-brainer. Taking prices and the rate at which companies roll out new phones, tablets and other fun techie things into account, do you really think always having the latest version is a financially responsible choice?

5. Expensive Cell Phone Plans

We all know staying connected is to our social well-being what breathing is to our physical health. But you don’t need to purchase monstrous data plans or pay overage charges for exceeding current data allowances just so you never miss a tweet or overlook an Instagram update. By tapping into the free Wi-Fi connections available virtually everywhere, you can minimize these extra fees and give your budget a break.

Check out some of our favorite cheap cell phone companies.

6. Credit Card Interest

Credit Cards
Nothing says adult like that little piece of plastic you can swipe anywhere and magically get whatever you want, even if your bank balance is a big fat zero. Remember that every time you swipe you’ve just added between ten and thirty percent to your purchase.

If this is a big problem for you, be sure to read about our Debt Management Program, which can secure you much lower interest rates while you repay your credit card debt.

7. Dining Out

Dining Out
Eating out is a huge thing for millennials, and why not? Good food, good friends, a few drinks — it doesn’t get better than that. But eating out puts a serious strain on your budget, and it’s not something you can maintain for any length of time if you want to continue to live on your own. When a craft beer is usually $7 or more, a craft cocktail commonly costs $10 and up, and entrees at trendy restaurants frequently top $20, it’s easy to see why this isn’t a sustainable activity.

8. Media Subscriptions

Replacing expensive cable bills with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or other subscription services is a very mature thing to do. But subscribing to every available plan can easily end up costing as much as your old cable. Pick one or two that provide the programming you watch most and supplement them with some free options.

9. Brand Names

There are certain things that need to be brand name. But for everything else there’s usually a generic substitute that costs a lot less and works just as well. In fact, did you know most generic products are manufactured by the same companies as the name brands, then packaged under the generic name? But if you really feel you have to use name brands, try signing up with a program that gives you rewards (like cash back) or discounts to help ease the strain. Ebates and Memolink are just two examples.

10. Fancy Household Gadgets

Making your own smoothies is a great way to save money. Dropping $400 on that frozen concoction maker with a rotating ice chute pretty much negates those savings. Sure, it would be a big hit at any party but we’re going for adult here, so a $25 blender would probably do the trick. Fancy new gadgets can drain your cash fast — especially when they end up collecting dust in the cabinet.

11. Weddings

You can’t turn down a wedding invitation from any of your best friends, especially if you’re a part of the bridal party. Then of course there’s the shower, and the bachelor or bachelorette party — you can’t miss those, either. Before you know it you’ve shelled out a couple thousand dollars, and if you have a lot of besties, you can be looking at a huge chunk of your budget. Choose only the weddings of people you’re really close with to attend.

12. Matching Furniture

Luxury Furniture
There seems to be this misguided notion that as an adult your first place has to be furnished like a pricey modern penthouse. Sure, it’s nice to have high-end matching furnishings, but if you’re on a budget you probably want to dial it down and check out the local Craigslist, garages sales or thrift shops.

13. New Cars

Buying a brand new car every couple of years doesn’t exactly scream responsible, especially if your payments are more than your rent. On the other hand, maybe the people who see it sitting in your drive on a Saturday night — because you can’t afford to go out — will think you’re sitting home doing adult things.

In the end, becoming an adult has a lot less to do with what you buy than with learning to use what you have responsibly. It requires a little creativity sometimes along with the confidence to prioritize your financial health over what seems “fun” or what it looks like “everyone else is doing.” So get out there, and enjoy financial adulthood!

Anum Yoon is a personal finance writer and blogger who started and maintains Current On Currency. As a supporter of the sustainability movement, she also frequently writes about how we can help the environment. You can follow her on Twitter to catch her updates.

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