Adulting is hard, especially when it comes to money. Whether it’s budgeting when going out with friends, paying rent or buying a car, maintaining the balance between treating yourself and keeping your finances in check can be a challenge. But fear not! There are simple steps you can take to avoid financial pitfalls by making changes to the way you save and spend.

Brittany Griffin/Brit + Co

Budget, Budget, Budget

The first (and arguably the most important) step in adulting is planning. When it comes to your money, planning can involve anything from budgeting to developing a strategy to meet specific financial goals. If you want to live your best life — and live within your financial means — it’s important to come up with both a monthly and annual plan that takes budgetary needs like debt repayment and necessary costs (AKA rent and groceries) into account.

If you’re thinking about making a big purchase, like a house or a car, choose one that fits your lifestyle and put away a specific amount of money each month to make your purchase within a desired timeline. You can even go to your local bank and set up a plan with a financial planner, which will help you save money and give you a clear path for the next five, 10, or even 20 years.

Save, Don’t Overspend

The second (and seemingly obvious tip) is to not overspend. While this may sound easy, for many of us, overspending can be as simple as too many nights dining out instead of making a home-cooked meal. Whether it’s going out with your friends, spending too much on an apartment or even over-spending on that outfit you’ve had your eye on for a month, it’s easy to stretch yourself financially thin without realizing it until it’s too late.

To avoid overspending, keep your cost of living in mind. If possible, try to break down your expenses in thirds — one third on housing, one third on savings and another third on monthly obligations, like groceries, bills and, of course, fun.

With the rule of thirds in mind, create a monthly budget in a Google Sheet or an Excel spreadsheet and spread out your monthly spending by week. By simply visualizing your budget, you’ll be able to see when you are spending too much and know when to cut back.

If you’d prefer to have your budget set and managed automatically, apps and websites like Mint can alert you if you get too close to your spending limits, and it also allows you to easily see where your money is going.

Invest in Your Future

While it is extremely important to get your debt and present finances in order, adulting also means thinking about and planning for the future.

Look into developing a long term, minimal risk investment portfolio that will not only save you money but will also help you accrue more cash while you do so. Additionally, if your workplace offers something like an employer-sponsored 401(k), make sure you are contributing even just a small percentage of your paycheck to it, especially if your employer matches contributions.

Contributing to your 401(k) is a great way to lower your taxable income and you may also be eligible for the Retirement Saver’s Credit, a little unknown credit, worth up to $1,000 if you’re single or up to $2,000 married filing jointly, that you can get just for investing in your retirement.

You can also make an impact on your 2018 taxes by contributing to a traditional IRA. You have until the tax deadline, which is April 15 this year, to contribute to your IRA (up to $5,500, $6,500 for 50 and older), and get a tax deduction on your 2018 taxes. Just make sure you tell your plan administrator that you are making a 2018 contribution. You may also be eligible for the Saver’s Credit when you contribute to your IRA.

If you’re looking for an easy source of money to invest, resist the urge to go on a shopping spree or take a vacation and think about investing some or all of the tax refund money you receive. If you file online with TurboTax, you don’t have to know a thing about tax laws. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about your life and determine the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your entries to ensure you’re getting the largest tax refund possible. If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent with an average of 15 years of experience to get your tax questions answered from the comfort of your home. A TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent can also review, sign, and file your tax return and they are available in English and Spanish.

Even though you don’t need to know about tax laws to file, tax season is a great time for you to assess your financial situation, like whether you should adjust your withholdings for the coming year or invest in your retirement.

Congratulations — You’re Adulting!

Finally, while adulting can be hard work, don’t forget to find time to treat yourself for living your best financial life. The best part about being an adult is having fun and enjoying your independence, both personally and financially.

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(Photo via Brittany Griffin/Brit + Co)