Two Budget Advisors Explain How Millennials Can Take Control of Their Finances
Old McMillennial had a budget, avo, avo, toast.
With a Zip Pay here and a brunch out there,
Now we’re broke, now we’re broke, now we’re really broke broke,
Old McMillennial had to change, but what do we do now!?
Excuse my moderate-to-poor adaptation of a well-loved nursery rhyme, but today we’re chatting to some actual real experts about how millennials can better manage their finances! Yes guys, actual qualified budget advisors! I know, I know, makes a welcome change from that 27 year old nutcase (me) that harps on about her financial battle with a coffee addiction.
With us today we have Andrew and Alyssa Mates from Adelaide Budgeting! Here comes some knowledge.
The Broke Generation: Hi Andrew and Alyssa! Thank you so much for being a part of The Broke Generation’s interview series. Tell us a bit about your business and how you help people budget.
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: At Adelaide Budgeting we help financially stressed people to budget by removing the anxiety around budgeting and developing a tailor-made spending and savings strategy which provides our clients with the confidence and clarity to easily manage their own finances. Alyssa and I also love property and are proud property investors. We enjoy working closely with first home buyers and people looking to purchase their first or second investment property.
TBG: Great! At The Broke Generation, our mantra is #NiftyNotThrifty. We want millennials to feel empowered to be able to take control of their finances and be able to get into the property market while still enjoying the occasional slice of avocado on toast. Do you believe that with the right budgeting tools you can enjoy the things you love while also achieving your financial goals?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: Absolutely! Alyssa and I both love eating avocado – EVERY SINGLE DAY! It might only be a quarter of the avocado each, but we get to enjoy it at home. Budgeting is all about priority and we feel that you can still do the things you enjoy with a well balanced plan in place. It’s essentially ‘everything in moderation’. For us it all comes down to want vs need. The want for getting into the property market must be higher than the want of instant gratification. You can still have avocado everyday but a smaller portion of it so you buy less during the week, much like a sacrifice; yet still being able to enjoy a treat daily. A sacrifice doesn’t necessarily mean going without, either. Always make sure you factor in the things that make you happy.
We find the biggest obstacles for our clients are that the information they need isn’t taught at school, and people don’t even know where to find the information in the first place.
Empowerment is the start, confidence is the end game. We work with empowered people to coach and skill them so they have the confidence to manage their own cash flow with ease. Empowerment without confidence is an empty strategy, and a goal without a plan is not a goal!
TBG: Speaking of millennials and avocados, what is your take on Bernard Salt’s criticism of young people’s approach to finance? Is our avocado obsession really stopping us buying property?!
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: “Avocado” is the key word here and we think it’s a generalisation of overspending or unallocated spending. The society we live in today lusts for its breakfasts out, thrives on Afterpay, Zip Pay, Tap and Go – it’s a ‘buy now pay later’ obsession, but it’s all just a fast track to debt.
I’ll give you the perfect example. Alyssa and I once a week eat breakfast out at the café down the road from us. It’s wonderful getting a beautiful smashed avocado, poached egg and bacon on sourdough bread and having it come to the table without any cooking or fluffing about in the kitchen. However, I feel guilty. I feel guilty because this is a lifestyle for us that we have only just embraced. When I was in my early 20’s some years ago it was something that I would never consider (unless travelling) as breakfast was something you always had at home. I would never need to put money aside, or heaven forbid spend my hard earned money on breakfast! The amount of businesses now that survive on breakfast out and take away coffees are busy every single day of the week. It blows me away! It might seem trendy and a “lifestyle” we now all embrace, but as a younger man it just didn’t exist! We didn’t need to find the money for this lifestyle then, but now it seems if you don’t there is a real social pressure to live this way. Comply or get left behind.
Alyssa Mates: What is really stopping young people from buying a house is not having a plan in place. Some young people are not prepared to buy in a suburb that their income can afford. We are huge advocates of borrowing less than you can. Just because your lender says you can borrow $400,000, doesn’t mean you should. Your payments will be high meaning you would need to work more. You and your family could be comfortable paying less, spending more time with the kids, having a better lifestyle and working 4 days a week rather than 5-6 just on the decision (not sacrifice) of whether you borrow to capacity or not.
TBG: Breakfasts out have definitely got very trendy! You’ve touched on this in part already but at 36, and 35 respectfully, how different was your young adult life compared to today?
Andrew Mates: Young adult life was amazing! Life just seemed simpler and easier and a lot less expensive! If you wanted to purchase an item at the shops you would save for it. I remember looking at some large ticket items that I wanted and couldn’t afford at the time. I would go to the shops and visit the item on a weekly basis to see if the price had dropped and if not check back the following week until I could afford it. Then I looked at it daily in my house and remember being proud of saving hard. The feeling of saving for something you truly needed was rewarding as was the journey and the experience on the way. We don’t really have this anymore in today’s society. Everything has been sped up! People just can’t wait and the retailers love it. The greed of consumerism and finance is amazing.
Think about the big retailers as an example, 48 months interest free, 50 months interest free, no repayments until 2022! Everyone now can have what they want and worry about it later and that is a huge problem in todays society of instant gratification. What happens when payment is due and you haven’t allocated funds for your big ticket purchases? What happens if you lose your job? You don’t need to always upgrade it’s unnecessary. Stop doing it and save your money!
Alyssa Mates: There wasn’t such societal pressure to keep up with the Jones’s as there is now as everyone is comparing themselves to who they see on Instagram not realising that most of other people’s lifestyle could potentially be on credit. Even smaller ticket items, consumed daily over a week or so, put on credit add up to large sums over a 12 month period. We didn’t have that when we were kids or even as young adults. It simply wasn’t prevalent or a part of everyday culture.
TBG: Yeah, so you think societal pressures are a big part of what’s going on with today’s youth? What advice would you give to young people emerging from their teens into their twenties in today’s economy?
Andrew Mates: Ask questions and don’t be ill-informed! And take responsibility for your finances. It’s nobody else’s fault if you overspend. Keep learning as you grow, too. You don’t need to know everything, just a little bit of everything – even a 1% understanding. It’s not hard to ask questions. Surround yourself with people that you trust and that are skilled, and most of all check in with your spending regularly, and make adjustments.
Alyssa Mates: Please do not use Afterpay or Zip Pay or Tap and Go as you are shooting yourself in the foot! Missed payments can end up on your credit report, even the initial application can be seen on your credit report (Zip Pay) and if you simply can’t afford it don’t buy it! I’d also say open a high interest online savings account and deposit a regular amount each and every week as early in life as you can. Do not touch it, ever! This could be your house deposit! From little things big things grow and it’s always a good thing to start early and plan ahead.
TBG: Do you have any inside budgeting tips that our readers could easily implement into their savings plan?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates:
- Spend less than you earn.
- Pack your own lunch and save your money for social engagements.
- Start saving for a home deposit as soon as you can. Never withdraw from this account always let it grow.
- Get private health insurance early so you avoid paying loading tax.
- Limit coffee out – you don’t really need it!
- Don’t borrow to excess.
- Avoid buy now and pay later schemes.
- Avoid get rich schemes (they are only after your money!).
TBG: In your experience what is the biggest problem your clients have with money? Is it bad habits that have added up over time? A negative relationship with money? Bigger mistakes earlier in life that have caught up with them financially?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: Unnecessary spending and communication within the relationship about who spends what and when are a common thread we find with people struggling in relationships. We quite often find “spender” and “saver” personalities in each clients relationship that we work with.
Alyssa will tell you that I am a spender… it’s true and that’s why she holds my credit card in her purse – always! If I see something I don’t need that I want, I spend money Alyssa is the saver and amazing at saving money! By giving Alyssa my credit card it creates an extra step in the buying process. Whilst my brain may be screaming “I need this,” usually I don’t and I will have to ask Alyssa for my card. It prompts a positive conversation between us to which she normally says “no,” and we move on with our life without needing to have unnecessary spending in our relationship. It takes a heck of a lot of trust to build this type of relationship but it has saved me thousands!
When it comes to our clients if you have two savers, nobody spends, but cashflow ends up in lockdown because of a fear of spending. You can guess the issue with two spenders in the relationship… credit card debt, mortgage unpaid, no money available on a weekly basis and a house full of in discretionary items not required to survive.
TBG: That’s so funny that you mention Alyssa keeps your card! I was talking about doing this with my boyfriend last week – we’re going to swap cards for a week every now and again, and ask each other every time we want to buy something! With financial moguls like The Barefoot Investor and Dave Ramsey becoming more and more popular, do you think the general public’s attitude to money is improving?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: No. We find that people still don’t communicate as a couple with finances. Some people still want instant gratification and some couples are very secretive. Yes Barefoot and Dave Ramsey are gaining traction but some people just find it too damn hard to understand the context and apply it to their lives where their situation is outlined differently to what it is in the book. We’re of course not discrediting them – it’s great that they’re starting the conversation. But real financial advice comes from a plan tailored to you.
TBG: And that’s the type of thing you guys can provide, right?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: Yep!
TBG: There has been some criticism of multi-account style budgeting that it only works if you actually have enough money to begin with. Do you think those popular budgeting models work for everyone?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: Well, it goes back to what we said before. There’s no one size fits all solution – but you’ve got to start somewhere. We work with our clients and assess their ‘comfort’ level, and look at how the cash is flowing in their household.
We had some feedback from a client recently who said that a bill for over $1000 came in, but he didn’t have to worry about it because he’d already paid it weekly under our spending strategy.
If you speak to a professional, you’re getting more than a ‘10% into this account, 20% into this account plan’. We look at all your income and all your debt, and break each one down to find ways to maximise the income and minimise the debt. It’s not just budgeting and moving money around, it’s making the absolute best of what you’ve got. We create positive cash flow for your household to give you a financially confident future.
TBG: How do you think consumerism plays a role in young people’s disengagement with finance? We’re constantly being sold things we don’t need, and more products are available at such a low cost, we feel compelled to buy them. Have millennials lost touch with the value of money?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: Absolutely! These days the use of cash is discouraged and card is king. There is a real disconnect when it comes to spending now as cash most of the time is not seen. Retailers make it much easier to ‘pay on your phone’ even using other services like Afterpay or Zip Pay, tap and go, to make the purchasing process so much faster and more “convenient” for the client. What everyone is missing, not just millennials, is the fact everywhere you go, and everywhere you tap is being recorded as your digital footprint. This can become a problem when you come to take out a loan, as lenders will be able to see exactly what type of spender you are!
We recommend developing a weekly cash spend in line with your other financial obligations. That’s spending that lenders can’t see! The trouble with cards is that when you open your wallet that the card is always there. With cash it depletes over time, so your mind makes a connection with the idea of giving something away every time you spend.
TBG: On the flip side to the argument that millennials overspend, I think sometimes young people don’t quite know where to draw the line with restriction of spending. While ordering Deliveroo wasn’t a luxury available to our parents when they were growing up, does that mean we shouldn’t indulge in such pleasures at all? What is your advice for young people trying to balance saving and enjoying life?
Andrew and Alyssa Mates: Budget, Budget, Budget! Once you have the correct plan in place and the confidence to manage your own money you know exactly where you stand! Allocate yourself a weekly amount in line with your budget once all your commitments have been allocated, typically between $50-$100 that you can spend on whatever you like! Use cash where you can! These funds are key for how you fund your Deliveroo or other ‘fun’ things such as coffee or avocado on toast if you like on a weekly basis. Just remember once it’s gone it’s gone, but it will be there next week and the next week. If you set a plan that makes sense to you and what is important in your life it will give you the life you want whilst still being able to meet all your financial obligations.
Our final comment – CASH over cards, every single time! You can’t overspend when you know your financial position!
TBG: Guys, thank you SO much for being a part of The Broke Generation – and for actually recommending a numerical figure for ‘fun’ money each week! That’s so helpful and I know our readers are going find your suggestions really helpful.
Visit the Adelaide Budgeting website for more budgeting tips from the blog, and follow along on Facebook for that extra dose of motivation you need before you click ‘checkout’! If you want to discuss creating your own personal spending plan tailored to your lifestyle, give them a call on 0420 846 454, or send an email.