Money makes the world go round and we all want more. The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter how much money you make or get, if you don’t practice good habits you’ll always be in dire straits with your bottom line. If you don’t learn how to save and budget when you have little then you’ll never be in a good spot even if you make more.
There were never any lessons for me when I was a kid but once I got a job and had my own money I started to realize that if I don’t take care of it then I’ll never get to do what I want. My first big dealing with debt was my student loans in college. All I ever heard about loans is they’ll ruin your life but I never got any advice on how to manage them. What I figured out was how important it was to save.
Most people, including family members of mine that had debt well past their own graduations, would just tell you take just the minimum and chip away at it. What I did instead was took out as much as I could…that didn’t gain interest. Subsidized loans don’t build interest until six months after you graduate or leave school so I made the money work for me. I took at the maximum and whatever I didn’t need went in to a savings account. It gave me an emergency fund but the point was never to save it.
The more money you have in a savings account, and I put in an online account to keep it further away and gain more interest, the more it earns for you. I also made sure to take some out of every paycheck I got and put it in to those savings accounts. This was against the advice I had gotten all through college, and even got in to an argument with a family member over it. They wanted me to stop taking out the maximum and just pay a bit each pay check. That doesn’t make sense.
Putting in to an account lets it earn interest, and even if it’s just a few dollars a month, that adds up. “It’s only a five dollars a month. What difference does that make?” Well it’s five dollars I don’t have to pay and it adds up, especially when I was in college for several years. Five dollars a month is sixty a year, and sixty a year times seven is four hundred twenty. I don’t know about you but I’m happy to not be on the hook for that. Using my savings ideas guess who paid off over $16,000 right after graduating?
Credit cards are bad. How many people have heard that? It’s not true, they are just like anything else and if you don’t use them correctly they hurt you. I was warned again “Don’t have any of them.” The truth is you can earn free money with them as well. Don’t spend them like it’s not your money, it is. Since college I’ve used them like a debit card and paid it off at the end of the month. By using them I get rewards and that’s free money that adds up over time.
The truth of it all is that if you don’t have good financial habits then you’ll get yourself in trouble no matter what. Live within your means. If you spend more than you make then you’ll be in trouble, if you don’t save then you’ll be in trouble, if you don’t budget you’ll be in trouble. That’s really what it comes down to.
When I moved to Utah I got a fancy apartment because I wanted a cool place I liked being comfortable in. I could afford it but came to realize it was money I was wasting because I didn’t need something that expensive. I downgraded and trimmed my rent bill to a third of what it was. I’m happy in the place I am now because I made it a home and was happier having that extra money for traveling. You don’t need a new car, just something reliable that drives because it’s cheaper and you don’t have the payment or interest to pay it off.
You don’t need the newest things, you don’t need to eat out all the time, there are plenty of ways to trim the bills and live within your means. Even when I was on unemployment I found a way to still put away a little bit each check in to savings. If you aren’t saving and preparing for the future then you’re leaving yourself in the danger zone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some help along the way but if I can figure out how to pay that much money for my student loans just working part time jobs, plenty of people can manage their financial situations.
There will always be challenges, unexpected bills that come up and that’s why you need to save but also be able to adapt to your situation. Cut out extras, find ways to live cheaper, you don’t need to spend more just to upgrade something unnecessary. Do you need a new vehicle, couch, a big dinner out, some trip somewhere if you’re already struggling? That’s just dumb and putting yourself further in the whole and risking really putting yourself in more financial trouble.
I have accounts set up for everything I want to save for; car, school, extra savings, vacations and am in the habit of splitting up my paycheck every time. It’s just like anything else, you have to repeat it time and time again to make it a good habit. Always cut the fat, save and prepare for the future.