3 Saving Habits I Wish I Learned Before College

Oh if I had only known that before I went to college…

Personal finance was not a subject that was taught in the schools that I went to. We had a class called Finance that lasted a quarter and taught me how to write a check. That was about it. With the lack of education on personal finance in our schools and homes, it’s no wonder that most people have a hard time balancing their checkbook each month. That is, if they still use checkbooks.

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Were my parents and the school system entirely to blame for not teaching us? Or were they never taught or given the knowledge to properly teach us kids?

And so on and so forth…

According to the US department of education, an estimated 3.6 million high school students were set to graduate between the 2017-2018 school year. I asked myself, “Self, what if these kids were going to enter the world as financially illiterate as you were when you graduated?”

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Now this was a scary thought…

It should scare you as well. If kids are our future and they don’t understand the basic principles of how to manage their own finances, how do we expect them to run the world? That is why a personal financial education is not only important, but ESSENTIAL.

I have learned to love to teach. As I go forward through life I plan on continuing to learn and hopefully provide some insight to all generations in hopes that it will serve them well. For those of you who are still in K-12, I hope that this list gets the grey matter between your ears thinking. For those who are out of high school and can relate, it’s not too late to start looking into and learning these values.

 

1. Don’t Spend Everything You Make. Save Regularly.

“Don’t spend all your money in one place!”

If you were like me this was a common phrase that my parents used to say. A lot. But at the time I was in school I just thought it meant that you shouldn’t spend all your money at one store or on one purchase. I’d still end up spending my entire paycheck but it would be three different places. I thought that I was doing pretty well by not spending all of my money in one place!

Looking back I now realize what my parents were actually trying to tell me.

Don’t spend all your money.

But why? Thinking about all of the “sage” advice that I was given to me by adults, the “why” behind the sayings were either never explained in detail or they just didn’t stick with me (the saying “save some money for a rainy day” comes to mind. I had to find out the long way. Trial and error. But now that I know, I can tell you that the reason you save money out of your paycheck each time is, get this, so you can have some money in case of an emergency or to reach some of your other financial goals (such as retirement).

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When you spend everything you make, you end up with nothing at the end of the day. You are not further ahead than you were the previous day. But when you start having some leftover money, you can use it to gain traction and start to make progress towards a better future! The best way to make sure you don’t spend everything is to do that Zero-Based Budget every month.

As I am a spender, I set up two different bank accounts. One for my savings and one for my spending (checking). I’ve even gone one step further and setup one for larger purchases. This has helped me control my spending and knowing where my money is, and where it is going. Which leads us to Habit Number Two.

2. Save up and Pay for Things

This is ground breaking stuff right? No? It seems like it’s a pretty simple concept. However, according to the 2017 American Household Credit Card Debt Study by Nerdwallet, the average household owed $15,983 in credit card debt. Of those surveyed, 41% stated that they were racking up credit card debt on unnecessary items they couldn’t afford.

How many of you out there have every purchased something you later regretting spending money on (besides taxes of course)? Well, if you have a pulse you chances are you spent some money on an impulse, or something you just HAD to have! Only to find a day or two later that you could not only live without it, but it wasn’t as cool as you thought it was going to be and into the drawer/closet it goes.

After getting my first credit card(that I was only going to use on rent and utilities), it wasn’t a month or two later that I ended up using it to pay for gas, then groceries, then eating out, and finally buying video games. It had a balance of $500 and I quickly became a slave to payments. Just as easy as 1-2-3. I couldn’t keep up with them and soon found myself approved for another card to cover the cost of the first one. This one had a balance of $1500 so you can see how quickly this spiraled out of control.

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It was like trying to dig yourself out of a hole with a nuclear powered shovel!

Since leaving the credit cards I found that paying for things in cash puts on the spending brakes. You think about what you are purchasing and ask yourself, “Do you really want this thingy or do you want the cash?” By using the Save and Pay method, I’ve had very little to no purchases that I have regretted(besides those darn taxes).

 

3. Save for Retirement as Soon as You Can

You’ve paid off all your debt, or you never had any to begin with. There is a healthy emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses (if you’re in high school this should not be a lot of money) in your bank account. Now what?

Spend it on fancy things?

Eat your way through your extra cash (literally)?

One thing my father told me that actually stuck was:

“Put money towards retirement as soon as you can”

This one is dedicated to you Pops! The reason you do as my father said is quite simple. If you put money towards retirement, then you will actually have money that you can retire with! Chris Hogan has coined the term:

“Retirement is not an AGE, it is a financial number

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How cool would it be to retire at 30? It can be done but aside from a huge windfall, it will take a lot of work and sacrifice. There is no reason you should not be able to retire if you just put money towards your future. That and don’t put your money into something that you don’t fully understand. Seek out financial advice and education from a professional, or read up on Roth IRAs and mutual funds. There is plenty of non-bias literature out there. The interesting thing is that the sooner you start, the sooner you may be able to retire. If you are starting out a little later than some of these K-12 students not to fret. There is still plenty of time it may just take a little longer (thanks, compound interest).

So there you have it! 3 Steps to help drive you towards financial success:

  1. Save Regularly.
  2. Save and Pay.
  3. Save for Retirement.

It may seem easy but it really does take self-discipline to follow these guidelines. Practice these habits and in time you can avoid buyers remorse and impulse buying. After you practice them for a while, they soon become values and will serve you well!

 

What are some of the largest purchases you’ve had to save for? Do you have an embarrassing impulse buy? Please feel free to start a conversation in the comments. If you would like to read more posts like this one hit the Like button!

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