Money Management Lessons: Not Quite 10 Years to Life
I thank my lucky stars (and the patience of my husband) that it didn’t take me quite 10 years to get a handle on my financial situation. At 29, I’m hardly what you would consider an expert, but I do usually only have to learn each lesson once before I’m on to bigger, better experiences. Getting to sleep at night without worrying about money is the ultimate sign of “making it.” Read on to see the 6 biggest lessons I’ve learned in getting there.
Love your momma, but don’t lend her money. I’m the first to admit that my family would seem a little “close” for comfort. My parents and I live on a shared property with separate homes, and we often have to split some minor expenses (water bill, carpool costs, etc.) I maintain my position, however, that we don’t deal with loans or shared expenses bigger than what I would feel comfortable losing. I’m not about to hit my mom up for $15 or the equivalent of a bag of groceries. We usually work things out, but for the record, I’m not keeping tabs. I would suggest you do the same. (Xin Lu also has some excellent reasons to keep your money.)
No wedding ring? Keep your cash. Watch an episode or two of Judge Judy, and you won’t need to read any further. There’s no court of law for some guy you just met at a bar last week, and whom you gave $1,000 for a fake hip surgery. Seriously. Unless there’s prenuptial option or you feel really confident in your pro bono abilities, courts are usually only good for splitting hairs between legally married couples with lawyers. Even then, things can get really, really messy.
Bills are meant to be paid. You can run, and you can hide, but eventually someone pays your cell phone bill. If it’s not you, it’s the next guy, who suddenly finds there’s a 5% increase on his security deposit. Please don’t be another reason it’s harder for me to buy milk at the store. It’s just bad karma.
Fast cash is nothing but trouble. Cash-advance dealers offer you very little in return for the service – and tax refund-anticipation loans are very similar in practice. I know that sometimes you have to do what you have to do…. but think it over and do the math. It isn’t always the silver lining you’ve been hoping for.
The glove box of your car is no place for your phone bill. While I’m still wading through this bad habit, I’m getting so much better. Put your bills in a safe place where you’ll be SURE to pay them on time. Better yet, use Jason White’s method of One-Touch Money Management. It takes me a long time to earn the money for that $30 late fee.
Kids don’t cost any more than a nice car. The best thing I’ve learned is the joy and fulfillment that being a parent can bring. If I had waited to be 100% financially-stable before starting a family, I’d be doing a lot of lonely karaoke at my local beer pub instead of some of the really cool things I’m doing with my kids now. While “experts” claim that it can cost up to $93,000 per child to raise a kid (see chart at this link), the number is based largely on how much you make to begin with. Using that rationale, if you live a more simple life on a more simple income (and in an area of the country where it costs less to live), you can do it for far less. In actuality, it costs less to raise a kid than it costs to buy a mid-sized SUV. Add in the cost of gas, auto insurance, and maintenance/repairs, the kid is cheaper hands down. The next time you worry about how much kids cost, and how you’d rather wait until you’re more financial secure, take a look in your garage. Chances are, you’ve had it covered all along.
My financial situation is drastically different than it was 10 years ago. After all, I had just turned 19, and had become an adult in the eyes of my state and local government. While I had always been a bit conservative in my financial decisions, I had a lot to learn. And I still do. The balance of my bank account has had little to do with “making it.” While my life is much simpler in terms of lifestyle, purchases, and the ways I spend my time, it is also much richer.
This post is a part of the MoneyBlogNetwork Group Writing Project focusing on personal finance retrospectives. Check out other great answers to JD's question from MBN:
- Stepping Back in Time: Our Life Ten Years Ago. Five Cent Nickel
- My Finances 10 Years Ago and Now. Free Money Finance
- Looking Back: 10 Years Ago. No Credit Needed
- My Finances Ten Years Back. Mighty Bargain Hunter
- Now and Then: How My Current Financial Situation Compares with a Decade Ago. Get Rich Slowly
- The Difference 9 Years Makes. Consumerism Commentary
- What Our Finances Looked Like 10 Years Ago. All Financial Matters