Dear 17 Year Old Me,
I am writing to you in 2014 and we are now 27 years old. A decade has gone by since I was in your shoes and I have some financial advice just for you. Although you may not understand it now, please believe me – I have your best interest in mind!
Save Every Penny You MakeYes, save everything! Though I know I can't convince you to save every penny (because I know you are stubborn), try putting at least half of your paycheck into a savings account. Big life events will be happening to you and you'll wish you had saved more of your hard-earned cash. A thousand dollars seems like a lot of money now, but that's only 1 percent of a $100,000 house! Savings is also great to have in case of emergencies and no, an emergency is not "my friends are going on a trip and I want to go." Make saving a priority in your life.
Use Credit Responsibly
In our household money was never really talked about. You never understood what a credit card really was or that if you don't pay back the whole balance, you'll accrue interest .(Just so you know, interest = bad.) Credit can be a great tool if used wisely, but without a personal limit on your spending and an understanding of how it works, you'll spend up to the very last cent on that credit card. Be aware that credit card companies like to increase your limit which will entice you to spend more without paying it back, consequently causing you to pay them more interest (Interest = bad). Don't blow all of your money, all 25 hours of your work week to pay just the minimum payment to your credit card. Pay it off in full. The decisions you make now with credit will impact you for the rest of your life. Once you dig yourself a debt hole, it will be very difficult to climb out!
Think About How You Spend Money
When you do spend money, consider the differences between needs and wants. You may need a new shirt, but it doesn't necessarily need to be a name brand. Needs are things that are essential to life. Wants are things you would like to have but are not necessary to live. Avoid impulse purchases and think about every single dollar you spend. When you look at an item, decide if it's a need or a want. Don't justify purchases as needs when they are really wants. This approach will help restrain impulse buying and keep more money in your pocket.
Although you may not understand this now; one day you will. Use these financial life lessons, and make wise choices. It may be hard to save the money you worked hard for, but try. Remember to use credit wisely and when you make purchases decide if you really need it, or if you just want it. Making good financial habits now will help you down the road to financial freedom and success later on.