If I can go back in time, I would do so many things differently with my money. I’ve learned so much through experience and research. Below, I detail the financial advice I’d give my younger self.
Start investing as soon as possible in various approaches. Deposit the maximum amount in an individual retirement account (IRA) and a 401k annually. If the employer offers to match your contributions, then take advantage. Open a brokerage account and invest in exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and mutual funds. These funds make it easy to invest in multiple stocks without fees for each. They often provide dividends which can be an additional income stream. The earlier you start, the longer your investments have to grow and compound.
Debt seems like an inevitable part of life, but it is unnecessary and completely avoidable. Instead of taking out student loans, apply for more scholarships and grants. Apply before and during the school year for all available funding. Before making any purchases, plan and save up for as long as needed to avoid charging the purchase. This discipline applies to a house, a car, electronics, or any other wanted item. There is no need to take out a loan or use a credit card for anything you want. It will take time and patience but will keep you debt-free.
Stick to Your Financial Goals
Set financial goals and priorities, then determine which expenditures are hindering your success. Don’t let your costs increase as your salary increases. Keeping your costs low will provide additional funding for savings and investments. Keep track of income and expenses over time. Find ways to decrease the charges when they start to creep up. Shop around for insurance, services, and groceries. If you want to travel more, then spend less elsewhere.
Allow yourself to enjoy life while being mindful of spending and splurging. It is okay to spend money because that’s why it exists. However, ensure you have added to priorities first. Saving and investments should come before eating out, shopping, and expensive travel. Find deals for dining such as restaurant week. Use bargain sites for experiences and excursions. Maximize the use of coupons, rewards, and sales to reduce spending.
Try to avoid expensive purchases while in desperation. For example, don’t wait to buy a car until you need one right that second. You will be more prone to make a bad deal or pay more than you want. Everything is negotiable or found elsewhere. Don’t take an uncomfortable offer for a house, appliance, cellular phone, television, or other major purchase. Salespeople can be aggressive, but the ball is in your court. Research what you want and what you’re willing to spend. Once you have set your budget, stick to it. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
Establish Good Habits Early
Finally, more money won’t make you better at managing it. Learn to budget and save at all income levels. Building good habits earlier will save thousands of dollars later. Once you find a system that works for you, stick with it, and update as necessary.