When I first started out on my own I was in the financial mindset of “You have to spend money, to make money”. I went into debt with the intention of it paying off in the long run.
So I borrowed to go to college and I racked up credit card debt of $25,000.
Then I dropped out of college.
So I found a minimum wage job and got to work.
After that, the debt really started to pile on. Car loans, medical bills, more credit card debt, mortgages, and second mortgages.
But for every right thing I’ve done with money, I’ve done another five things wrong. If I could go back in time and tell myself anything, I’d start with these Money Saving Tips.
5 Money Saving Tips That Could’ve Saved Me Thousands
1. Start budgeting when life is simple.
When I first started making my own money, life was simple. I basically just needed enough to afford cheap rent, gas, a cell phone, pizza for dinner and drinks on the weekend. But as I got older, life became more complicated. And as much as I thought I could keep track of everything in my head, it didn’t work out that way.
Pizza and drinks turned into a mortgage, groceries for my growing family and insurance deductibles. All of this on top of all the extras that my husband and I just had to have. This ultimately led us down the path to racking up debt.
We wasted tens of thousands by failing to make a plan for the money we had coming in and going out. And it was a lot harder to fix that ingrained behavior once I’d been doing it for years.
2. Car payments only bring you down.
Did you know that the median household income in America is $59,000 and yet the average price for a new car is more than $40,000? Many of us consider normal, but it shouldn't be!
Years ago, I made this mistake of purchasing a new car that represented a whopping 120 percent of my gross annual income.
Yes, I paid more for a car than I made in a whole year. Of course, the only way to afford it was to set up payments over 72 months. People that is 6 years that I financed a car that dropped a quarter of its value the moment I drove it off the lot. After three years I still owed more against the car than it was worth.
3. Always live below your means.
No matter how much we make, it always feels like there’s never enough money left over each month.
In fact, according to a Money Magazine report, “people’s peak earning years also appear to be their peak debt years.” This can really hurt us..
In 2015, my husband and I were earning more than we ever had before. We owned and operated a profitable business, had a vacation home on the lake, new vehicles, and mounds of debt to go with it.
On the surface, we were living the dream life. But truth be told, we had zero savings, mounting credit card debt, nothing going to retirement, and I was having to shuffle money around to cover all our monthly payments.
We were in financial trouble. We were overspending, not saving, and digging ourselves further into a black hole of debt.
4. Time trumps money.
You can always find ways to earn more, but you can never recoup lost time. Albert Einstein once said compound interest was the 8th wonder of the world. Compound interest is when time and money work together. They should be teaching us this example in high school.
If you start investing $2,000 a year at 18, and you’ll have socked away nearly $89,000 in 18 years, assuming an 8-percent average annual return. If you stop investing more monthly and let that money sit, that can turn into $530,000 by age 65!
On the other hand, if you wait till you are 36 and you start investing $2,000 a year and continue until age 65. You’ll end up with just $143,000, despite putting in a lot more money.
I have spent way too much time paying interest on debt rather than earning it on my investments, and I didn’t get serious about investing until I was 28.
So basically I lost thousands of dollars by waiting to invest.
Acorns is the best way that I have found to continue investing without having to put too much thought into it. Acorns rounds up my purchases on my debit cards to the next dollar and invest those extra cents. It's an easy way to build investments with having to really notice the missed funds.
5. You will always need $1,000.
Did you know 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 expense with savings? And yet everyone will have a financial emergency at some point. That’s why emergency funds are so important.
Ideally, you’ll work up to having three to six months’ worth of basic expenses saved, but $1,000 is a good first goal. This will cover most regular unexpected expenses like car repairs or a minor medical bill.
A few years ago our furnace died in the middle of winter. We live in North Dakota near the Canadian border so waiting to fix it till payday was not an option.
It should’ve been an easy $1000 fix. But because I had nothing in savings to cover the repair, I ended up paying for the fix on one of my credit cards.
That credit card had an 18% interest rate and I was already carrying a pretty high balance from the previous months overspending.
If you can start working on an emergency fund now, you can spare yourself the anxiety of having to worry about these small instances that should be non-issues.
I wish that someone would have drilled these money saving tips into my head when I was younger because the road would have been much easier to navigate.
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