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My parents have given me a ton of great advice that they collected through their many life experiences, most of which I disregarded while being a know-it-all teenager. Finally, years later, I can admit how right they were. Especially when it comes to personal finance.
The key to managing your money is very simple in theory and very difficult in reality. All you have to do is actually sit down and budget for everything in your life, and then (this is the hard part) actually follow that budget. When we say budget for everything, we mean EVERYTHING. Obviously, you need to have all your bills in order, but you also have to know who you are as a person and what else you need to account for. If you know that you’re going to crave a pizza at least once a week, budget for it. If you know you’re going to go to the bars, remember to budget for late night food and the cab ride home. In your case, you should have a fund set aside solely for yearly speeding tickets until you stop driving like an asshole.
Don’t overlook budgeting for unplanned expenses. That can be anything from your transmission blowing or for a spontaneous weekend trip. You’re not a robot, and you deserve to have some fun, or buy yourself something nice after a hard week. The important thing is to admit that you will spend that money, and work it into the budget. Also, for the love of god, don’t get a credit card. You have no need for it and you’re not responsible enough to have it. We love you, but we’re not bailing you out when you rack up thousands of dollars in debt. You’ve been warned.
Ways I Should Have Listened
Well, I shouldn’t have gotten a credit card and racked up thousands of dollars in debt. Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, I did actually think about your advice, but dammit, I was only going to turn 21 once and my boys and I wanted to stay in the Bellagio Suite in Vegas. Should I have picked a group of friends that wouldn’t destroy a hotel room that had my card on file? Perhaps. But that’s a whole other piece of your advice I didn’t follow.
Other things I shouldn’t have spent money on include (but are not limited to): 22-inch black rims for my Volvo, a brand new snowboard while California was in a drought, eight pairs of Nike Frees that have logged five total running miles between them, and countless drinks for girls that were not interested in me. It was probably not financially sound for me to once again drop several grand on a Vegas trip for my 22nd birthday, but at least I won back a few hundred of it on roulette. Gotta spend money to make money right? I also should have listened when you told me to sell my car, as it was costing me more than it was worth. The five speeding tickets and thirty parking tickets I’ve had to pay off in the last eight years has definitely exceeded the value of a 2001 Toyota Camry with three missing hubcaps.
How I’ve Started Listening
I’m not going to lie, the easiest way to learn how to budget and decide what necessary expenses are was having to be financially autonomous. My parents (who are saints) helped me with rent and living expenses throughout my four-and-a-half years in college, while I used my paychecks on the important things like booze and costumes for theme parties. On the day of my graduation, my father graciously gave me a check for one month’s rent, and told me I had thirty days to “get a full-time job, move home, or start working the corner.” The man is a modern day Robert Frost.
I was fortunate enough to find a job within a few weeks and immediately (after blowing my first few paychecks on stupid shit), sat down with my bills and an excel spreadsheet and hammered out a budget. I haven’t been perfect, but I have been getting better at following it. I’ve changed jobs and homes several times since then, and I’ve been able to adjust my budget accordingly every time. Do I still go over budget? The $38 I spent at Chick-Fil-A this weekend says yes, but I’m getting better. Do I have some expenses that Mint.com deems as “unnecessary?” Maybe, but I’d rather live in cardboard box than in a world where I have to listen to Spotify’s obnoxious commercials every thirty minutes. Some things my parents wouldn’t understand, but for most of it – they were right. .
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