Simple Money Lessons For College Graduates

After I graduated college, I couldn’t wait to become financially independent. But as it’d turn out, my road to financial independence would be a long one, filled with part-time jobs, low-pay checks and my parents’ generosity.

Now, almost two years later, I’m still learning more and more about what it means to function as a financially independent adult.

Here’s some of the important things I’ve learned about money whilst making (and spending) it for myself.

1. As my father always said – life’s expensive.

Growing up, I always thought I knew what he meant. He’d use this phrase after spending on some semi-special event (pretty much just dinner or a movie) for my entire six-person family. So I guess I subconsciously came to interpret it as, the small luxuries in life are expensive. But once I started living on my own, I realized that there was much more to pay for than dinner and a movie.

After paying for rent, bills, insurance, a phone plan, groceries, internet, etc… I saw my small paycheck shrink by, well, a lot. These days, this wise paternal phrase has taken on a whole new meaning: merely existing is expensive.

2. Tracking my spending tells exactly where my money is going.

On a cold winter day, I checked my credit card statement and nearly died of shock. Where on earth did all that money go? I didn’t make any big purchases! Did someone steal my identity?! Then, I looked a little closer and saw that no, I have not been a victim of identity theft, but just a little bit mindless with my credit card.

See, it wasn’t one big thing at all, but all the little stuff that added up. Today, I like to spend in cash (because then I can see the money run through my fingers), and obviously, those spendings won’t show up on my credit card statement. So to keep up with my spending, I maintain a fairly accurate spreadsheet of expenditures. That way, I can see when I’m reaching my monthly limit and know the actual disturbing amount of money that I spend on coffee.

3. I can live on the cheap if I have to.

Actually, I’ve always been a saver. But when you have a regular paycheck, it’s tempting to just go crazy (’cause you know, you’ll make more). But by saving money each paycheck, I can be sure that I have enough cash “just in case,” or that I have the means to go on vacation. If you’re really smart, you can even start investing some of those savings.

And while you may be super excited to pay your own way, make sure to be smart with your money. Just because it’s yours doesn’t mean you can be reckless.

Be smart, save up and be ready. Because seriously, life’s expensive.

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