Guest Post | Lessons for my 20 Year Old Self: Be Careful With Your Money

If you’ve caught any of my recent Instagrams, you might have guessed that I am on vacation this week! While I’m enjoying some down time in the beautiful Okanagan, my friend Sara has stepped in with a guest post. I hope you enjoy Sara’s savvy advice. These are all things I wish I’d had tattoo’ed on my arm when I was a 20-something.  Since writing about how Carrie Bradshaw is the most unrealistic freelance writer, ever, I think most of these tips are still very relevant to those of us who are now 30-somethings (& beyond!) 

There has been a series on Skinny Dip about the things we all wish we could say to our twenty year old selves. We’ve talked about love and loss and today, let’s talk about money. If there’s one thing we can probably all agree on is that we wish we were smarter with our money when we were twenty.

College students are virtually preyed upon by credit card companies. They set up tables on campuses and harass students passing by to fill out applications. They talk up great deals and the importance of building credit. The problem is that very few students understand how to approach credit correctly. Even if they understand, intellectually, that a credit card isn’t “free money,” they often give in to the temptation to simply pay the minimum amounts due. After all, they can make bigger payments later when it’s more convenient, right?

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been tempted by the siren song of credit, especially when we are young and we want to be able to keep up with our more well off friends.

Unfortunately, for most of us, what this does is set us off on a path toward a terrible credit rating—one that will prove problematic when we grow up and want to buy homes, start businesses, etc. When you’re starting up your first business, you’re going to be trying to find investors and will likely need a business credit card.

I wish I had access to a list of the best cash back business credit cards in order for me to earn rewards while funding my purchases. I had to learn about managing money through my own mistakes back then. But now I’m older and wiser.

So here’s what I’d say to my 20 year old self about money

-Get one card. One. That’s it.

-Pay at least $10 more than the minimum amount due on your credit statement

-Pay your bill as soon as it shows up in your email box or in the mail.

-Remember the physical limitations of your dorm room—can you really fit all of the things you want to buy into it?

-You are not a lesser person if you don’t have the most current fashions, accessories, electronic gadgets, etc.

-Share—share music, share movies, share books. Share instead of buying your own. You’ll look like a genius when you help your friends save money too.

-Saving is not stupid. Putting even $5 a week into a savings account is better than nothing.

-Take a course in personal finance and learn about saving, investing, retirement plans and basic economics now. You’ll look like a genius when you already understand all of that stuff your friends probably won’t bother with until they get their first jobs.

-Get a job and pay off the interest on your student loans each month. Yes, it isn’t due until later but you’ll be thousands of dollars ahead of the game come graduation time.

About the Author: Sara is freelance writer who most often writes about personal finance. In her spare time, she enjoys maintaining a healthy lifestyle through swimming and practicing yoga.

What are some of the financial lessons you wish you had learned when you were 20?

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