What I Wish I Had Known Sooner – Money Edition

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If you have read some of my past posts, then you know that I’m all for owning up to my past mistakes. Hopefully someone reading will learn something from my stupidity!

Just in the last year I feel like I have learned a lot about money. It helps now that I have someone to bounce ideas off of and it definitely helps having someone to split the bills with! I had my own apartment almost my whole adult life and looking back, I probably would’ve survived with roommates and had a much bigger savings account if I had split rent and utilities!

Here are 10 things I have learned about finances throughout the years:

1.Buy groceries. Not only is it healthier but it will save you so much money in the long run. Admittedly, I was terrible about this when I lived by myself! Who wants to cook for one person? I also hated carrying groceries up three flights of stairs. Believe me, I understand the excuses but if you want to save money, start here. And meal planning will help a whole lot as well!

2. Pay your medical bills! Until recently, I had quite a few medical bills in collection. They weren’t even large amounts, I just didn’t ever think about taking the time to pay them. I didn’t want to affect Ryan’s excellent credit score once we were married, so I took the time to register on Credit Karma and check my report every month and pay off the debt. My score went up quite a bit and I no longer have those hanging over my head!

3. Don’t get a credit card. My parents will love to hear this, but I should have listened to them. In college I thought, oh I’ll pay this off eventually once I have a good job. Well I am still paying it off over 10 years after getting the dang thing! It’s not worth it. Only spend what you have.

4. Carry cash. On the note of spending only what you have, you should only carry cash whenever possible. Not large sums but just enough for the grocery store or if you are going out to eat. You can’t overspend if you don’t have the option! And young people, hear me when I say this, only bring cash to the bar. Don’t start tabs. Once you start drinking, your sense goes out the window and you think that debit card is gold. It’s not! You do not want to get hit with an unexpected bar tab at the end of the night.

5. If you need to build credit and must get a credit card, only use it for small items like gas or groceries. Then when you spend, immediately after, go into your online account and pay it on the spot. It’s just like transferring your money from checking to the credit card.

6. It’s okay to splurge sometimes. I regret the cheap shirts I bought at Forever 21 that would rip or fade after a few washes but I don’t regret the Michael Kors purse that I still have years later. If you know it’s something that you will want for awhile and a staple piece, go for it. You still need to pay rent first though.

7. Go thrifting! In high school or college I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a Goodwill. Now? I can tell you where the best one is where all the clothes still have tags. People won’t know where you got it. Save money and still have new clothes (new to you) and trust me!

8. You don’t need name brand food. I remember the first time I went into Whole Foods for a work picnic to get pasta salad. I thought I would look “cool” or something to my fancy pants boss if I came with something from there. And then I went to check out and that pasta salad was $25. Are you kidding me?! If you have the money and love the food, then great… but I’m telling you, there is no difference in an Aldi banana or Whole Foods banana.

The first time I went to Aldi, I was 23 or 24 and not sure what to expect, and honestly felt a little embarrassed. I went through the checkout and was a little appalled I had to bag my own groceries… until I went to pay. The total came to $60 and it seemed like I had bought hundreds of items. After bagging everything, I went to the car and called my mom and made her guess how much I spent after reading her everything on the receipt. I was so excited I had found this magical money saving place. Now I was a believer and also had her converted. Sure, Aldi doesn’t have everything but they have your staples and you will save a ton!

9. Put some money in your savings after each paycheck. Even if it’s just a little bit.. you will need it someday. And I know I said no credit card, but you should have one of those for emergencies. Don’t use the card unless it’s an emergency though! (And a new dress for your date next weekend doesn’t count!) Have the money automatically withdrawn into savings and you won’t notice it. I did this and used a separate bank so it wasn’t easy to just transfer the money.

10. Budget! Budget budget budget. I took over the bills when Ryan and I got married because he didn’t budget and it drove me insane. He would just pay a bill as it was due and would even sometimes forget since he doesn’t open the mail! I have never paid a bill late in my life. I’m a spreadsheet fanatic and have all our bills listed with the amount and due date so we don’t forget about anything. Back in college I just used a notebook but I highly recommend making a list! I start with the amount of the check and subtract each bill and whatever is left disperse into gas, entertainment, etc.

Those are just some lessons learned that immediately popped into my head but I am sure there are more and there are also more I need to learn. What are some financial hacks you have learned over the years?

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