Before any investor “made it big”, they had to start somewhere. Unless you are someone who inherited a large sum of money at the start of your financial career, then you, more than likely, were in the same situation that I was when I decided to take control of my financial future.
Without a plan.
and, in a huge amount of debt.
Theoretically, there wasn’t any good reason that I should have been in debt in the first place. I had no tuition (because my college was being paid for by a scholarship), no bills (as I was living in the campus dorms), and was getting a check for about $900 every month.
What I did not know, or understand at the time, was the importance of managing the money that I did have, and ensuring that I could put some of that money to work for me every month.
Over the years, I have cultivated a new mindset (a “centennial mindset” if you will) that has allowed me to begin the process of taking control of my future financially, and putting me on the long road to financial freedom.
So without further ado, here are the 5 habits that helped me to saved $20,000 while still attending college.
Habit #1: Always Having the “End” in Mind
One of the hardest things for me to figure how to do was save money.
I know that it sounds like a simple task… but having the ability to transfer money to a savings account and having the ability to keep that same money in the savings account are two entirely different skills.
I found it so difficult because every time I found myself with a little excess cash in my account, my pockets would start itching trying to find something to do with it. This was at a time where an extra $100 at the end of the month meant a shopping trip to Target, and meant very little to me in my checking account.
This is where having an end goal in mind became a turning point for me.
When I created an end goal for myself, my idea about saving money completely shifted. I no longer saw extra money as a shopping trip, I saw it as a way of getting that much closer to my end goal.
Before even attempting to start saving just for saving’s sake, take a moment and think about what you are truly saving for. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just something that shifts your focus and gives your money a purpose.
Is it a new car?
Is it a spring break trip?
or, is it a new gaming pc?
Whatever, it is, make sure it is something that excites you.
This step is not designed to be the most efficient with what you are using your money for, you can worry about that once you have the money saved.
This step is to get you excited about saving.
Unless you are someone who simply likes to look at the numbers in their bank account, you will find it extremely hard to keep the motivation to continue to save money just because it’s “the right thing to do”.
My end goal while in college was to pay off my car loan and credit cards.
I plan to go more in depth on the strategy that I used to tackle my debt payments and why I incurred the debt I had in the first place in future blog posts.
So make sure you subscribe for more content!
Having found a new burning desire in me to get rid of the high interest debt plaguing my bank account directly led me to pursuing my second habit.
Habit #2: Become a Bounty Hunter… (for deals)
My second habit is derived from what I try to provide you as a reader of this article: finding value.
In every area of my life, I try to find the most value in what I am spending my time (and money) on.
The best way to get more value out of your money is to constantly look for deals.
This may seem like a given. However, it is not as obvious it may seem at first glance.
Deals are everywhere. In every nook and cranny, there is money to be saved and made.
One of my favorite ways of finding deals is by taking a look at my monthly expenses and seeing if there is any way that I can spend less on these items. This can range from grocery trips, all the way to basic streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
Here a quick story on one of the great deals that I personally found for streaming:
For the last two years, I have been aware of Hulu having a Black Friday sale that allows you to get 12 months of basic streams for $0.99 a month.
12 months. 99 cents each month.
Talk about a bargain.
By combining deals like this on a consistent basis, I was able to cut back on a lot of my basic living and entertainment expenses; which in turn allowed me to increase my savings rate.
Habit #3: Cutting Back the Fat
This habit is closely correlated with Habit #2 in that it is about finding deals as well.
However, this habit is more talking about cutting out some extraneous, unnecessary spending.
The only way that I was personally able to save $20,000 as a college student was to give up most of the expensive nights out-on-the-town and opt for a movie night at a friends house instead.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to encourage anyone to live like a hermit crab to save more money. I just want to get the average person thinking that, maybe those shots of tequila every weekend aren’t the most effective use of the money I have.
I’ll also talking about using Walmart Grocery pickup as an effective way of cutting down expenses in a future article.
Habit #4: Debt Linebacker
In order to build wealth, you must be mindful of eliminating debt.
Especially high interest debt.
This is because the return that you get on paying of your debt is immediate. It is not speculative. It is not dependent on the economy.
It is immediate.
This is why (for most people, and for myself) I recommend paying off all credit card and personal debt before even thinking about investing or saving a ton of money.
Let me give you a personal example of why this is true in my case:
My sophomore year of college, I bought a 2015 Jeep Cherokee, base model, for $12,100.
In order to get the down payment, I had to max out 2 of my credit cards, which had an average interest rate of about 20%.
After all that, I was still left with these terms on the loan:
$12,100 loan, 60 months, 14.5% Interest; with a payment of approx. $287 per month.
All at the tender age of 19 years old.
Now that I had successfully made one of the worst investment decisions of my young life, it was time to figure a way to make it right.
For more on this story, subscribe for future content!
I make this point to say that it would have been foolish to put that same $12,100 that I used to pay off the car into the market and hope for a return greater than 15-20%, especially when the historical average is 8%.
So, in order to save money. You must first tackle your debt like a linebacker running through the blind side towards a quarterback.
Habit #5: Changing Your Money Mindset
What I will never understand fully is why there is such a negative stigma with talking about money.
So many people associate their salary with how much they are worth as a person, and this is simply the wrong way to go about thinking financially.
Money is an object.
It is a thing.
The only reason it has value is because the government tell us that it does. It has not been backed by a tangible asset in many years and it is what we refer to as a fiat currency.
It has its own rules and the people that follow them efficiently come out ahead.
This is how we, as a community of millennials and centennials should think about it as well.
How can we use the rules in place to come out ahead.
It has nothing to do with how much we have now, and everything to do with how well we allocate what we have so that our future self will be in a better place.
By utilizing some, if not all, of these habits, you will be able to follow me on the long road to financial freedom.
It is important to understand that this a process, not a project. It must constantly be improved to be more efficient and effective for each individual person.
Thank you for joining me in my very first blog post!