I've come a long way in ONE year!
My time as your Young & Free Maine Spokester is nearly over. By next month we'll have a brand new Spokester about to set out on their one year long journey. (Remember, voting for the new Spokester ends this Friday, June 27 at 3 p.m.) This job has allowed me to connect with 18-to-25 year olds, help people, educate myself and others, and truly improve my personal finances.
I'd say I was a frugal person. Always thinking twice before making large purchases, considering my the cost of rent before going out to eat with friends, and trying to make every dollar stretch. However something has changed in this past year. Rather than being so sparing with my money, I've become smart and savvy with my money — which is different.
So if you want to become smart and savvy rather than just being cheap, here are few pieces of advice from my own experience:
Budgeting is key
Budgeting always seemed so daunting until I actually sat down to do it. Once I got a handle on what my average week of spend looked like, I set myself a weekly budget. Then once I got a handle on that, I looked at the big picture and went to a monthly budget.
Budgeting made my life SO MUCH EASIER. Things like rent, gas, groceries, and my gym membership is all about the same cost every month. Now when it comes time for fun things, I feel less stressed about spending money.
Making a budget made the difference between:
Spending money willy-nilly and feeling guilty
Spending money and feeling proud to treat myself
Saving is fun!
I've always been happy to see my savings account grow, but this past year was different. In the past I've put money into my savings account on a "when I can" basis. This past year my tactics changed when I realized I needed to start saving up to buy a car.
Instead of saving money a little bit here and a little bit there, I made a commitment to myself to put away 15% of every pay check. Some times it was less, but I always was able to put away something. And guess what, I bought my car right out with no loan! That's what saving will do!
Planning for the future is rewarding
Although it seems crazy to think about retirement at the young age of 22, I could not have made a better choice than to start acting on it now. Through my employer I was able to get started with a 401k. It takes less than $20 out of my paychecks but it's money I don't even know I'm missing.
My first 401k statement came in the mail a recently and I could not have been happier. I had a couple hundred dollars saved up just a few months time. I was so impressed with myself! It felt amazing to know I was setting myself up for future success and a happy retirement! I'd rather work hard now and have a wonderful relaxing retirement than be worried about it later in life.
Hope my experiences can help you!