How Much Is Your Independence Worth?
Hindsight is 20/20 and shoulda, coulda, wouldas aren’t fun, but I don’t believe people who say they have no regrets. I assume it just means that they didn’t realize they’ve made mistakes. I’ve made a tonne and I certainly have a few regrets.
If I could go back and change one, I’d have stayed at home after graduating college.
Instead, I moved out to claim my independence, do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, which ended up costing me dearly. What I didn’t consider was that along with independence came expenses.
After paying rent, utilities, gas, food and of course, my social life, my meager income didn’t allow for much else. Saving money wasn’t even on my radar. I pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck while slowly racking up credit card debt. Credit card debt that rose to $34,000!
My financial life would have been very different had I just lived at home another two years. I would have been able to save money and when I was ready to move out, I would have had solid savings to ensure I didn’t live paycheck to paycheck… not to mention that I wouldn’t have had to move into a dump, which was all I could afford right out of college.
My independence wasn’t worth it
If I could step into a time capsule, I would have stayed home for a year or two and done the following:
1) Create a budget
How many new grads actually have budgets? At that age, none of my friends had one. Just because you live at home doesn’t mean you don’t have expenses. Where there are expenses, there should be a budget. Even if you’re not paying rent, your cell phone bill, shopping and social life are STILL expenses you should be tracking.
2) Save for retirement ASAP
Retirement seems like a 100 years away at that age, but the truth is that retirement comes faster than you think. It’s easier to start saving even a small amount for retirement. A tiny investment now, will take you a long way in the future. Even if you save as little at $100 a month, that’s $6,000 in 5 years… nothing to laugh at.
3) Use your minimal responsibility to get richer
Most college grads don’t have spouses and kids to worry about. Combined with having energy means that you have the ability to make much more money than you think. Don’t just stick to the 9 to 5, freelance or create a side gig that will let you have multiple streams of income. Use your youth to make money so that you have a better life in the future. Trust me, your energy WILL NOT be the same as you get older… even in your 30’s.
4) Do yourself a favor, use credit cards wisely
Credit cards were my weakness and the reason for my atrocious debt. I started racking up debt and only paying the minimum. HORRIBLE habit! It’s important to build credit, so get a credit card, but make sure you have a zero balance every month. If you don’t have the money to buy it, don’t assume the money will magically appear a few weeks down the road… it probably won’t and but the insanely high interest will!
5) Think purchases through
This is the age of irresponsible purchases. You have a decent job now, so you think you deserve to ‘reward’ yourself with that $300 handbag and those awesome shoes were on sale for only $150. Before you know it you have a closet so full you can barely open it without getting wacked by that other handbag you totally forgot you had. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. You’ll need those savings more than anything else.