By Barbara Smith
One thing I have learned about money is that saving is hard. Extremely hard. Growing up, my parents were AMAZING with money. They both paid off their student debts in their 20’s, they paid off their credit card bills in full each month, and had been saving for my college fund since the day I was born. I watched them closely and figured when it was time to start being serious about money I would be good to go. And that wasn’t the case. At all.
Can you believe? I would see something I would want to do or want to want to buy and I would just buy it! (According to my mother, I was putting upward of $900/month on one credit card.) On top of the fact that they are were -and still are- paying for all of my schooling. My parents always were able to buy pretty much whatever they needed/wanted so I figured why can’t I?
And then on one Saturday during a routine trip to the mall, I had nothing short of an epiphany. The reason they were able to buy things EXACTLY when they wanted it was because they didn’t spend everything they had. They lived well BELOW their means, so when they wanted to make a big purchase, they didn’t have to think about getting parts for the car or putting food on the table.
So I made a savings account and began to save. Simple enough. The catch is, I was back home. When I’m home I’m not expected to pay bills, but I was still working, so the money was piling up! I felt good and thought that I would be on the road to financial security.
Alas, I was wrong. It’s crazy how fast one person can run through $500 (Also minimum wage at home is significantly lower than Arizona. Saving $500 took some work.) I also didn’t have a method to my saving, which meant if I knew I was going to go out with friends a few times a week, then I would go a little light on the money being placed in my savings.
But I digress. I went through $500 so fast. Now mind you, did I ~have~ to get the Urban Outfitters duvet cover? Maybe not. But I did need groceries, and gas, and the other necessities to keep things moving.
The method I use now is I just save my age. $20 dollars from every source of income I have goes in savings. Normally, that’s about $60 a month, plus a few extra dollars here and there when I get the chance. It’s not a lot, but it does the trick. The account gets a little bit of interest here and there, and I can see a difference.
Old habits die hard. Have I learned my lesson? Not exactly.
As I write this column, I have 20 cents in checking account. But I do know exactly how much I will save in my next paycheck.
Barbara Smith is a student at Arizona State University.