What They Didn’t Teach Us In School About Debt and Money Management
Why does it have to be so hard? I seemed to ask myself this question a lot when I have first finished school and was staring down the barrel of extreme amounts of debt.
I felt like I was never properly prepared to face such a burden of this magnitude. Almost as if I wished there was some type of warning to how hard it will be to pay down my debts.
I used to think back to all the hours spent in school and wondered why they never talked about this stuff. We sat through hours upon hours learning about war, government, history, literature etc.
No one thought it would be a good idea to teach us about budgeting, paying off debt, personal finance tips, taxes etc?
In a world that only runs on consumers, I understand why they kept us in the dark. It is easier to dangle the carrot of a $100,000 education, with promises of you then getting a “good” job. This will then set you up for a “good” future.
Credit card companies need us to max out our cards and make the minimum payments, it is what gets them the greatest return.
But after the graduation is done, the caps hit the ground and your hangover wears off, all you are left with is a mountain of debt and no end in site.
So what should they have taught us?
I will give a list of a few things I wish I would have know when I was younger about debt, finances, budgeting and creating a life that won’t cause me constant financial stress.
Credit Cards Are Dangerous
It isn’t until you max out your first credit card that you truly realize this. You are essentially given free money (sometimes a lot of it) with no real accountability.
All you are asked is to make a minimum payment each month of around 1%. This means that if you rack up around $1000 worth of debt that month, they will only ask you for $10-$20 back.
You are also given these cards at a seemingly vulnerable time in your life.
Instead of building a habit to save for what you want, you can have it instantly with a simple swipe/tap of a card.
And before you know it, we are deep in debt and applying for a second card.
Want vs. Need
One of the best ways to control our finances is to have a strong distinction between our wants and our needs.
Being able to see the difference between the two and having the discipline to say ‘no’ can be difficult.
Everyday we are bombarded by advertisements and specified marketing. The way to keep us consumers on the hamster wheel is to build our ‘want’ desire to its max.
It is there job to always have us wanting the new, exciting, and fresh product. How many times have you seen the new Apple/Android phone come out and had the feeling that you want it more than ever?
It has cool new features that your old phone doesn't. It has a better camera, wireless charging and is water resistant.
So you call in, find a way to finance the phone and in a few short months the novelty has worn off. What you once desired more than ever did nothing but give you short-term joy.
Before you know it there is a newer, even better phone coming out. The one you once wanted more than ever now seems boring and old.
They should have taught us how to avoid these feelings of want when it is something we simply do not need. Now, I understand we all need a phone, but spending upwards of a $1000 every six months or so upgrading is not needed.
Take the time to go through your life and start making a strong distinction between what you actually need vs what you wanted for a short period of time.
More often than not, the items that give us short-term joy or happiness are simply things that we wanted but did not need.
Focus your finances in a more positive direction. Create a budget that concentrates more on what you need, avoids purchases based on want and saves/invests the rest.
How to Save Money
Saving money can sometimes feel like it is nearly impossible. That no matter how hard you try there is never enough left over to put into a separate savings account.
While there are a plethora of different ways to save money, I wanted to give you a few tips and techniques I have learned over time. Things I wish I had known early in my life.
Use Cash More
Using cash is a great way to save money. It gives us more visual representation to how much of our money we are spending at any given time.
It can be very easy to overspend in our day to day life. Our debit and credit cards can simply be tapped for most purchases. Amazon has a “buy with one-click’ button.
Before we know it, our bank accounts can run dry and our credit card balances will increase without us really knowing. Out of sight, out of mind. That is until the bill comes in the mail.
Using cash will have you seeing your money leaving your wallet. This will in turn have us more conscious about the money we are spending.
There is another great technique you can use to save extra money when using cash. This is something I have been doing for many years and it works like this:
Every bill that you break try to save 10% of that total bill value. So for example if you were out and going to buy yourself a coffee and a sandwich. You hand the clerk a $20 bill. Once they hand you back the change, make sure and put $2 aside into a separate pocket, pouch etc.
If it were a $100 dollar bill you will want to try and save at least $10 dollars from it. It isn’t always possible, especially of your purchase cost is extremely close to the bill size.
The main idea is to always be saving at least 10% of what you are spending. Each day when you get home, put this remaining 10% into a separate container, envelope etc.
You will be amazed how much money will build up in one year.
Multiple Bank Accounts
I used to think when I was younger that you only needed two bank accounts. A checking and savings account. It wasn’t until I learned much about personal finance that I found having 3–4 banks accounts can make things much easier to budget.
By using more accounts it will make it easier to keep your finances separate. This way you can keep your bills, savings, investments, and essential spending very specific and organized.
Setting up multiple accounts is very easy and can be done from most online banking accounts. I now run separate accounts for my Bills, Savings, Investments, and Day-to-Day living.
I with drawl cash from my day-to-day living account and try to save a minimum 10% of what I am spending.
By moving my money from my main account and separating it into these other accounts, it doesn’t give me the opportunity to overspend and leave myself short. These other accounts are not connected to my debit card.
This makes spending money out of these accounts on ‘wants’ much more difficult. While it isn't impossible, giving myself a slight inconvenience like this helps keep my discipline stronger.
Another great way to save extra money is to set up an automatic savings with drawl from your main bank account, to a savings account.
Look and your finances as they are sitting today and ask yourself, “what amount of money could leave my bank account everyday without me noticing?”
Once you decide on a number, set up an automatic with drawl for that amount and push those funds into another savings account.
$2.50 a day would be a total savings of $912.50 in one year. $5 a day would be $1,825 in one year. $10/day = $3,650 per year.
The number that you decide may vary and can also be edited throughout the year. If you find yourself in good times, the number could be bumped up slightly. Or on the flip side if things get tight, bring your number down.
The idea is to save money with out even noticing. Depending on your bank, you could possible set the account up so you can even see it until the end of the year.
Most people believe that budgeting is simply making sure that all your bills are paid on time. While this is obviously important part of budgeting, it isn't the whole part.
It took me many years, read a lot of books and read many different financial blogs for me to truly understand budgeting to it’s fullest.
The main idea of a budget is to have a clear idea of where your finances are going each and every month.
If I were to ask you right now, how much money do you spend a month on groceries, online subscriptions, transportation costs, insurance and non-essential spending — could you give me a accurate number for each?
Could you tell me exactly what percentage of your paycheck is designated for savings and investments? These questions aren’t meant to make you feel bad.
At one time in my life I would have been able to give you an approximate guess at best for each of those questions.
I had no idea where my finances were. All I knew was that my bills were paid and I had a bit left over to spend on random stuff I didn’t need.
Budgeting takes a constant, consistent effort to stay on track of your finances. Your budget is never 100 % typical each month. Things will change, expenses may grow or shrink depending on your life.
Budgeting also doesn't stop with just having everything organized in a notebook or spreadsheet. Budgeting relies on the decision that you make everyday.
No matter how organized or clear your finances are, if your discipline can’t be controlled, nothing will matter. You need to be constantly aware of the decisions you are making and how it will positively or negatively affect your budget.
For more budgeting tips, check out my Elite Budgeting Playbook.
It is complete free and can be downloaded here.
No matter where you are at in life, your age or financial expertise, it is never too late to start taking control of your finances.
The number one trick to money management is Clarity.
Have a clear idea of where your money is going each month and then you can start to tweak and maximize the efficiency of your money. It may take some time, trial and error with a few speed bumps along the way.
Like anything, practice makes perfect. Stay consistent with this practice and even though we were never taught about these things, we can conquer our finances.
Founder — Lion’s Den Mastery