When you turn 18, your entire life completely changes and a million new opportunities open up for you. It’s like you’ve spent your entire life in a house that had a room with a locked door and your parents would never let you in… well, that door’s open and you’re free to explore!
The only issue with this door finally being open is that we don’t know much about what’s behind the door before it opens. We aren’t taught a ton about money in high school so most of us spend our 20s just trying to figure it out and making a crap ton of mistakes along the way.
I spend a decent amount of time reflecting on my bad financial decisions from my past and wishing there was somebody to tell me back then to be less ridiculous with my money. So, here are the 10 things I wish I knew about money when I was 18.
#1 – You don’t need to spend it just because you have it
I got my first job when I was 16 and I had a horrible habit of not saving even a penny of my money. I ate out every single day for lunch, I went to dinner and movies with friends, I had an amazing wardrobe but now I have nothing to show for it.
When I was 17, I bought a prom dress for $650 and paid cash. I would’ve loved that money to pay for textbooks only 5 months later.
It’s so important to understand that having money doesn’t mean you need to spend money. When money hits your bank account it shouldn’t start burning a hole in your pocket and force you to run out to the mall. Save some, silly goose.
#2 – “Get Rich Quick” and “Overnight Success” aren’t realistic
When I was 18, I was obsessed with reading stories about people who got rich quick and launched these amazing multimillion dollar companies seemingly overnight. I wanted to do this for myself so damn bad and essentially got stuck in a cycle and never did anything.
I needed a real kick in the butt to understand that there are people out there that did crazy things overnight but most successful businesses are built on a long game not overnight. A business where you work hard and take your time is going to be much, much more rewarding!
#3 – You don’t need to wait until you’re 30 to start saving
When you’re a kid you think that 20 year olds have everything together and oh my goodness someone who’s 25 probably has a house, and kids, and their saving’s account is full of money. When I grew up I realized that all 20-somethings aren’t like this and most of us don’t have anything in our savings account.
I wish I would’ve thought about this at 18 and started saving when I had NO expenses and a decent income. I thought “I’ve got all this time to start saving, I’m young, #YOLO” (You Only Live Once was a big thing when I was 18) and this is one of my biggest regrets! I could’ve been in such a better financial place if I would’ve started saving.
#4 – Your credit score does matter
Fun fact, I didn’t learn the importance of a credit score until I started this blog. I knew I had one and I knew it did something but I really wasn’t sure what it was for. If you’re in the same boat, check out this post we wrote that may help you learn more about your credit score.
#5 – Bank fees were created by the devil, don’t pay them
Banks have more than enough money from credit interest to survive, they don’t need your $15 a month too! There are a ton of awesome banks out there that have lower fee or NO FEE accounts. Unfortunately, when I was 18 the bank I’m using now wasn’t really a thing yet, but it will be soon! Switch ASAP because paying bank fees is like nails on a chalkboard.
#6 – Maybe try to pay yourself first
I had a horrible habit of spending every single penny I got before ever thinking about how I should be saving money. The concept of “pay yourself first” was lost on me and it’s a huge thing I wish I would’ve done. If you don’t know how this works, paying yourself first just means that you put money into your savings or pay off some debt before you pay anyone else or buy a darn thing. It works!
#7 – Maxing out a credit card to go drinking isn’t cool
Just because you have a credit card, doesn’t mean you need to use it, ESPECIALLY not for booze. There were numerous times in college when I’d go buy an entire new outfit and some new make up just because one of my friends wanted to go drinking and then I’d spend my last few dollars on alcohol. You don’t have to go out drinking every weekend to have a good time and there are much better uses of money.
#8 – Diversification of income makes everything less stressful
In my first few years of employment I was always stressed because my hours at work were very inconsistent and I was living insanely above my means. If I was working 20 hours a week I was often spending like I was working 30 and this caught up with me fast. I wish I would’ve understood that it is possible to diversify your income and make money fly in from more than one place instead of being slave to your day job. Get a side hustle, have a part-time job, do anything for more money!
#9 – Money is a tool and should be used as one
I used to think the only reason to have money was to spend money, and boy was I wrong. I’ve recently learned how powerful money can be, money can give you freedom, and freedom leads to happiness and a truly satisfying life. I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I would’ve understood this and invested some of my money at a younger age, maybe I’d be living on a beach somewhere (bitcoin investment maybe? haha).
#10 – You don’t need to go broke to make yourself look rich
This is something I still have to remind myself of to this day. There are so many people out there wearing their college tuition on their wrist with their expensive jewelry or expensive (and usually ugly) shoes. I have been known from time to time to spend ours looking at expensive clothes and bags online and totally considering spending $500 on something I totally don’t need. I wish I knew that it’s okay to shop at Forever21 and Walmart, who gives a hoot what other people think!
Is there anything you wish you’d known at 18 about money? Let me know in the comments.
Hey! My name is Taylor O’Halloran and I’m a huge fan of saving money any way I can.I’m obsessed with dogs and I love all kinds of cheese even though my stomach hates it. I’m a recent university graduate who just wanted to do her own thing and see what happens! Follow me on the journey!