I spend every possible spare minute that I can with my three year old son. And it never ceases to amaze me the amount of special treatment that he gets. Sure, it is probably standard treatment for all children, but he just always seems to get all the freebies and extras that life has to offer at his age. An extra scoop of ice cream for his ice cream cone, extra sprinkles on that cone, free stickers and suckers from the bank and the post office, balloons from the grocery store, and the list seems to go on forever. Sometimes after a day of errand running, you’d think it had been his birthday or something. So I began to compare his life of virtual bliss and excess to the stark reality of my financial life. Boy, what a difference there is. I soon came to the conclusion that regarding all things financial, you’re just not a kid anymore…
College Grads, Wake Up!
I took this idea all the way back to when I graduated college, because I think that is about the time when financial reality should begin to set in. In addition to being older and hopefully more mature, we are probably starting our first serious job in life, and most importantly, there’s no more Mommy and Daddy.
The part about being employed is good because it means that we have our first serious, consistent flow of income in life. The second part about Mom and Dad is the kicker. They were always there for you before, right? Always there to just send you money out of the blue just because they thought you might need it. Always there to help fund the “extra” projects for school. And they never seemed to say “No.” Well trust me, in addition to being very proud of you for graduating college, they’re also probably quite pleased at the fact that they won’t have to worry about all of this financial support anymore. As the phrase goes, “It’s all you baby!”
What Does This Mean?
So what does this mean for you? Well, if I were able to go back and do it all over again, I would have taken better control of my finances, instead of letting them control me. Now is the time to “man up,” “step up,” whatever you want to call it. Because it’s either going to be one way or the other—either you’ll manage them or they will manage you.
Set the Tone
Specifically, what you need to do is create a good, solid set of financial habits right now, before any bad ones can begin. These should include, but not be limited to:
- Building a good credit history, if not already done
- Not spending beyond your means
- Putting something aside for retirement
- Save where you can
- Spend less where you can
Start Now, Or You May Never
Each of those could be an entire article in and of itself, but I think you get the point. The time to start is now. It is much easier to start and maintain a good habit from the beginning than it is to break a bad habit and then get the good one going. I can certainly attest to that. I probably wasn’t out of school for more than two minutes before I had a fist full of credit cards and couldn’t wait to max them all out. It took me years to recover from those debts and just as long to unlearn my old spending behaviors and re-learn new ones.
You’re Just Not a Kid Anymore
The days of the extra sprinkles and free balloons are over. The sooner you come to grips with that fact and the sooner you take control of your finances with a great set of financial habits, the better off you’ll be.
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(photo credit: abbybatchelder)