As I'm in the process of planning my 10 year high school reunion, I've been having flashbacks to 2000 the past few weeks. I've decided a couple of things: there would be music beyond boy bands, Y2K was actually not a big deal, and I had it pretty good as an 18 year old. I've obviously learned a lot this past decade, and I'm in a completely different stage of my life. I can't just blow off work and go to the beach (yes, I did that in high school) or I can't spend my whole paycheck on restaurants, concerts, and clothes (yes, I did that too). And while I've learned a lot, I think coming to adult terms with money and having a happy relationship with my finances has been one of the biggest changes over the last ten years. If I could travel back in time via hot tub or any other way, this is what I would have said to myself to save myself some heartache, stress and scary financial times:
Store credit cards are not free money.
When a store employee tells you that you can save 10% by just signing some thing and then you get such a convenient way to spend money at their store, Do. Not. Do. It. Don't get them for 5 stores. Each time you open a store credit card, your credit score (the number that all lenders judge you on) will take a hit. You'll be more of a credit risk. You'll spend money you don't have on things you don't need.
30-60-90 is not a suggestion.
Companies are not telling you it might be a good idea to pay within 90 days, or saying you really should think about it. They are telling you that they will take you to collections if you don't pay up within 3 months. This will affect your credit score. Don't pay late. You open yourself up to paying more money (at a minimum) and even not being able to qualify for loans because your credit score will be worse.
Opening a credit card to get a free t-shirt is a huge mistake.
There are lots of schemes to get people signed up for a credit card. Free shirts, free flashlight/bottle opener/mp3 player... but no one ever looks at the fine print. The interest rate is ridiculous, there are insane charges for cash advances (don't do that anyway), and fines for being late, leaving a balance on your card, etc. If you're seriously in the market for a credit card, do some research and figure out what card makes the most sense and offers what you're looking for.
Try to save, even a little bit.
It's hard when you're young and/or you don't have any money. You feel like there's nothing you can save. But dig deep. What if something bad happens and you have no cushion? Try saving $1 a day. That's around $30 a month and almost $360 a year. That would be a huge help if an emergency comes up.
Don't spend money on things that won't matter.
It's hard when you're under the influence....of peers. They're getting designer bags. Or new cars. Or fancy jewelry. But stick to your guns. Spend money on memories, not items. That Tiffany bracelet that everyone wears will pay for a weekend trip. The friends that you'll be grateful to have later won't care what your car looks like or what new item you added to your closet. You'll look back on pictures and fond memories for years to come instead of cleaning out your closet a few years later.
What about you? What's something you would have told yourself to do (or not do) 10 years ago?