Automatically Save and Invest Every Month (Even if it is a small amount!):
Banks let you set up automatic transfers to savings accounts in any amount, you can even choose what day of the month you prefer so that it works well with your pay schedule. The key is to get in the habit of consistently saving and investing as young as possible.
For Investing, open up a Roth IRA (I suggest Betterment.com) and set up automatic withdrawals from your checking to go into your investment account.
Start Tracking your Net Worth:
Knowing how much money you actually have is very important. It shows you care where you are at with your money and you will feel more motivated to see that number go up. To calculate your Net Worth, take your assets (cash, investments, property such as house or cars, etc.) minus your liabilities or your debts (Student loans, Credit Cards, Mortgages, Car Loans, etc.) I like to use Mint.com, it automatically calculates your Net Worth, you can track all of your spending in one place, and you can link ALL of your financial accounts, plus it is FREE!
Track your Credit Score:
Tracking your credit score is also extremely necessary. If you do not have a good credit score, landlords may turn you down, employers may not want to hire you, and banks may not want to approve you for a loan. Through my bank, you can track your credit score online for free and can check it as many times as you want without penalty. If your bank does not have this feature, you can go to sites like Creditkarma.com. Just caring about your Net Worth and Credit Score are HUGE first steps!
Credit Cards: Try to avoid debt as much as you can, especially high interest debt like credit cards! With that being said, credit cards are GREAT financial tools when used properly, I myself have two credit cards that offer awesome cash back. The key is to pay them off right away and never charge more on your credit card than money you have available.
Car Loans: Do not waste your money on a new vehicle, it is not worth going into debt for, in my opinion. Try to save up a couple thousand dollars cash, then buy a used car. If you need to, take out a small loan for a car, but I highly advise against taking out a $20,000+ loan for a newer car. Cars are one of THE WORST “investments” of your money, a new car depreciates an average of 20-30% after the first year, meaning you will most likely owe more money on your car than what it is worth if you take out a loan.
Student Loans: I made a post a while back about how I graduated with an Associate’s Degree Debt Free, so I would check that out if it interests you. In my experience, and the numerous adults I have spoken to that have college degrees, they all regret going into debt for school. According to collegeatlas.org, less than 66% of college students (on average) graduate with a degree, which means a lot of people go into debt for a degree they never finish. Also, 30% of college freshman drop out after their first year! This is why I suggest starting at a technical or community college first to test if college is right for you. It is a lot cheaper and the courses are more flexible!
Have at least a Part-Time Job:
I think having a job and providing for yourself is extremely important. It will show future employers you have work ethic and you will learn more than you expect from those mediocre jobs. It will make you realize you do not want to stay at a job like that for the rest of your life, thus motivating you to achieve more. At least, that is how it worked for me.
Live at home or with Roommates:
If you can stand your parents/guardians, I highly suggest living at home to save money! I did not do this because I did not get along well with my mother, but if you do, go for it! You will save thousands and thousands of dollars doing this which will give you a major financial boost. Also, splitting rent with someone greatly helps, even if you need to do it under the table.
If you are going to college, often the amount you pay to stay in the dorms and eat at the cafeteria is far greater than just renting a place of your own and going grocery shopping. This may not be the case for every university but it is true for the three colleges in my town, just sit down and do the math to see what makes most financial sense for you and weigh the pros & cons! I personally LOVE having my own space and not dealing with people, so renting was the correct option for me.