“Money doesn’t grow on trees!”
“Do you have a money plant?”
“We don’t have a money printing machine!”
These are perhaps some of the top 10 lines that parents would lecture/tell/yell/scold their kids with.
It is a quintessential trait of teaching one’s children the value of money. And if you get this from your parents, it’s their way of showing some tough love. It’s a way to jumpstart the attitude of saving money.
Somewhere along the line, after continuous repetition, the sentiment of being money-wise get’s ingrained into our personality DNA.
I was no different.
When I started earning from my very first job back in 2007, I was thrilled and exhilarated and, like any young newbie, wanted to spend it all. But I had some money choices I had to make. Part of adulting.
Like a flashback scene in a Bollywood movie, I heard my mom say “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”
(I could literally picture it.)
So, barring the first pay which I had promised myself to spend without abandon, I took my very first financial decision.
1. Hiring a Financial Planner
I will never forget the very first advice he gave me:
Try and save at most 60% of your pay. And don’t go below 40% below your pay.
It was tough to digest the words but I followed this advice. Under his guidance, I started very basic stuff like investing in tax-saving mutual funds, SIPs and yes, in life insurance too.
I remember grumbling that I won’t have much to spend. But in retrospect, I would have probably wasted my money in buying useless stuff and regretting too much month at the end of the salary. I was just 23 at the time.
It had set in motion a lifelong habit of saving by investing. Even today, I think this is one of the best money choices I made.
2. Saving by Investing
I could have saved my money by letting it remain in the bank and getting interest. That would be hoarding money. But the financial planner advised me to always save via investment because the cumulative interest earned would be higher.
Savings, in my experience, comes in handy for day-to-day expenses. Investments make your money work for you.
Investing was taking portions of money and putting it in financial instruments that increased in value like stocks, shares, property, fixed deposits, etc.
It also led me to create funds like a vacation fund, retirement fund, education fund, house-repair fund, emergency fund, and so on.
3. Emergency (or as I like to call it Oh S**t) Fund
Also knows as Rainy Day Money, this fund is IMPORTANT.
This can be cash or just money in the bank. But this has been my saviour in case of any, and I mean ANY, kind of unforeseen emergency.
I remember having broken my foot while on a field-job and the emergency fund came in handy.
I remember having to buy a new cell phone in the middle of organizing an event because the old one just fell apart in my hands.
And, in recent history, the lockdown time witnessed my emergency fund giving stellar performances and rescuing me.
Takeaway here – Make an emergency fund if you don’t have it. And replenish it asap if you have used it.
4. Filing my Own Taxes
This was my way of getting familiar with a system most of us are not taught about in schools or colleges.
I wanted to get this done by a professional like any other person because it felt so intimidating and overwhelming. But I procrastinated, the last date was upon me and I had to DIY filing my own taxes. Among all money choices this one was a forced one.
I remember feeling frustrated, confused, annoyed and completely exasperated by the time I filled the form and submitted. And I made mistakes too.
What it gave me was a sense of how important money is. Not just the value of it but the value of handling it. It gave me a whole new perspective and respect for my own efforts and money.
After 5 years of filing my own taxes, I now file them professionally. But I strongly recommend that one should experience this at least once. And preferably at the beginning of one’s career and with proper guidance.
This will help in understanding the depth of the value of money.
5. Budget Budget Budget
And last but in no way the least – BUDGET. This overstated but under-practiced concept of budget has come through for me many many times.
It’s not glamorous and needs a lot of painstaking, impulse-restricting discipline. But it is by far the most rewarding of all my decisions. It soon turned into the basic, the foundation of spending, saving and investing. It is my foundation for managing my money.
Financial budgeting helps you to track your own income and expenses, optimize and efficiently manage your funds. It helps you plan and project and reach your personal financial goals.
A budget will teach you the worth of your money. It will keep you humble. It will teach you the wisdom of wealth.
And finally, a budget lets you have control over your money and not the other way around.
I am in my late 30s as I write this. The process of noting this down has brought back several memories of situations of both, abundance and frugality. But I got through it all.
At the end of it all, I have always felt good about the money choices I made years ago. And continue to reap the benefits of my decision to practice the very basic financial discipline.
If you are thinking that it’s too late to start, remember it’s never to late to begin saving and managing your money. For anything good, there is never a start point or a window of opportunity that you would have missed. NOW is always a good time for you to feel good about what you do. Even saving money.
What money choices have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.