Financial lessons I learnt in my twenties

Nobody likes talking about money unless they have lots or none at all, and throughout most of my twenties, I’ve definitely fallen into the latter camp. It’s hard to graduate overnight from the bosom of your family home – free board, free food – to standing on your own two feet in your first rented flat. A life lesson that is definitely necessary, but that still makes me cringe today. And if you’ve ever bought a 19p white loaf, three bottles of Lambrini and a family-size pack of kettle chips as your weekly shop, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Accept the help of your parents gratefully and intelligently. Your twenties are rough for lots of reasons. The tradition of pressurizing young adults into committing to a career or path for the rest of their lives, straight out of school, is obstructive and often prompts a period of self-discovery rather than climbing the career ladder. If you’re lucky, your parents will be supportive. If they didn’t want to or weren’t capable to assist both financially and emotionally, they wouldn’t. Accepting that help is easy in your early twenties, when partying fills your diary, but after university, when you feel you should be a fully-fledged adult, it becomes much harder. There’s an obvious control battle – you want to be independent, your parents don’t want to let you go – and handling that conflict can be fraught. Don’t wait to be bailed out, if you need a little help and can ask for it, then do. Life doesn’t follow a set path, there are lots of diverges and that often means you’re not as financially stable as you think you should be. Just be sure to use any aid mindfully (read: not in the Zara sale).

Financial lessons I learnt in my twentiesDon’t get hung up on the age/ money quandary – it’s not exponential. Almost all my peers have had to work for free at some point and city living isn’t cheap. Saving is a near impossibility, too, regardless of where you are on the salary scale and there’s not much you can do about it. You could get a second job, but where would you find the time and energy to do it? Give yourself a break. OK, so you’re nearing thirty and it feels like you’ll never own your own home, or holiday more than once a year, but berating yourself for it isn’t going to help. Try to focus on the things you have done or achieved – life experience and a cultured mind is so much more valuable than you can ever know at the time.

Define your means and live within them. The more you earn, the more you spend. That’s to say, an increase in your bank balance may not in fact equal more money. Decide what things are important to you, and don’t question spending on them. For me, it’s travel. I don’t think twice about dropping £200 on a 48-hour trip home if I’m missing my boyfriend or feeling homesick. I would never spend that on say, embellishment for my flat or a high-street shopping spree. I spew money at yoga, gleefully hand over £7 for a juice and never complain about the prices at brunch. Those are the things I don’t mind shelling out for, and because I’m content with my habits, I don’t try to fill the void by consuming things I don’t need or really want.

Learn how to spend sensibly. I find it much easier to part with cash when I have less of it. For me, the more I collect, the more I cradle it like a villainous cartoon character stacking their riches. My online shopping baskets are constantly filled with things I really want to splurge on, but just can’t bring myself to click the confirm button on. That’s because I know how it feels to have no money, void of the resource to even consider purchasing something that feels frivolous and indulgent. But, it’s also better to have one thing you really want, than ten things that aren’t so good. Not only is it a drain on your funds, extravagant consumerism is unsustainable and if you’ve seen the documentary, True Cost, you’ll know it can be often ethically wrong. Make informed, researched decisions about your spending, and you won’t need to feel guilty about it afterwards.

Keep up with yourself, not the Jones’. Yeah, it is irritating that your intern has a better wardrobe than you or that your best friend has just bought her first house. If you’re not there yet financially, that’s the state of play you have to deal with. Change jobs, move into a cheaper rented flat, cancel your gym membership that never gets used – where there’s a will there’s a way. Don’t get yourself into debt. Buy everything with cash when you can, and the only thing you should ever have a loan on is your mortgage. Money doesn’t have to be difficult. Think your choices through wisely, don’t squander any help you receive and take it from me, never, ever get a credit card.

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