By Devin Morrissey
Money. It is one of the aspects of life that has huge implications for families. Dare I say, there are few things with as much ability to alter family life as that of the funds available. As teenagers, most of us want to make smart choices with the money we have. We want to prepare for the future.
And yet, often the future feels far off. After all, it is the future. What surveys typically reveal about teens and money is that teenagers are prone to believe they have a better grasp of finances than they actually do.
Not for lack of reason, it’s challenging to become an expert at something without a lot of real-world experience. Moreso, how can you save and budget for long term goals when your cash flow is pretty small?
Fear not: there are a wide array of steps you can take to ensure that you’re doing what you can with what you have so that when adulthood comes knocking, you’re ready for it. Forming smart habits now will pave the way for future success.
Use The Skills You Have
It may be tempting to believe that you don’t have the skills to pay the bills, and you probably don’t have the skills to pay all the bills. But, you likely do have distinct abilities and aptitudes that you can utilize in an effort to expand your cash flow.
Whether you’re looking for official employment or you’re hoping to start a side gig, take the time to create a list of the skills you have that you can market in effort to make some green. Can you teach beginner piano or tutor in math? Can you type on the computer as fast as The Flash runs? Are you skilled at cleaning?
Do not allow yourself to believe you have nothing to utilize, because you very likely do, and the hard skills you have are what will set you apart from others attempting to earn money in your community.
Virtually everyone has soft skills, and soft skills — like teamwork, communication, and dependability — are things all employers want. They are things you can use whether you’re pursuing an office job, or a job with the man down the street. Again, think about what you know you’ll bring to a job, and make sure you communicate that.
Additionally, fleshing out your skills paves the way for you to continue strengthening your resume. Even as a teenager, the experiences you gain can create a professional profile that changes your chances at future jobs.
For example, employment experts note that even just coaching a football team once a week can set applicants apart because of the teamwork and leadership skills required. Never underestimate how current opportunities can shape future opportunities.
Use the Stuff You Have
The thing about human beings is that we’re always changing, and our interests change too. As teenagers, what this often means is that we’ve got stuff stored under our beds and in the hall closet and out in the garage that we will probably never use again. However, there is always someone interested in what we no longer want.
Not only that, we are in the golden age of reselling items. As James Stephenson pointed out for Entrepreneur, “The proliferation of the internet gives entrepreneurs from every walk of life and from every geographic location access to a global audience of buying consumers, eager sellers, information, and resources as in no other time in history.”
How can you merge your interests with your entrepreneurial tendencies? Are you good at spotting designer tags at thrift stores that can be resold to a crowd willing to pay their true value? Did you know 98 percent of a car can be recycled? Are you a gearhead who can collect people’s junk cars and deliver them to the scrap yard for cash?
Whatever your interests, there’s likely a correlating good that you can leverage.
Use The Knowledge and the Money You Already Have
You may be rolling your eyes, because the whole reason you’re reading this is because you have only a little knowledge and an even smaller amount of green. But even if that is true, it only makes this all the more important. If you don’t have a lot, you need to utilize everything you do have.
Create a Budget
Now you’re definitely rolling your eyes. However, the only way to ensure you don’t waste your money is to create a budget. It’s the first and last line of defense between you and mindless spending. It’s the best thing you can do if you want to have a nest egg when high school ends.
Keep track of spending: Again, if you don’t have a lot there’s a temptation to believe that keeping track of the dollar sodas you purchase on the weekends isn’t going to change anything. It may only be when you see you’ve spent $100 on soda pop that you’re able to take a step back and repurpose that money.
Keep track of saving: As with most goals, there’s nothing sweeter or better for future motivation than seeing how you’ve been able to — even if only slightly — change your situation. If you want to be a saver, decide how much of the money you take in, whether it be paychecks or birthday card checks, you will save and put it in it’s own account.
If you struggle with this, troubleshoot. Perhaps you need to put all of your spending money in an envelope so that once it’s gone, it’s gone. Maybe an app would help you keep track of everything. If all else fails, you could also ask your parents for accountability. It’s unlikely you’ll find more objective financial advisors.
Learn Some More
The thing about money is that there’s room for growth. There’s always a way you can become better at understanding it and using it. As a teenager, you’re in a place in life right before you’re able to make costly decisions, but ready to become an expert.
Do you understand what types of things will affect your credit score? Are you comfortable with the basics of investing? When the skills you fine-tuned in high school pave the way for your dream job, will you know how your 401k works?
Your future self is sending you a time-traveling high five for considering these types of topics in advance.
In a lot of ways, where there is a will there’s a way. You may not graduate from high school running a profitable start-up, but you can graduate knowing you made smart choices with what you had available to you.
Even if that comes to a relatively small amount, it will certainly be more than what you would have had if you hadn’t given it a second thought. Plus, the habits and knowledge you prioritize now will inevitably come into play when you are responsible for more money and more people, like your own family. If you make choices with the long-term in view, you will never regret it.