9 Incredibly Powerful Money Lessons I Wish I Learned at 18

The year was 2005. I thought that I would never finish high school or be old enough to drink. I just wanted to be older and richer. I just didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know how to save money or how to even hold a job. I got fired from every job that I had at the time. I also spent every dollar that I earned.

If I had $20 in my pocket at the beginning of the day, I couldn’t come home with anything. I would spend every last penny just because I wanted to spend money. I thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t old enough to apply for a student credit card yet because I would’ve gotten myself into massive debt.

I didn’t care about my courses. I didn’t feel like studying.

I was pretty stupid when I was 18. I believe I’m a bit smarter now. It has been 7 years after all. I now own property, graduated from college debt-free, have saved lots of money, traveled the world, and am overall very happy with how things have turned out.

When we look back it’s funny to see how we’ve progressed and how stupid we were in the past.

What do I wish I knew about money when I was 18 years old? What advice would I give to all new college students/high school graduates that are lost?

1. You’ll thank yourself for saving money.

You won’t regret saving a few dollars. It always helps to have some money saved up “just-in-case” because you never know what can go wrong at the worst time possible.

When I got my part-time job in mid-2005, I started putting away $25 bi-weekly. Then after a few years I raised this amount to $50. When I last wrote about my automatic savings plan I had over FOUR GRAND saved in this account. With zero effort, I’ve managed to save thousands of dollars over the years. I can use this money whenever I want, however I want.

At 18 I didn’t realize how powerful saving a few bucks at a time is.

2. Small expenses can creep on you.

It’s the small purchases made on a daily basis that add up. I’m not a frugality zealot nor will I ever suggest that you count grains of rice to save to money, but you should try your best to watch out for the small purchases.

You really don’t want to go broke because you had to buy an expensive latte every morning. You don’t have to master the art of decision making. You just have to cut back on the stupid decisions.

3. You can easily have fun on a budget.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money to have fun.

Actually to be honest, I usually feel pretty bad when I spend lots of money on a very materialistic social event. The best nights for me involve a few drinks and good company.

I wish I knew this when I was 18. I would’ve kept it simple and avoided all of the expensive nights where you hang out with people you don’t care for.

4. It’s worth investing money into self-improvement.

It’s worth spending money on your health and on yourself in general. You can never go wrong with investing in yourself and I will preach this until the day that I die. Take a chance and spend some money on yourself.

You can invest in yourself right now by:

  • Attending a conference.
  • Buying a book.
  • Signing up for a new course.
  • Taking someone interesting out for lunch.

5. Community college is a strong option after high school.

If you’re not prepared for serious studies or if you just don’t want to be apart of a major college, there’s nothing wrong with attending a community college.

A long time reader, Clair wrote in the following on the idea of community college:

“Except for a few specialized areas, most of what you learn about the business world is found in the business world, not in school, so getting yourself through college and out into the business world is an important focus. If a community college helps you do that, all the better.”

6. Nobody will care about your money the way that you do.

It’s your life. It’s your money. Nobody else will care about your money the way that you can. Take care of your money. Stop being afraid of online banking. Put your money in a safe place and let it grow.

7. You’ll never have enough money.

I always wanted to make $20/hour. I thought I would be set for life. Now I make decent money and am always chasing more. There’s no ideal hourly wage out there because you’ll never have enough money to buy all of the crap that’s out there.

I suggest that you do your best to increase your income/value, save some money, and take some time to travel the world to see what’s out there. If you become totally obsessed with money, you’ll never be satisfied.

8. You should never let money ruin a friendship.

Money comes and goes. Friends should come and stay (at least good friends).

If a “friend” dodges you when he owes you $20, well you just got rid of a nuisance for only $20.

If a friend is in need and you can help out, why not offer the help?

9. There’s a dozen ways to save money on college-related expenses.

Yes, college can be a rip off. No, you don’t have to get ripped off. You don’t need student loans for every single college-related expense. You don’t need to be ripped off. Take a few minutes to read about how I graduated from college without any debt.

That’s what I wish I knew about finances when I was 18 years old and just getting started with college.

If you’re a high school senior or a college freshmen I highly recommend that you bookmark this page. If you know someone that’s finishing high school or entering college, please send them this article ASAP!

7 thoughts on “9 Incredibly Powerful Money Lessons I Wish I Learned at 18”

  1. Drew @ ObjectiveWealth

    Hey Martin. Some fine wisdom here; you’ve travelled far in such a short time! It took me a few more years than you to make sense of money and personal finance. But it’s OK to make honest mistakes if you still have time on your side, it’s the best form of learning. If you’re older and still making the same, repeated errors, that’s when you’ll regret it. Well done.

  2. So true Martin! My daughter has just started seriously saving money this year. She is sixteen. She has made a list of goals that made sense to her when she listened to “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. The two of us are using similar approaches – I am cleaning up from my mistakes – and she is getting off to a great start! It is really exciting to see young people take responsibility for their financial future. I wish you the very best!

    1. Thanks for your first comment Charlotte. It’s funny because I still haven’t read anything by Dave Ramsey.

      What are some of the goals that your daughter is pursuing?

  3. My big money lesson I wish I learned earlier is not to get too attached to stuff. The example I always bring up of my spending habits in college is the $200 I spent on a brushed aluminum computer case, one of the first on the market. It was a pretty sweet box, but at the end of the day, my computer doesn’t need to look nice; it just sits under the desk!

    1. Good point Edward. I’ve slowly learned to just throw things out and accept them as a “sunk cost.” It’s like leaving a crappy movie half-way through. You already paid. You just might as well save your sanity.

  4. This is awesome. I resonate with all of these. Especially that little expenses creep up, and investing in yourself is awesome.

    Another funny thing is that money is important, but time is important as well. In other words, it would be awesome to be 18 again….

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