A huge part of growing up is learning how to successfully manage your money.
Like many other things associated with adulthood, I’m not a fan. It’s even worse than the price of toilet roll – now THAT is a national farce.
Why may you ask? Not because I don’t think it’s important, or because I’m an excessive spender (except when I enter Lush…) – it’s because there is so much I don’t understand. I like being well-informed and confident in both what I’m doing, and the decisions I’m making – but frustratingly, there are so many aspects of finance that leave me feeling totally flummoxed.
My financial ‘journey’ – if you like – began on a fruit & veg stall on Grantham Market, aged 13. Every Saturday, 6am-4pm, £2.80/hour.
It was tough, both physically and mentally (no calculators for 13-year-old Jess) – and I learnt a whole new meaning to the word ‘tiredness’. That aside – it funded my pick ‘n mix, pudding and nail polish addiction (a bizarre combination, I recognise, I was an odd kid).
After that – I had that first (totally invaluable) – bit of work experience, and managed to gain jobs in hotels, restaurants, bars, and working for other local traders. I started to earn a little more (I was still in full-time education, so we’re not talking a Richard Branson level of wealth) – but saving became a thing I was able to do.
The things I wanted to find the funds to buy, quickly increased in expense: clothes, books, tech… and that small matter of University! The initial figures were a little daunting.
Throughout Uni I worked both whilst up in Durham, and when I returned to Grantham. As the saying of the supermarket I didn’t/don’t work at goes – every little helps!
Whilst at Uni I learnt a lot of financial lessons: rent, bills, credit cards, tax (& rebates – wonderful things), standing orders, direct debits… etc.
I learnt a few key things in particular:
- Always check the LENGTH of a rental contract, not just the price. It might look like a great deal – but think long term – how much will you actually end up paying?
- Credit cards are not exclusively for the Blair Waldorf’s & Serena van der Woodsen’s of the world (xo xo Gossip Girl) – we can have them too! As long as you pay them off in time, don’t purchase excessively – and fundamentally: remember that the money IS NOT YOURS – they’re fab! It’s also great for building up a credit rating (a score given to you based on how likely you are to be a good borrower).
- Contacting HMRC is like trying to FaceTime someone with a dodgy internet connection. Frustrating, fractured, and can feel – totally futile. Patience is absolutely key. I’ve become very fond of the hold music.
I am very lucky to have incredibly well-informed parents, who have spent time explaining every stage of my financial journey thus-far, so that not only do I understand what I’m doing – but why I’m doing it.
I’ve now entered a new stage: one that involves ISA’s and structured saving. It feels a little scary – but I’m beginning to understand that being as active as possible with my money is the best possible course of action. But when someone mentioned a pension plan last week, I did despair a little. I AM TWENTY-TWO. Help.
Dad has a great policy when it comes to managing money. A third, a third, a third.
Spend a third, save a third, slush a third.
Spend and save being fairly obvious – the slush is for those unexpected items – and if unused – ends up going back into the ‘save’ pot. It’s working well! Except for when I went to Lush last week… I’m going to slot that expenditure into the ‘slush’ fund.
Essentially, in just under ten years – my financial plans and perspective has (naturally) undergone an enormous shift. I’m sure it’ll shift again in the next ten years. A mortgage may be a thing. My point? Don’t be intimidated by all of this stuff. There’s a lot of jargon, and a stupid amount of paperwork – but keep yourself well-informed, and you’ll be in the perfect position to make the right financial decisions for you.
A few tips for those going to Uni:
- Shop around for student bank accounts. Some banks offer vouchers, money, railcards, discounts… all sorts of freebies to entice you in – but take a step back and have a real think about which bank is the one for you. It’s likely that the bank you choose to go with as a student is the one you’ll stick with (hence the tempting offers), so do your research!
- Ask for help. Parents, other graduates, siblings – most have them have been there, done that. Pick their brains! Where did they live whilst at Uni? Which student bank account did they go with? Where to find the cheapest toilet roll… (and not the library, that’s theft friends).
- Create a budget. You’ll come to love a spreadsheet/folder. Keep a careful eye on what you’re spending, so you can identify excessive expenditure. Set limits for eating out, clothes shopping, events, travel etc. It’s boring but beneficial.
- Find ways to save. Invest in a railcard, sign up for supermarket loyalty cards and figure out who offers a student discount (it’s available on everything from clothes to coffee – you just need to ask!). Be savvy with your spending, and it’s easy to save.