All you need to know about finances and savings

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Answered by: Kate, An Expert in the Financial Control Category
Everyone needs to know about finances, right? There is much to learn about financial literacy and empowerment, however there is so much valuable information out there that it can become overwhelming to the average person.

To help you with that seemingly overwhelming amount of information, I would like to share with you a few points and tips about savings and money management that will be useful in your life now:

1) Start thinking about the value of your money NOW! Financial habits are formed early. Yes, you can save money no matter how much or how little you have. Saving money is about self-discipline as much as anything else. Begin saving and savings practices if you haven't already. If you have trouble spending everything in your pocket, enlist your MOST responsible friend to help you stay on track. We were all students once; you had to learn your own study habits and know what works for you to work through lots of writing, memorization or problem solving. Saving money is a similar thing. Learn what works for you - what fits with your life- and then do it regularly. This might be waiting until you have a large amount and then putting a big chunk of it into savings. For others it might mean putting small amounts away every time you get any new funds.

2) Know where you spend your money. If you don't already keep a list or a budget, start one. It doesn't have to be perfect. The point is that you will THINK and REFLECT on where you money goes. When you write down a to-do list, you remember things that need to get done and you do them! When you write down how much you have and where you spend it, you can recognize ways that you might be able to save or things that are costing you more than you really need to spend on them. Again, like savings, this exercise will help you think about the value of your money and what might be possible. As the amount of money you have grows larger, the importance of keeping track of it and maximizing it grows too. As you begin to list what you spend, your budgets can get more formal and more complex. Mine are not exact, but I look at my monthly spending and compare it with how much I want to save every month. If I spend more one month, I try to tighten my budget the next month. If you don't track it, it is much harder to change your behavior to be able to save, so write it down!

3) Do not be intimidated by banks. Eventually you should have a formal savings account. You may not now, but eventually you should and you will. Learn what services banks have for young people. They may offer savings accounts specifically for youth. Banks can be scary places with people who don't seem to care about you, but you are the customer. Right now you may not have a lot in your account, but eventually you will and they should view you as an important customer now and for the future of their bank. If someone is short or rude to you or you don't understand what is happening with your money, politely ask to speak to someone else. Bank rules can be confusing. (The rules are often still confusing for me!) If I don't understand something, even if there is a big long line and the bank teller is frustrated with me, I politely ask to speak to someone who can spend some time explaining things to me.

4) Don't be afraid to ask and talk about finances. It is often deemed impolite to talk about money - how much you make, how much money your parents have, etc. But that trend extended into college and graduate school, where many people take out loans is never good. Not really understanding what you are borrowing from, at what interest rate, how long you have to pay it back, etc. is important to know. To have power over your finances you must really understand things. I'm not telling you to ever flaunt money, but just like the banks, ask for someone to spend some more time with you if you don't understand something. Make sure you understand what you are committing to before you sign. Take the paperwork to a trusted mentor or friend who has had a similar experience or a teacher and ask every question you can think of to be comfortable with it. Make notes during conversations with school officials or mentors and keep them. When it comes time to pay those loans, it may be months or years later and you want to know about finances and everything you can!

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