When I was in high school, my junior and senior years, I took a class called Financial Literacy. It was a class that ran for a quarter each year, so averaging to about a month and a half of class. The goal of the class was to teach high-schoolers about how to manage your own personal finances and an education into creating a budget and basics of a credit card. But five years out, I forget everything I was taught on those early mornings.
Recently I was cleaning out my Google Docs folders. I happened upon the folder I had used during my Financial Literacy class, and felt shocked and happily surprised that I had kept them. In my journey through minimalism, I hadn’t yet reached my invisible, digital clutter. Reading through the mock budgets we had to draw up as class assignments made me realize that I had never tried to implement the idea of budgeting into my life.
I’ve always known what a budget is, subconsciously. It’s a spending amount dedicated to each of the items in your life. But as someone who is still at university and who is blessed to have parents who help me with my expenses, I don’t have a good basis for how much to pay for things. I don’t have a budget in my mind at all for what is considered appropriate to spend for things. My life sometimes reminds me of that tweet from @dril:
someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. my family is dying
— wint (@dril) September 29, 2013
Who knows if $3,600 is an appropriate amount to spend on candles? What if it is? What do I know?
The biggest barrier between me understanding my finances is, of course, myself. After receiving little financial education, I had no idea where to start. I was lucky in that my parents raised me with a set of standards for spending money. A lot of what my ideas are based off are the lessons my parents taught me about the worth of items and the power of spending more once to have a nicer item. But even though my parents were great at instilling the idea of the value of my money, I still find I am missing a lot of basics that I think I should know.
I don’t know how to take out a loan. I am unsure on how to balance a checkbook – I don’t even own checks yet (though that should be rectified soon). And I still haven’t figured how to create a budget that will work for myself. And the biggest problem with trying to tackle something like figuring out your finances is that the entire venture seems impossible to start chipping away at. Where do you even start?
When I look back, my financial education class was really helpful in that it opened my eyes to the fact that in a few short years, I would be dealing with this aspect of my life. Being a high school student with a part-time after school job made the world seem infinite. I had a small but steady income stream. Life was great. Budgeting, what was that?
Then I went to college, and I never once budgeted in my three years so far. Not even when I went abroad, though immediately after I severely regretted not budgeting. I came back, if not flat broke, pretty damn close. Now, I am lucky. I have parents who don’t want to see me fail, and they helped me out. But I don’t want to go through my life expecting handouts. And that requires education on a topic that thus far I have not even begun to examine – finances.
Becoming financially literate has become one of my new goals for this coming school year. I want to begin building the foundation for a lifestyle where I have control of my money and my finances. This means more research, and reading books about how to save and spend money wisely. YouTube, as with most research in my life, has been extremely helpful. My new favorite channel is The Financial Diet. The content covered there opened my eyes to the questions I should be asking. I also love the podcast “Bad With Money” by Gabby Dunn. Gabby discusses with her guests about topics from loans, to banks, to stocks, to how expensive death is. It is more a discussion about money than it is tips, but even just discussing money and how money works in our world is helpful. It gets you thinking about money in new ways.
You can also find a wide variety of apps to use, if using an app to help learn about finances is a better choice for you. We all start somewhere, and why not put technology to work for you? If it helps you learn and achieve your goals, why not?
If you were like me in that you didn’t get much of a financial education, fear not! The resources are out there; you don’t have to stumble through this alone. Talk to your family and friends, find resources online, and just practice what you learn. Practice makes progress, and when figuring out how to manage your life – and your finances – is definitely an achievable goal for all of us broke Millennials. Maybe if we all learn together, we’ll all (finally) get a little less broke.