Laura Edgar is a senior writer for NerdWallet.com, a personal finance website that helps people make smart money decisions.
What does money mean to you? A lot, we’re guessing. You many never have as much as you want (no one ever does), but if you work hard and keep learning, you’ll almost always have as much as you need. The more you know about money, the more you can put it to work for you. Here are four tips to help you take control of your finances.
1. Talk to grownups
It’s not as bad as it sounds. Really. You’ll learn some of the best strategies for managing your money by talking to an adult you trust, whether that’s a parent, a grandparent, or even a teacher. It also never hurts to ask a money specialist for help, like someone at the credit union. If you have difficult questions, or need to talk about a money mistake, ask for the conversation to be private. Talking about money can be embarrassing for anyone, no matter how old you are. That’s why so many adults don’t talk about it! It’s always good to discuss money in a safe space. When you get the chance, be sure to ask about the difference between cash and credit, and how bills work.
2. Get your own account
Even if you’re not 18, you can still open your own checking account, savings account or certificate or deposit with a guardian’s co-signature. Checking accounts in particular are great because they give you a safe place to keep your money and a convenient way to pay for purchases. Your checking account comes with a debit card, which works just like a credit card, but it doesn’t let you rack up debt, because you aren’t borrowing money.A checking account will allow you to manage your money like an adult. By the time you turn 18 and get sole ownership over your account, you’ll already be a pro.
3. Walk through “what-if” scenarios
Too many people first learn about money management when disaster strikes. You probably won’t be able to avoid all of life’s financial pitfalls (unless you’re really lucky), but you’ll be better at handling challenges if you know how to think ahead. Do you know what to do if you suddenly need $500 to pay for a medical bill or car repairs? There’s more than one way to get the money, but some of your choices are way more expensive than others.
4. Set a fun savings goal
It’s hard to save just because “it’s important”, even though it is. You will become a better saver if your have a specific goal in mind, so open a savings account to save for something you actually want, like a car, concert tickets or a summer trip. Saving for college or retirement is never a bad idea, of course, but if you’re the sort of person who finds it hard to save at all, start with the basics and work you way up.