Saving money is only part of being good at managing your money. There's also the fun part: spending it! If you're working and earning money, spending it can be a great reward. However, there are some important things to think about before making any kind of purchase.
- Not all purchases are smart purchases. Before you buy something, ask yourself the following questions: Do I really want or need this? Why do I want it? Does it look like it's made well or does it look like it could break tomorrow? Is there something else I would rather save up for? By stopping to ask yourself some questions before you buy something, you can avoid making purchases that aren't worth your money.
- Price matters. Learn about what things cost before you buy them. If you know you want something specific, like a computer for college or a new outfit, research the price at various stores first to find the best deal.
- It's OK if you don't own everything in the world. Sometimes when you watch too many commercials or see too many celebrities, you start to believe you have to have everything out there. But, it's OK to say no to yourself. To be good at managing money, you have to be able to stop yourself from buying everything that seems cool at that moment in time. Fads don't last forever!
- There's a difference between a need and a want. Maybe your mom or dad wants you to start saving for college this year or maybe you are supposed to pay your own cell phone bill. If so, those are needs. Going on the computer to buy songs or having the latest video game are wants. Sometimes what you want has to wait because what you need comes first.
- You need a budget. As you get older, you're probably paying for more and more of your own things, like your cell phone plan or your weekend fun. Regardless, making a budget is a great way to control what you spend. Figure out how much you make, what you have to spend on bills and other needs, what you want to save, and what is left for your own fun purchases.
- Do the math. If you spend $10 on junk food or coffee with your friends every week, that's $520 a year! What else could you do with $520?
Add up everything you spend for a month and keep track of what you buy. Then, do an evaluation. Are you spending your money on things that are worthwhile? Are there changes you should make to your spending habits?
For more information and resources to help military youth and teens navigate everything from the unique challenges of a mobile military life to managing their social lives, saving money and going green, visit Military Youth on the Move!