A money lesson my father taught me in childhood helped me save

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  • From an early age, my father taught me to save 10% of the money earned or given.
  • I followed his rule to the letter and he helped me build an emergency fund with 6 months of expenses.
  • Now I have the money to travel when I want and stay in beautiful hotels and Airbnbs.

When I was 13, my father took me to the bank for a big financial milestone: opening an account and receiving a debit card. I had $ 100 in my wallet, mostly in five and one, which I had saved from babysitting hours and pocket money. I flipped through the plastic pages full of debit card designs until I came to a panda design that’s now out of production. “That’s it,” I thought as I picked it up. “The beginning of adulthood”.

As much as my 13-year-old self wanted to spend all the money in my bank account on nail polish, frozen yogurt, and books, my dad’s financial advice was always on my mind.

My father taught me to always save 10%

During that time, my father was my financial model. He has had the privilege of having a stable career, but he has always lived below his means. He has never been interested in buying the most elegant cars or staying in luxury hotels. Instead, he installed solar panels in his home, drove hybrid cars with great mileage, and committed to saving his income.

From a young age, he taught me to save 10% of every salary, allowance, or money I received, whether it was $ 50 or $ 500. I followed his advice and saved as much money as I could, often doing little things to save more, such as eating as much as possible at home or waiting to buy clothes during big sales.

Fast forward to college, where I spent morning and night running around my jobs as a writing tutor, student manager, and journalist. I ran out of my working hours while I was a full-time student earning close to the minimum wage and usually lived with three or five other people to keep rent costs low, but I still spent at least 60% of my income on rent in Seattle.

Even now, my father’s advice rang in my ears. I kept saving 10% of each paycheck, shifting it often after each pay period so as not to be tempted to spend it. It helped that I didn’t have much space to spend money on knick-knacks or clothes.

My savings habit came in handy when I got my first high-paying internship

During my first year of college, I applied for an internship at a large technology company. On the days when I was waiting for my recruiter to answer me, I was too afraid to even look for how much I could get paid as an intern because I didn’t want to hope high. All I had on the books was an unpaid summer internship at another company and the few hundred dollars I could earn as a student journalist, not enough to cover my rent in Seattle.

It turns out that the preparation met the opportunity, because I got the internship and earned seven times what I was earning working as a student.

It was tempting to buy all the things I couldn’t afford while working as a student. I could grab a coffee whenever I wanted, put all those Target beauty items in my cart if they caught my eye, or buy movie tickets for a friend without asking questions. But every time I got paid, I promptly spent at least 10% on savings.

I was able to save 70% of what I earned that summer, largely by automatically transferring money before I could spend it so it was out of sight, out of mind. The spending habit I learned at age 13 followed me into adulthood, allowing me to create sustainable savings.

I had an emergency fund when I needed it

As I was preparing to work full time, I began to understand what my life would be like after graduation. The money I had saving 10% on each paycheck became my emergency fund to cover up to six months of living expenses in the event of a job loss, which was invaluable for my peace of mind when COVID -19 and the layoffs that accompanied, have hit.

As I earmarked money for every part of my life, from living expenses to travel, I continued to set aside at least 10% of my paycheck for my 401 (k) contribution and maximize my employer’s correspondence.

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I also set aside another 10% so that I could travel as I wanted and spend money on gorgeous Airbnbs and hotels and fly to my friends’ weddings and graduation parties without checking my bank account over and over again. Money didn’t buy me happiness, but it gave me peace of mind and the ability to spend according to my values.

A lot has changed since I got my first debit card at 13, but the way I think about money remains the same. Saving 10% on every salary is a monetary habit that has allowed me to save for my future and achieve my financial goals. What has worked for me is to find a sustainable way to save that fits my lifestyle, goals and spending habits and adapt as my income and values ​​change.

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