When I see an item that I want but is something that was unplanned for, I can sometimes convince myself of buying it by saying "I deserve to treat myself!" While it is true, the excuse quickly turns old after a couple of those "well-deserved" expenses leave me broke.
Asking questions prior to making a purchase can feel like an exhausting task so to ease ourselves in, we can start with the purchases that we already know are non-essentials.
By distinguishing which purchases are non-essentials and which are for our entertainment, you've answered the first question already:
"Do I need or want the item?"
Be completely honest with yourself when you ask whether you need or want the item. Be wary of an inclination to reason your way into believing an item is a need. A want isn't in and of itself bad. A want doesn't have to be an automatic "NO." You earned your money fair and square and you, therefore, have the right to buy something for fun. This is where you follow up with the next question:
“Am I able to afford the item now?”
Sometimes a purchase is worth buying at a later time. That could mean a few weeks, or a few months. Think about what you may have to spend in the next couple of weeks. If what you want is going to cut a huge chunk out of your wallet, then it will leave you stressing out about how you'll be paying other important expenses. You'll be cornering yourself without room to breathe. With seasonal items, if you wait longer, you could likely get a cheaper price later. Buying swim trunks and bathing suits, for example, are cheaper in the winter.
Waiting it out might either dissipate the urge to buy it and you might end up forgetting about it altogether, or you might find that after a week, you're more confident about buying it.
Set your intentions.
“Why do I want to be careful with my money? What is my end goal?”
Focus on what is motivating you to save money. You might want to save because you want to go on an international trip, you want a new computer or cell phone, or you're saving for an apartment.
If you catch a sale, these questions are especially important because I know that I might sometimes be impulsive about buying something just because it was on sale but I wouldn't actually buy it if it were full price.
A while back, I noticed that there was a blouse that was on sale for $5. The blouse was nowhere near the usual style that I wear but I purchased it anyway. After two wears, I realized I didn't like it at all but only wanted it for the $5 steal. Now, I ended up with a blouse that would live an unhappy life stored away in a wardrobe until the day it finds a new home somewhere where it can be appreciated. Let this story be a cautionary tale for your bank account.
"Shopping therapy" is a real thing. Sometimes people shop because they feel anxious, sad, or they feel inadequate. Be honest with yourself and where you are at in your current financial circumstances. You might end up feeling less guilty and ashamed about what you purchase when you make yourself confident about what you buy. You end up developing self-discipline and becoming a mindful consumer. Each purchase that you don't buy gives you more money at the end of the day.
Credit cards are a good way for young people with few assets to build reasonable credit scores. They have plenty of benefits, but if they are not used responsibly, credit cards can turn ugly.
Credit card bills can be a scary, overwhelming territory at first, and I put off applying for a credit card for a few years. If I remember anything from 10th grade U.S. history, it was my teacher's piece of advice on credit cards. He told the story of when he went on a shopping spree with his girlfriend soon after getting his first credit card. He spent way more than he could afford to pay back and got himself into a financial mess. His advice to us was to only use a credit card for small purchases like gas or a snack at the convenience store.
Was it really that simple? After doing some research, I started to realize that yes, credit cards are easy to use when the benefits and drawbacks are well-understood.
I follow two rules when using a credit card. The first rule: Do not spend more than you can afford (no shopping sprees!). Don’t spend money you don’t have --- that’s how you end up with a mountain of consumer debt with high interest rates. The second rule: Always pay the balance in full and on time.
There are three ways to pay your credit card bill. Let’s dive into each of them.
Paying the Minimum Due:
As you're looking at your online bank account, you might see that there are different charges. It will show an option to pay your full balance, say $43. Another charge, called the minimum payment, will give you the option to pay back a small amount now and the rest later. The minimum payment is between 1% and 3% of the total balance due. To avoid paying interest charges, always pay the full balance. The minimum payment option can seem like the issuer is letting you get off the hook for now, but really, that small amount will build up over time and the total payment of $43 will start to cost into the hundreds, leaving you to pay back that "small" debt for months or even years.
The credit card companies make money off people who pay the minimum payment, because the remaining balance collects interest and the total balance becomes ridiculously expensive. The quickest way to put yourself in debt is to only pay the minimum due. Credit card companies trick you into thinking that minimum payments are acceptable, but they're keeping you just a hair away from missing a payment or not being able to afford your full balance due.
Paying More than the Minimum Due:
If you're having trouble paying the balance in full, then paying more than the minimum due is the next option, but this should not become a habit; like paying only the minimum payment, this is a doorway into financial hardship. Paying less than the full balance should only be considered when this is the only option left to keep your card in good standing.
Paying In Full:
The best way to pay a credit card is also the easiest method to explain. Pay everything back (this will usually take place all right online). By paying your balance in full every month, you will always be safe from credit card debt and high interest charges. You will save lots of money in the long run (no interests, no fees, no debt) while building up a high credit score.
I always create a calendar event on Google Calendar and set up alert notifications in my card’s online account to remind myself of the due date. Alert notifications from your credit card company will also catch scammers because the bank will inform you of every purchase that is made through your card. The first time that I made a purchase with my credit card, I thought that I had to pay it back right away on the same day or within the same week. I later found out that the actual bill statement won't roll in until a few weeks later. You won't have to worry about paying the credit card company back until the monthly statement comes in. This is why it is important to make note of that due date.
Do not make purchases that are over 30% of your credit limit. Keeping yourself to the 30% limit tells the credit card company that you have good self-disciple. This is called a low utilization ratio and will greatly benefit your credit score. Credit card companies may increase your credit limit over time, but don’t be tempted to spend more than you should. I find that allowing myself to use no more than 30% of the credit limit keeps me from going overboard with purchases.
All the worries and fears that I have had about owning a credit card have dissipated with research and experience. If you are feeling anxious and afraid to use a credit card, remember: always pay your balance in full and on time. This will make using a credit card a breeze.
All the best!
Photo credit: Tyrone
There are days when I wake up and, out of nowhere, I feel awful. I have the tendency to wonder, "Why do I feel this way? What did I do? What happened?" Usually nothing happened to upset me at 7AM. When the melancholy suddenly arrives with no reason at all, I try to allow the sensations to ‘flow’. Not accepting or wanting to acknowledge a current state makes for a worse moody day. Letting yourself feel uncomfortable feelings is not easy, of course. You aren’t alone in the struggle.
With that in mind, do not be harsh with yourself when you’re finding it hard to be at peace with unhappiness. You’ll get better at riding the waves of tough emotions. No one wants to be that kind of friend who says, "Just be happy!" to a person who is upset. And so it would only make sense that we shouldn't be that kind of friend to ourselves either. Leaving yourself as is in the moment is choosing to be tender and kind to yourself.
Do not suppress your emotions. What you’re going through is extremely normal. Unhappiness is not wrong. Your brain might be telling you to slow down for the day. Let yourself rest but if your day is all scheduled up, take it easy. Do something that makes you feel more at ease with yourself. An unanticipated melancholy mood is a fantastic opportunity to listen to sad music and really feel into the lyrics as a healthy catharsis. I like to vent out through journaling or writing a letter to myself using FutureMe.org.
Photo Credit: Piper
Have you eaten? If you haven’t eaten in awhile, then there's no wonder you feel down. Eat a healthy snack or meal. Healthy foods are not always within reach. Eating junk food in moderation to get through the day in that case is okay. Investigate the root cause of why you feel sad and come up with wholesome coping techniques to work through it. You can read up on the problem you suspect is the reason behind the sad mood by checking out our other articles on Teenagers with Experience. When I felt sad due to social anxiety, I loved reading “Tongue-Tied” by Jahannavi because of its practical tips. You can find a variety of other topics on our website.
You do not always need a reason, however. Unless the emotions are making it hard for you to get out of bed, to take care of yourself, to pay attention in school, or other side effects that might look like symptoms of depression, know that in a short amount of time you’ll move on to another emotion.
Without some negative, we would be missing out on important aspects of the human experience. The world does not hold in its vomit. With that in mind, we should not hold in our angst, anger, melancholy and run after joy with a butterfly net. You'll find that every emotion you feel faints away and a wave of yet another sensation rushes over you. We grow with every wave. When we're chasing down happiness, we're trying to avoid fear, anger, sorrow or whatever emotion it is that we have trouble over. Untying the expectations that you have of yourself to feel a certain way gives you the room to breathe.
When these negative emotions impede your day-to-day for weeks, you feel them worsen, and/or you have thoughts of ending your life, please seek out support and talk with a mental health professional. If you live in the UK, you can find support in the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Therapist Directory: https://www.bacp.co.uk/. If you live in the US, you can find affordable counselling in your state by checking out Open Counseling: https://www.opencounseling.com/.
Your emotions are valid, no matter what!
Imposter syndrome is self-doubt in your experience and skills to accomplish a task or take on a responsibility, in spite of prior accomplishments and successes. You may frequently feel insecure about yourself, you may not think that you deserve any praise for your work, you may deny responsibility over your accomplishments, believing that luck or other external factors are the causes of your success. In 1978, clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes named the phenomenon as “Imposter Syndrome” after interviewing women who were highly successful in their careers with university degrees and professional recognition yet feared their success had come about by mistake. You may have also experienced the inclination to think that others will find out about your incompetence; that, someday, you’ll be unmasked and someone will realize that you’re really a fake. Although the syndrome is not an actual psychological disorder, the condition is prevalent and, not to mention, overwhelming! According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, approximately 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome at some time in their lives.
I have come across Imposter Syndrome plenty of times but the most recent was late September. I applied for an internship at a non-profit organization in the summertime to build work experience in the mental health field. I was extremely nervous because although I know a lack of experience in the career I’m interested in is perfectly okay, I was afraid that no work experience in general could dampen the chances of interning at the organization. I’ve only worked at one job since I was 17 years old. I had to interview for the internship, of course. With only having had two interviews before (one at a senior home and another for the place where I work now), I didn’t feel like I could sell myself well as a professional and responsible candidate. The interview was the initial worry at first --- but then I was accepted into the position. As happy as I was, I couldn’t shake off the nerves about the actual internship! I really wanted to intern at the organization but I wondered if I would really do well at administrative work.
Imposter Syndrome is all about skepticism over your capacities in both new and old experiences. Throughout high school, I rarely participated in volunteer work other than one-time events. The skepticism on whether I could well was intense. After the interview, the next time I spoke with the executive director of the organization, we had a chat about what the other interns were up to. The tasks sounded like they would be a lot of fun to be a part of. There were times where I couldn’t keep up with the conversation because at one time she talked about a software that I had no knowledge of, and the insecurities came back. I went along with the conversation, ‘faking confidence’, just like the old saying we hear on repeat. The lack of experience is ultimately the whole point of working as a student intern. We all have to start somewhere, and more often than not, that “somewhere” is scary.
When you’re diving into something new like joining a school club, a sports team, or starting a job, as you’re becoming used to the ins-and-outs, ask for other people’s feedback for an objective opinion about your work performance. These objective opinions include compliments, too. The more that I heard, “Great job,” “Thanks!”, sweet comments like “You’re a fast learner!” or critiques, internalizing both the good and bad comments was a way to motivate myself to keep making the best out of a situation. Furthermore, being accepted into a job position or as a student at a university means you were chosen for a reason and you have every right to be a part of that job or university (as an example). You may fear that you’re not good enough because there are people who are far more talented and accomplished. You’re right. You’ll always encounter people who are better than you --- that’s a plain fact. You may not be the most talented but, the good news is, you can be the “hardest worker in the room” as Dwyane Johnson once remarked. And, on the flip side, you might even be working with people who are far from perfect. You do not have to worry about getting rid of thoughts of your insecurities because they will come up some way or another throughout our lives, even after you’ve reached adulthood --- but you can recognize that they exist and succeed, anyway. Your family and friends believe in your talent and skill. You can, in turn, believe in them for their judgement about your work and capacities.
If you find that Imposter Syndrome interferes with your motivation at school and other commitments, visit your school counselor and let them know. They’re there to guide you through the troubles that you encounter throughout the semesters. For extra support, reach out to a professional or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) for US residents. For UK residents, please visit samaritans.org for further mental health assistance.
I believe in you!