5 Money Mistakes I Made in My Early 20s

"Putting money above everything else."
by Maddie Cruz   |  Jun 29, 2021
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As I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook on a rather uneventful Tuesday afternoon, I came across this quote: “This adulting thing is hard. One minute you’re rich, the next thing you know you’re a mathematician.” I laughed. Let me tell you: truer words have never been said. Growing up with not a lot of role models and moving out pretty early at the age of 19 meant that I had to learn most of what I know through trial and error - especially when it comes to handling money. 

Five years into this whole adulting thing, I’m happy to share that I feel like I’m on a slow but steady path to achieving financial stability. And I say slow but steady because even if I give myself credit for the highs, I also acknowledge that I’m not yet through with cleaning up some of the mistakes and losses incurred during my lows.

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If only to look back at every year my then younger self crawled so that present me could walk and occasionally run, here are five money mistakes I made.

Take it as a guide that hopefully, saves you from making the same! 

1. Believing money CAN grow on trees.

We’ll start off pretty strong. At 17, I got recruited for a “business venture.” Emphasis on the quote and unquote. To be fair, it was a legitimate business but the way it was presented made it seem that I could easily earn money without doing so much. Put simply: it was a get-rich-quick scheme. I got so hooked and at 18, I had a debt worth more than P100,000 and some of the damage, I’m still cleaning up after even until this day. 

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I had to pay for it by myself. And sure, that’s one of my most epic stories and biggest achievements - but growing out of naivety and realizing that money doesn’t always come easy didn’t have to cost me a hundred grand, that’s for sure. 

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2. Working, only to spend. 

I remember the very first day I stepped foot in college, I told myself that in just a few years, in four years minus a day, I would graduate, get a job and be able to buy every single thing I could possibly want. Growing up in a lower middle class family, I was always just given what was needed and rarely ever what I wanted. When I started working, I unfortunately carried the same mindset. Every payday meant that I would have money to spend on whatever material thing or low-priority-immaterial-thing it was that I wanted. And so, no matter how hard I worked, it always felt as if it was never enough. 

Which brings me to my next point. 

3. Wants over needs. 

Of course, not being spoiled by your parents teaches you a lot of things. However, a lot of these things you don’t get to understand and appreciate while you’re young. Not being showered by material things seemed like an excuse for me to spoil myself each time that I get. Don’t get me wrong: Treating yo’self is good, it’s great, even. Occasionally. Especially when you deserve it. But choosing to spend recklessly or impractically in the name of “self-care” each time you get will put you in a very difficult and dangerous position in the long run. 

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I’m not proud of it... but there were times when I chose to buy another pair of shoes I absolutely did not need instead of paying for my rent first. There were times when I missed out on my laptop’s monthly amortization because I chose to party the night away to “de-stress” not realizing that not paying for my bills sooner only adds up to the stress in the long run. When it comes to money, I’ve learned that the golden rule is really super simple: the NEEDS come before the WANTS. Always. You could never go wrong with this.

4. Putting money above everything else. 

With this pandemic still somewhat in full-swing, I’ve been dealing with a lot of regrets. It wasn’t until the lockdowns that I realized the kind of person I was pre-pandemic: I was a workaholic with a misplaced attachment to the hustle and grind. Dissecting it even further, I realize this all stems from me feeling like I never have enough money so I need to keep getting more projects and working harder. This meant that I was pretty much tied to my job(s) and that I missed out on a lot of things - birthdays, dinners, get togethers, school events, school trips, and more. Looking back, I realize that I wasn’t there during some of the moments that mattered the most. 

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It makes me a little sad but it’s a lesson that needs to be learned. Money is not everything and that is precisely why developing a strong sense of financial responsibility matters because when the money problem is solved, everything else follows. True, money is not everything but it influences every single thing that is important. 

5. Not saving. Periodt. 

It’s a pretty common sentiment to say, “I’ll save money when I’m older. I’ll probably be making more money then, anyway.” That’s where most of us are wrong. As we get older, it’s inevitable that we get handed more responsibilities. Whether it’s for ourselves or our loved ones. That’s why waiting to get older to save is the biggest scam of all time. 

Save while you’re still happily enjoying all your meals at home. Save while your parents are still able to generously take out money from their wallets to fill in yours. Save while you’re young. Trust me, future you will thank you for it. 

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Maddie Cruz
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