One of the biggest challenges for young adults today is handling money. Unfortunately, most young people have never had any real education on how to manage their finances. Today’s young adults have significantly more student loan debt and credit card debt than previous generations. Many struggle to find a good job, causing anxiety and frustration.
I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t wait until we have money to learn how to handle money. Many broke lottery winners can attest to the fact that if you are bad with money when you don’t have it, you will be bad with money when you do. Regardless of your current financial situation, here are a few habits that can help you steward your money well. Your future spouse will thank you for developing these healthy financial habits early on.
1. Start Giving
This one might come as a surprise considering that many young people feel like they don’t have money to give away. But you don’t have to make lots of money to get into the habit of giving. Start giving away a small percentage of everything you make, even if it’s just 1 percent or less. Make it a rule: For as long as I live, I will give away a certain percentage of everything I receive with joy and gratitude.
I recommend you give to your church first. Beyond that, give to causes and organizations you believe in. Every month, I give some money to a few organizations I believe are doing excellent work ministering to the poorest of the poor.
Even if you start by giving just a few dollars a month to meaningful causes and ministries, it’s great to establish the habit. I strongly recommend setting giving goals and working toward them month-by-month. Turn it into a regular habit, and take joy in the fact that you were able to give.
2. Put Your Money To Work
Many financial books aptly call this principle, “Pay Yourself First.” Take a percentage (like 10 percent) of everything you make and set it aside. This is money you will save, invest and grow for the rest of your life.
Even if you don’t make much money and even if you have loads of debt, start setting aside a little money and let it grow. This is money you are putting to work; its job is to grow. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, a relatively small amount of money can grow significantly over the span of a lifetime.
3. Use A Budgeting Tool
You will never learn to control your finances until you understand where your money is going. There are lots of good budgeting products available today, but my favorite by far is YNAB (You Need A Budget). It is the perfect tool for budgeting and planning ahead. It’s easy to see how my current choices are helping me reach my financial goals in the months and years ahead, which makes it very motivating to stay on budget.
Find a budget tool that works for you and get in the habit of taking time to plan how you will save, give and spend your money.
4. Make A Separate Checking Account For Entertainment
Expenses from entertainment and eating out can add up quickly. It’s a challenge because we all want to be with our friends when they go out, but not everyone can bare the awkwardness of ordering just water. Entertainment can be a quick budget-breaker.
One way to keep control is to put a predetermined, budgeted amount in a separate checking account every month with its own debit card. Then only use that card for entertainment. When the money is gone, you’ll have to wait until the next month for more nights out.
5. Stop Misusing Credit
Credit card debt is a growing problem today. Do whatever you can to avoid credit card debt throughout your life, and you will save tens of thousands in fees and interest.
One of the reasons credit cards can offer such great benefits is because people misuse them and pay for those perks a dozen times over. Pay credit cards off every month, or skip them altogether.
6. Be Content With What You Have
In addition to generosity, the Bible consistently commands God’s people be content with what they have. We should avoid a mentality where there is always one more thing we want or need. Instead, with gratitude, we should be content to steward all God has given us.
We live in a world with lots of stuff. It’s not bad to have or use stuff, but it is bad to love our stuff and to always want more stuff. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). We must learn to steward our resources in a way that cultivates contentment.
7. Educate Yourself
Whether you struggle with money or you’re doing well, keep learning and growing in this area. I read a book on financial wisdom almost every month. There are also helpful financial classes available in many places. Over time, I’ve learned a lot about stewarding money and have been able to improve my own finances. Make growing in financial wisdom and stewardship one of your lifetime priorities. Lord willing, it will allow you to provide generously for your family and countless others.
Don’t let your poor financial skills hinder your chances at a bright future. Start mastering these healthy habits now and you’ll have lots to look forward to.
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