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7 Twenty-Somethings Reveal The Biggest Financial Lesson They’ve Ever Learned From Making A Mistake

The truth is, everyone makes a few money mistakes. It’s all part of the process of figuring things out. The silver lining is that from every financial snafu comes a solid financial lesson! Below, 7 young adults tell us what they’ve learned from their personal money mishaps.

1. Salaries are negotiable.

“When I signed the contract for my first ‘big kid job’ it honestly never even crossed my mind that I could (or should) talk about my salary. I was just so excited about being hired that I signed as quickly as I could.

Eight months later, while I was out with some coworkers, I learned that a guy I worked with was making way more than I made for doing the same job. What I realized right then is that I should’ve asked for a higher salary up front. Now I always negotiate before signing anything.”

— Molly, 26

2. Budgets are for everybody.

Living paycheck to paycheck is not a budget. For a few years after college, I didn’t manage my money carefully enough. These days, though, I’m so much more mindful about how I spend.

I still treat myself, but I know that every shopping choice I make affects my bottom line and I keep that in mind at all times. I make sure I’m living within my means. Not stretching myself and getting my checking account down to $5 just because I can’t stop myself feels way better than impulse purchases ever did.”

— Chris, 28

3. Yes, you need to have an emergency fund.

“I think everybody rolled their eyes at their parents who told them, ‘Make sure you have an emergency fund saved up.’ But no one rolled their eyes harder than me. And then my living situation became somewhat chaotic and I had to quickly find a new place to live. Had I had some cash saved, coming up with a deposit wouldn’t have been so tricky.

Now I know better. I am so good at hoarding money whenever I can because I’ve learned firsthand just how beneficial it is to have an emergency fund.”

— Anthony, 25

4. Credit cards are not free money.

“You can’t max out a credit card and just pay the minimum and expect everything to be easy breezy. They’re a responsibility. And one you have to take seriously. Treating your credit as a priority is something I definitely wish I’d done a lot earlier. Luckily, I learned to do this ”

— Eva, 27

5. Self-care is a luxury, not a right.

“We totally live in the age of ‘self-care’ culture. But me spending $100 every weekend on massages or bath bomb hauls on an entry-level salary wasn’t being good to myself—it was directly the opposite. Now when I do those things it’s an ACTUAL treat. And I feel so much better about not throwing my money around.”

— Sadi, 25

6. Convenience cannot outweigh cost.

“We all have endless apps on our phones that make immediacy possible with just the tap of our thumb. In the past, though, I wasted too much money on delivery fees, car services, and even ordering things like blankets and books to my door. It was silly, really, so I stopped. I’m so much better about thinking twice before I tap these days, and my wallet is really grateful to me for that reason.’”

— Mark, 28

7. Never try to keep up with the Joneses.

“At one point, I was kind of intimidated by my friends with fancy corporate jobs who had comped flights and a corporate apartment and expense accounts, so I would order a $15 cocktail I didn’t actually need and designer shoes I didn’t really care about just to make myself seem AS successful. That habit didn’t exactly do my bank account any favors, so I pledged to stop one day. Now, frankly, I am so much happier with the way I spend money. I know I don’t need to spend to prove anything to anyone.”

— Danielle, 29 Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This article is brought to you by Discover. Prepare for life’s biggest moments by checking your credit score for free from Discover, even if you’re not a customer. *See Credit Scorecard info.


About the author

Kendra Syrdal