Your Youth Experiences Shapes Your Values

This is especially true in how people come to define the value of money for themselves.

A lot of people I met in medical school and even now, have never worked before becoming doctors.  Many of them grew up in affluent families and never had to work as teenagers, then, of course, they were too busy studying to get into medical school and then too busy trying to survive medical school. For them, their first jobs as physicians were the first “real world” jobs they have had.

Obviously, there are many others who have different stories to tell.  I’m one of those people. I started working at age 15. I didn’t have to, but my family was very frugal.  They didn’t spend money unless they felt it helped with our education and advancement, or if it was absolutely necessary. There was very little money spent on fun and pleasure.

For me, working wasn’t just about adding to my resume for college and medical school.  It was giving me some pocket money and a bit of freedom to do things and buy things without my parents’ permission.

What Jobs Did I Have?

In high school, I worked as a filing assistant in a doctors office, at Hardee’s as a cashier (the equivalent on the west coast is Carl’s Jr.); in college, I was a librarian and then a tutor; in medical school, I didn’t work because you can’t (too much time needed for studying).  In addition, while growing up, here and there, I would babysit neighborhood kids.

None of these jobs is anything to brag about or to tell stories about.  However, they were jobs. As I’ve progressed through school, I’ve been able to tell the difference between how I viewed money and how my classmates, who never worked, did.  Much of it stems from the differences in our backgrounds, how we were raised and what we were taught as kids, and whether or not we held jobs growing up.

Generally speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that people who had jobs as teenagers, especially in the service industry, have much greater respect for their paychecks and tend to have a better understanding of the value of money. My job at Hardee’s was by far the hardest one I’ve ever had; I came away from it with the greatest respect for those that do it.

Given my own experiences and background, I wanted to put together some lessons that I’ve learned about the value of money and that has come with me along the way.  These are things that I still employ to this day, even though my paycheck is much higher.

Respect The Paycheck

You put in long hard hours to earn every penny that comes through on your paycheck.  It needs to be respected. Respecting the money also shows respect for yourself and the hours and time you put into earning it.

What do I mean by respect? I mean don’t take it for granted, don’t spend it just because you have it or you can, and try to make it work for you in the most fruitful way possible. For instance, invest so that your money makes money, spend it on the best deals you can get so that you maximize your cash value, and always make sure that you give thanks for your ability to make as much as you do.

Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have

I’m not sure why people do this; keeping up with the Jones isn’t a thing.  The Jones don’t exist! So stop trying to do things that put you ahead because you will never be ahead. Instead, focus on the things you truly need.  Recreational spending should be reserved for after you pay the bills and invest. Whatever you have leftover is what you have to spend on things you want.  Stay within that limit!

Being Frugal Will Always Pay Off

It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true! The more you save and look for the best deals, the longer each paycheck will last, OR the more of each paycheck you save.  Why do you need to save? Well, for a rainy day, for emergencies, for transition periods in case you need to change jobs, and for big purchases (if you pay for them right off you avoid debt!).

Delayed Gratification Wins

Impulse buys are never a good idea; buying what you want as soon as you see it, also not a good idea.  Instead, waiting, shopping around, asking yourself if you really need it/can afford it…those things should all happen first.  For me personally, I make myself wait for sales or coupons, or I check to see if there’s some deal through ebates. However much of a discount I think I can get myself, I do it.

To this day, I have never regretted waiting; but I have always regretted jumping the gun too quickly

Take Care Of What You Do Buy

Hand in hand with the above, the more you have to wait for something, save for something, or want for something, the more you will value it.  The opposite is also true, the quicker you buy something, the quicker it loses its value. How many things have you purchased in the last year that you haven’t even thought about? That is sitting in your closet untouched? Or on the floor in a corner somewhere because you just don’t care?

When we don’t watch and respect and value where we put our money, then the items we purchase also lose value.  That’s sad. Everything you buy should bring you continued satisfaction and usefulness, and you should WANT to treat your purchases well.  The second you realize that you don’t care about the things you spend your money on, that’s when you know that you also don’t care about your money.

The More You Try To Be Frugal, The More You’ll Find Deals

Seriously, though.  Many times you won’t find a good deal simply because you aren’t looking for it or asking for it. However, if you approach each purchase or each shopping spree with the idea that you’re going to find the best deals, then you’ll find them, or they’ll fall into your lap.

A recent example from my life: I bought some new bedding and decided that I didn’t like the way it looked.  I returned it and then went looking again. I found something I thought kind of worked, but the pricing was weird and didn’t match anything else on the shelf, so I asked the cashier specifically to tell me if the item was returnable–just in case.  She scanned it and told me it was 90% off. I literally paid 10% of the original price for brand new, king-sized bedding.

Some of this is luck, some of it, I think, just works out in your favor.  As long as you put into the universe that you want to save money, it somehow works out that you will.  This may not hold true for everything, but every now and again you’ll get a nice surprise.

Experiences Last Much Longer Than Material Things

I know this topic is all the rage now, almost like a fad, but it’s so so true.  I know some people who prefer spending on material things because they “use” them daily.  But, when styles change, you’ll be chasing the next item. Chasing material goods will never give you the satisfaction or fulfillment as chasing experiences.

Experiences give you stories to tell later; wisdom to pass on and to apply to your life; gives you perspective and helps you feel gratitude for the things you ALREADY HAVE.

So when you start spending that paycheck, pay attention to where and what you’re getting in return.  Remember, it’s your hard-earned funds; if you’re not keeping it, then you should be getting something worthwhile in exchange.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Money can give you many things–security, a roof over your head, food on the table, insurance–but it ultimately cannot pay for you to be happy.

Being happy comes from within, and comes from a place where you feel fulfilled in your life.  Fulfillment does not come from material things; it comes from knowing your place, knowing yourself, and feeling like you’re making a difference or an impact. So, if you think your spending on things you “want” is bringing you some good, time to reassess.

If You Can, Donate

This goes hand in hand with basically all of the above.  Making a difference for someone else brings a more positive feeling than continuing to just do for yourself.  So, again if you’re going to part with your cash, make sure it’s in exchange for this level of satisfaction.

Plus, if you donate a certain amount every year, you can get a tax break.  Just saying, not everything you do for others needs to be detrimental to you.

Don’t Hire A Financial Advisor

I can’t repeat this enough; you don’t need help from someone else to invest your money.  The amount you will pay that person in fees you can just invest! There are so many easy ways to do this on your own.  Here’s one example of some ways you can get started: get your finances in order. In addition, there are dozens of blogs and articles out there detailing exactly how to open investment accounts.

By: Author Sanjana Vig, MD, MBA

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