One of the things you must do as a young entrepreneur is to learn how to manage money. You need to understand the basics of business finance. At some point in your life, you’ll be completely responsible for your own money. You should practice saving and investing now, when the stakes are relatively low.
Before you get overwhelmed by the thought of taking care of money by yourself, we have some tips to make the process easier.
KEEP TRACK OF WHERE YOUR MONEY COMES FROM
Where do teens get their money?
As money comes to you, make a point to keep track of how much you get and where it comes from. This will help you better understand how much you have at any given point, as well as plan for future income (like money from relatives on your birthday).
MAKE A LIST OF NEEDS VS WANTS
If you’re lucky enough that all your basic needs are met by your parents or guardians – food, shelter, clean water, transportation, school supplies, clothes – then your entire list will be “wants.” Wants are anything beyond the basics you need to survive, stay healthy, and be successful in school.
Keep in mind that others may have different needs than you. A friend who stays late at school and walks home alone may need a cell phone for safety reasons. A classmate who drives their younger siblings around or works at an afterschool job out of town needs a car.
- A newer cell phone
- A better car
- Trendy clothes
- In-game merch
- Your own computer
- A trip with friends
Some wants may feel like needs but ask yourself if you really can’t survive without them.
TRACK YOUR SPENDING
Now that you understand where your money comes from and what you’d like to spend it on, you can start tracking your spending. This is an important habit to get into. Even adults sometimes lose track of where their money goes. That’s how people end up in debt. You can use a fancy tracking app if you want, but you can also keep a log on a spreadsheet or in a journal. Write down every penny you spend. You might be surprised at where your money goes!
Once you’ve tracked your spending for a few months, look for trends or repeats. Small “treats” can add up over time if they become regular habits. For example, that $10 per day you spend on buying lunch at school adds up to $50 a week and around $200 a month. Can you bring lunch from home, even just once a week? Imagine what you can do with the money you’ll save!
UNDERSTAND HOW SAVING WORKS
In the example above we showed you how saving $10 a day can add up to $200 a month. Remember, every little bit adds up to a lot. That includes how much you spend and how much you save.
Let’s say you want a new game for your PC. The game costs $40. If you set aside just $1 a day, you’ll have saved up for the game in just over a month. Want that game faster? Go back to your list of wants and see if there’s something you can skip or give up for a while.
HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND
Teen emergencies are not the same as adult emergencies. You don’t necessarily have to put aside enough savings to support yourself for 6 months. However, life is unpredictable, and you may find you need extra cash for:
- Fixing a cracked screen on your phone
- Keeping your startup afloat
- A last-minute weekend away
- School events
- Helping a friend or sibling
Besides these emergencies, think about future events you know will require you to spend money. Birthdays and holidays are hardly surprises. You can set money aside for gifts all year long so that as they approach, you’re ready.
BE SMART ABOUT CREDIT CARDS
There are reasons why credit card companies love to set up shop on college campuses at the start of the school year. They target incoming freshmen who are excited to be on their own and independent for the first time. They know that many college kids are supported by parents who can bail them out of credit card debt. And they count on young people like you to make unwise choices when it comes to credit cards and spending.
Before you sign up for a credit card and go on a spending spree, know what you’re getting into. Credit card companies make money by charging interest on your purchases. That interest can add up over time. You’ll wind up owing much more than you spent and it could take years to pay that off. Do you really want to still be paying off a $10 purchase in five years?
It’s worth reading this piece on credit card basics for teens. Also, consider practicing for a credit card by using a debit card first. A debit card is directly connected to a bank account and only lets you spend money you already have.
START A SAVINGS ACCOUNT NOW
The sooner you open a savings account, the more money you’ll have in the future. It’s simple math. Savings accounts pay interest for the privilege of holding your money. THAT’S FREE MONEY. The more you save and the longer you leave your money in the account, the more freemoney you get. So start now!
Once upon a time, “investing” looked like something only rich old dudes did. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case for a while. And while investing may seem intimidating, it’s become something anyone can do. Even you!
This interactive page on TheMint.org will provide you with the basics of what you need to know to start investing. E-Trade also has an interactive page where you can figure out your future money needs and how investing can help you get there. And this article breaks down the types of investing that are best for teens like you.
Managing your own money doesn’t have to be a huge time suck that breaks your brain. You don’t need to give up things you love, either. Just be smart, pay attention, and know what you’re getting into. Before long you’ll be a money management pro!
The Kantner Foundation offers college scholarships to young Florida entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Click here to see if you are eligible!