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How I Wish I Would Have Spent My Entry Level Salary

When I entered my career, my life changed. I began to earn more than my mother when I was interning at $12 an hour. When I landed my first entry-level position, I made a little under both of my parent’s income combined. It was a blessing, but I also made a lot of mistakes. Specifically looking at my first two years of working, I realized there were a lot of things I should have done and should not have done.

I wish I would have put more into savings.

Looking back, I realized how little I saved my first year or so with my new earnings. I was putting something aside each pay period, but I could have definitely  saved a lot more. I wish I would have taken the time to think about things that I would desire in two to five years and start saving for those goals earlier. I wish I would have begun saving for a down payment on a house right away, even though I didn’t foresee myself being a homeowner for at least another several years.  I wish I would have picked an amount to automate out instead of my biweekly savings number being dependent on life circumstances and how I felt. Now I am an aggressive saver and have two savings accounts, one locally for emergencies and one online that requires more effort to withdraw funds.

I wish I would have started investing immediately.

Even if it was just with a tiny amount of money, I wish I would have started investing with my first paycheck. Compound interest was something that I’ve learned in a business course in college, however, I still found myself hesitant to invest. I was hesitant to put my hard-earned money into something that could be lost vs putting it in a bank. I realized the root of my fear involved two things. First, I was approaching investing with a short-term strategy where I would be on edge constantly with the daily fluctuations of the market. The second was that I simply needed to do more research. A mentor once told me preparation reduces hesitation. Whether that means joining your company’s 401k plan as soon as possible, getting an IRA account, or even investing in individual stocks and bonds, just do it.

I wish I would have built my credit up more before getting loans.

I took out a car loan about 3 months after getting my first credit card. In my defense, I was driving a hoopty. I had a 2003 cavalier that had body damage and one of the windows wouldn’t roll down. The new state that I was in required my car to pass certain inspections before I could get it registered.  I was being told that not only would my car fail inspection, but it would cost more to repair than it was worth. At the time I felt like I had no choice but to get a new car. In fact, I got a 2018 car when it was still 2017! I paid for that mistake. I had not built up enough credit, my car payment was a lot, and the interest was very high. I should have waited. I should have saved up to buy a used car or saved up enough to put down a larger down payment as well as worked on building my credit. On the bright side, I refinanced two years later. My car note, along with my student loans and credit card helped build my credit up. Still, I think about all of the extra money I could have saved if I were a little more patient.

I wish I would have eaten out less.

It is very easy to not bring lunch to work. The food trucks, the indoor cafeterias, the neighboring restaurants, co-workers venmo-ing each other for an order, it’s all very tempting. Then of course there was going out on the weekends, and even days when cooking just felt like a burden. Eating out is just so convenient until it eats at your budget and the next thing you know you’ve spent an unbelievable amount of  dollars a month, and thousands a year on it. Once reality began to set in, I realized that I needed to get better at meal prepping and stick with it.

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