After weeks of my financial tips I present to you my biggest tip of all: don’t worry about money. Seriously, don’t worry about it. Do think about it, but stressing yourself out over bills and debt won’t help make it go away. On the other hand, ignoring those things would also be a very, very bad idea.
The trick is being mindful. Make sure you are paying your bills on time, but don’t be obsessed by how much money is coming in and going out. Money really isn’t everything and definitely not worth turning yourself grey before your time. Not to mention, stress is the root of all kinds of medical problems and you get plenty of it from being in school anyway.
What’s important to remember is that life isn’t a straightforward path. We all like to think that getting good grades equals a degree, equals a ticket to jobs, equals money and stability, which finally equals happiness or really just freedom from stress. We like to think that, but it isn’t true. The fact is there is no guarantee the money you invest in your degree will benefit your chances in the job market. Nada. Zilch. Nothing is ever really guaranteed. Not everyone is going to have the same opportunities in life, yet you can still end up in the same place.
I considered enrolling in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for high school but decided against it after attending the info session. It sounded, well, stressful. Not the kind of thing that I thought I could handle at fourteen years old. The teachers raved on about the extra credit and extra preparedness for university, but I admit I was intimidated by the workload. In the end I chose a public high school program and yet here I am at UW with all kinds of IB alumni. I took a different path, but I still got where I wanted to go.
I remember those teachers and I see their same sense of urgency now around making money — or as we know it, being successful. The billboards, celebrities, relatives and advice columns are all screaming at you: Get rich now! Our graduates get more jobs! Join this program and money will come to you! Get promoted faster! Be a manager within five years! Have a Fortune 500 company before you’re 30!
It’s tempting. After all, wealth and power looks like a lot of fun. Buy whatever you want, never worry about bills. But the truth is getting overexcited about how much someone makes and how soon they’re making it is a trap. You want to be rolling in piles of money and bragging about how you make bank. Yet, this is hard to do when you’re a student with students’ bills. Then you feel bad because you’re not rich yet; inadequate even.
Relax. Feeling the crunch of little to no income and stacks of bills isn’t pleasant, but there’s a lot to enjoy in the struggle. Plenty of fun and frugal ways to get by exist—by borrowing from others, tapping government resources, curbing your spending, investing wisely, and making your own fun you will get everything you need out of life. Staying calm and confident about your position—no matter how bad it gets—will help you to make better financial decisions. And some positivity never hurt.
There are many sources which will tell you that it’s all about the money. There are just as many sources which will tell you it isn’t about money at all. Personally, I recommend the golden mean. You don’t need money to define your happiness and success (or stress you out), but you do need it to eat. So, be practical, my friends. Be frugal, but most of all, be free.