Finance, a concept that many of us only heard in our adulthood and then, took us some time to understand, fully. Interestingly, my journey to become acquainted with it didn’t start formally, more by chance.
As any other young high school student, some 20 something years ago, having the means to indulge yourself with a choco-snack, an extra pair of jeans or simply buy a pretty looking brand name expensive notebook because of its looks was in the list of priorities. But how to get the money needed?
So you embark in all kinds of creative ideas to keep up with school, activities, social commitments and have some sort of income on the side, and let me share a little more in my personal journey: I had to make sure my grades were good enough not to lose my scholarship. As I am struggling to have the cash I want (not asking my parents for it) I found about this extra-curricular activity (martial arts) in my campus and after a couple of months practicing it I conclude that I want to formally learn it and invest myself in it. What do I need? Money!
Since my parents did not see this type of activity fit their daughter’s future, no support to pay for enrollment nor monthly private lessons was coming my way…. What should I do?
At that time I was already in college and continuing practicing martial arts as part of the school sports available to students, so I talked to the team’s coach about taking private classes in his dojo. He accepted having me as a student and in return I would work as an instructor’s assistant. My job was simple enough and as long as I was on time, I didn’t fail classes nor skip training, I would continue having private lessons. By the way, did I get money? No. Did I get what I want? I sure did!
Lesson 1 –
Exchange is a very good way to further your personal or professional goals. No money needed!
Time goes by and I was fully invested into my Martial Arts development; attending college, commuting from one spot to another, fulfilling school and work commitments and maintaining good enough grades to remain in the scholarship program taught me a couple of lessons:
- Discipline is everything – you learn to do things you don’t feel like doing and you refrain yourself from doing things you do want to do.
- Time management – we all have 24 hours everyday; it is our decision how we either invest or waste every second of it.
The much foreseen day to receive compensation (money.. yeah!) for the hours of work finally arrived; after 18 months exchanging time for lessons, I am given the opportunity to step it up and take more responsibilities. Evidently priorities have changed and I am faced with the challenge of managing a budget. Since I am now visualizing myself as a professional competitor, I need the proper gear to train, enough resources to subscribe to tournaments and traveling money when needed. But there is not enough for all of that at the moment. Ideas?
Two interesting concepts arrive to save the day: credit and extra-hours.
Using the Martial Arts’ franchise purchase leverage I obtained the gear needed with a better price paying monthly installments. To reduce my debt, I gave extra hours teaching to different classes including weekends.
In order to reach the goal, I had to control each expense and make sure basics were covered before considering entertainment or extras. An important lesson: saving is part of your basics, not an extra to have laying around. In other words:
Lesson 2 –
Have a planned budget!
It is important to dedicate a percentage of your income to savings; whether 10%, 15% or 25% is up to you, what is important is to do it every time money gets to you. Also, it is important to cover all the expenses that allow you to continue your daily life: food, transportation and also, consider your variable expenses, in my case printing material, books or just school supplies. Lastly, entertainment – decide in advance what is an affordable way to have fun and decide the budget you will use – keep it easy to track.
So how do you take these simple but powerful lessons into your everyday life?
Just like that: every day.
We tend to believe that Finance, Budgeting, understanding credit and loans is rocket science and you need to formally educate yourself in order to successfully use them to your advantage. Well that is simply not the case.
Every decision you make in any given day has a very basic formula behind: you are either investing in something or paying (expense) for something. If you are putting out money, hours or knowledge and there will be a return, known in the Finance world as ROI – return of the investment you are indeed, investing. For example, paying tuition for an education, taking a walk in the park or having an extra lesson with a teacher; all of those activities will give you something in return.
So how do you make sure to have a balance between investment and expenses? How can you identify in advance what is worth investing in and what are the best resources to use?
That my dear friend.. Is part of the next chapter.
For now, live well, decide wisely and enjoy the journey.