The old proverb says, “Money can’t buy you happiness,” but as my Economics teacher often tacks on, “It sure can buy you everything else.” Whether or not we like to admit it, money is vastly important in today’s world; it is something to be valued, not tossed about carelessly. Too often, however, people don’t want to plan their finances. It’s much easier to just live paycheck-to-paycheck or loan-to-loan, and we are constantly barraged with advertisements informing us of a new product that we surely can’t live without. But the easy way is almost never the best way, and so it goes with finances as well.
Good financial planning isn’t just a concept; it’s a way of life. As a child to immigrant parents that came to the United States with little more than $100 to their name, my childhood has been peppered with lessons on the value of money. I have learned how to set aside savings even when I want to spend, I have come to understand the value of coupons, and I have adopted a do-it-yourself attitude whenever possible. These separate ideas are certainly useful, but they hint at a bigger core concept: money is hard-earned and you should plan ahead for future expenses.
My very first lesson in financial planning came when I was only eight. My allowance was five dollars every week, but I wanted a bike that cost around $100 because all my friends had just gotten “really cool” bikes. My dad agreed only to match what I saved up. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince him to just buy it for me, so after supplementing my allowance with extra chores, I had the money in a little more than a month. Right around this time, the brand-new Gameboy Advance was released. After careful consideration, I ended up buying the Gameboy and purchasing another bike at a garage sale with the remaining money. My friends’ parents were reluctant to buy a Gameboy right after buying bicycles, but because I’d saved up, I got both things that I wanted with my own hard-earned money.
Bikes and Gameboys seem like trivial matters now, but the lesson stuck: planning ahead and thoughtful purchases, not impulsive spending, bring greater rewards in the long run. Advance financial planning has enabled me to pay for my own clothing, gas money, and even this year’s senior class trip. In the future, I know it will help me pay for college, an apartment, and a retirement fund. To most people, the words “financial planning” or “budget” trigger a shudder of disgust or horror. To me, it simply means that I need to be responsible with my money in the present so that in the future, I can get the bike and the Gameboy.