Frugal FI

The pursuit towards financial independence

Saving Money as a Teen – Challenges & 6 Saving Tips

One thing I would tell myself as a kid going through high school or college: It’s OK to start having financial goals and to start saving money.

I think the concept of saving money at a young age is strange and unfamiliar. Most teens get allowance money or work part-time jobs so they can spend money oImage result for piggy bankn the things they want or what their friends have as well. Let’s be honest, most teens do not or have not established a habit of saving money. For example, teens like to spend money eating out with friends, watching the latest most-talked about blockbuster movie at the theaters, buying new clothes, shoes, gadgets, etc.

There is nothing wrong with having fun, buying what you want, and in general, living out your early teens. We all should be having fun with our lives and buying what we want. But for the sake of this post, I want to keep focusing on those who are going through high school or college.

When I was in high school, I started a part-time job as a bagger at a local grocery store making around $9/hour. For my state, I think the minimum wage is fairly high compared to other states.  Now here’s a thought – Let’s say I worked a 6 hour shift. I earned $54 before taxes and union dues. Let’s say after taxes, I take home $45. As a teenager, I enjoyed eating out with friends, going shopping and buying a new pair of jeans and/or seeing the newest Fast and the Furious movie. A burger, drink and tip will cost me $14, a cheap pair of H&M pant will cost me $20, and a ticket to see a movie at the theater will cost me $13. Total cost? $47, all in a day’s worth!!! That means I worked 6 hours to spend a day at the mall and at the theater and I ended up not saving any of the money I earned. Instead, I actually had to dig into my account to buy for the remainder $2.

In a nutshell, that is how a lot of people – not just teenagers – behave with their money. Once I realized I was dedicating my whole day just for $50 or $60… I started to treat my money differently. Do I really need that pair of jeans? Do I need to buy new shoes right now? Is this new iPhone worth working over two weeks for? And just to throw in another 2 cents… The state of Washington has one of the highest minimum wage standards. There are plenty of other states where minimum wage is $3-4/hour. Imagine having to work 12 hours with no tip just to be able to buy a hot meal, a pair of jeans, and a movie ticket!

Changing How I Treat MoneyImage result for saving money as a teenager

I told myself it was more worth it to save my money. I didn’t need the latest new iPhone and a new pair of jeans wasn’t necessary. I found that it was more important to me to save my money, start an emergency fund and try to save my first $10,000. It didn’t mean I stopped hanging out with friends or stopped buying things overall. I budgeted my money and tried not to splurge. I was realistic with myself on what I should be buying and not just emptying my wallet for a day of fun.

Although I changed the way I treated money, it didn’t necessarily mean the people around me did.

The Concept of Saving Money Isn’t Hard… It’s the Judgement of your Peers

One thing that was hard about saving money was the judgement and concern of my friends AND family. At least for me, I started working a part-time job before my friends. It was hard for them Image result for blamingto understand why I chose to save money rather than save it. I was attempting to be frugal and mindful of what I wanted to spend my money on. After all, I forfeited my Friday nights and weekends dedicated to working my shifts. I worked really hard for every dollar. I even started couponing to help me save $.50 cents or a $1! Regardless, it was hard for those around me to see that I chose to save my hard-earned dollars rather than spending it all.

It is hard to defend yourself when your friends may not have the opportunity to learn about the significance or responsibility of saving money early on. Sometimes just by being asked why you’re saving money can make you feel guilty. I mean, what 18 year old do you know clips coupons, anyway? But if all they were going to do is call me cheap, well, that’s fine! I can still keep saving money.

If you can get over the hump that you may at times face others who question or cannot understand why you are starting “adult” habits (which is funny, because there are plenty of adults who are very bad at saving money), know that saving money can only benefit you and will put you in a great financial position.

I wouldn’t have been able to save $10,000 by the time I was 21 working only part-time jobs if I kept spending money or if I fell to peer pressure. I would not have a net worth of $70,000 at the age of 24 without kick starting my desire to be financially responsible at the age of 16/17. By starting today, whether you are in high school or in college, you’ll have a tremendous head start to being financially independent compared to the rest of your peers.

The earlier you start saving money, the better you are financially. Just to throw off a few reasons or benefits to saving money early on:

  • Your money has a longer opportunity to grow and compound.
  • If you start saving in high school, you won’t necessarily need to dive right into a job while in college, therefore allowing you to focus on your college schoolwork
  • If you’re going to college or you are already in college, you can start paying for your books, tuition expenses, bus passes and loans
  • You can have an emergency fund to help cover unexpected costs, like car issues or  replacing a broken phone – since teenagers will most likely be driving old cars or consider their phones as an absolute essential and need their phones to communicate with their friends/family/managers.
  • Saving money as a teenager helps create very important saving habits that can have a lasting effect and positively impact your future.

Tips on saving money as a teenager

  • Wants vs. needs
    Figure out your wants (what I think is a really must-have) vs. needs (what I really should prioritize my money on)
  • Create small and realistic goals
    Example: I want to try to save $50 in my savings account. Or, I want to try to limit my spending to $30 this week. Or, I want to open a checking and savings account and try to get $100 into my savings account. Or, I want to put away 20% of my paycheck into savings.
  • Keep track of what you are spending money on and then create a budget.
    Did you spend $200 on food in the past 4 weeks? Could you try to decrease it to $150 for next month? What about looking into making sack lunches?
  • Can it be coupon’d?
    Can you use a Groupon, Amazon Deal, or a local coupon in the grocery ad to save you some money? Being a smart shopper can help you save more of your money and pay less for the same goods.
  • Save it before you spend it! 
    When you receive your paycheck, aim to put 10-30% of it away, if possible.
  • Reward yourself
    Now that you have put away some money, you can choose to spend with the remainder amount. Remember, there isn’t anything wrong with treating yourself to a nice, juicy hamburger. As long as you are responsible with your money first.

Negotiating Your Salary: The $2,600 Email

Negotiating Salary During a Job Offer – How to Give Yourself a Raise Before You Start

Image result for salary raise

Here’s a little story that inspired me to write this post about negotiating salary during the job offer phase. Side note: As someone that works with early-in-career students or recent grads, my passion is to help them jump start their career and be a coach, mentor, or someone they can go to for advice. Often, I see that my Interns/Associates do not counter offer or even bother to negotiate their job offers because they simply think the offer is good enough or they can’t possibly imagine being worth more. Here’s the story of my boyfriend working through the job offer and landing himself a higher salary:

The $2,600 Email

My boyfriend has been interning part-time since January as he finishes he completes his Bachelor’s degree. He recently graduated in March and his team began working on a full-time offer. Earlier this week, he received his offer: A whopping $79,400 for an Analyst position!

For someone that has just recently graduated with a non-STEM major and with entry level experience, that is a lot of money! And usually, that’s what you’d tell yourself as you agree and sign the offer. Here’s my pro-tip: never, ever sign the dotted line without negotiating the offer at hand.

As practiced, my boyfriend thanked the recruiter for the amazing offer. He proceeded to ask if there was an opportunity to counter offer, in which the recruiter then relayed the request to the hiring manager. After being informed that the manager was wondering what the counter offer was, he proposed his offer. He also inquired about a possible signing bonus or for company stock. When he asked, the awesome part was… the recruiter was excited to hear that this candidate (my boyfriend) spoke up and asked about negotiating because she rarely encountered this with young or recent grads. She was that excited, she proceeded to tell him to write up his salary counter (with reasons why he wanted to counter) and she offered to edit his email if needed prior to sending to his hiring manager.

In the e-mail, he again thanked the recruiter/hiring manager for the offer and shared his enthusiasm for being able to convert full-time with his team. He then wrote he wanted to negotiate on the salary and three key paragraphs to state why he deserved a higher wage. He elaborated on his current experience, including the work and projects he has already completed, performed and/or achieved on his team. Second, he referred to multiple and reputable online databases with salary statistics and market value in his local city. Lastly, he pointed out a certificate he was in the process of earning that pertained to his role and his timeline for earning more certificates that were recommended for his team.

With all that written out, in his fourth paragraph, he then wrote his counter offer for $83,000 and expressed his thankfulness for the offer. The same day, he received a call from his recruiter that the hiring manager had offered at $82,000, including a $3,000 stock bonus in which he accepted.

By simply not jumping the gun on the initial offer, requesting for negotiation, and arming himself with data points in an email, he had given himself a $2,600 raise before even starting the role. And, through this post, I am hoping that each and every one of you will do that, too.

Tips On How You Can Counter Offer

Image result for salary raise

Know Your Self-Worth

I think a lot of people undersell themselves. I don’t think I am worth this much. I didn’t think I’d get the job. I don’t feel qualified. I am lacking in these skills. Compared to my peers, I don’t have as much experience.

Boy, I get so furious when people come to me, asking about career advice, and they start off by underselling themselves to me. Some people tell me they don’t even bother applying to certain roles they are interested in because they become intimidated by the job description and qualifications list. They tell themselves they can’t get the job even before they apply.

Know your worth. Did you work through internships in college? Did you learn how to code? What projects helped you develop/acquire valuable skills that are applicable to the role?

If you interned at a company and are receiving a job offer for a full-time role on the team, did you work on important projects that impacted the team/company? Did you build important internal/external relationships? Were you proactive or showed initiative on your team? What are some accomplishments you’ve made while on your team? What are your short or long term goals within the team?

Know your worth and the value you bring to the team. And, during the negotiating phase, don’t be afraid to talk about your value.

The Worst They Can Say is No

Let’s roll back to the moment when you were behind your desk and looking at jobs. Let’s imagine you found a job and you were reading through the job description and skimming through the qualifications. You immediately become intimidated or unsure whether you should apply for the job despite your interest in the company and role. You’re afraid you won’t receive the opportunity for an interview… And with that, you move on to looking at other jobs.

Let me tell you… rejection sucks, yes, but nothing is worse is telling yourself you won’t get the job before even applying. And, if you do manage to apply – what is the worst that can happen? Think about it. The worst that can happen is a company saying ‘no’. Literally. It doesn’t mean you can’t apply to other jobs or improve your resume. It doesn’t mean granny is suddenly going to lose her health insurance.

If you don’t even bother taking the chance to apply to a role, you’ve effectively given yourself 0% to snag that role.

When Landing an Offer, Hold the Pen

If you’ve managed to get to the offer stage, don’t sign or don’t say ‘yes’ when the recruiter asks for your verbal agreement or signature. What you want to do at this point is ask to negotiate or jump into negotiating. But, don’t simply just throw a number out. You need to come armed with strong reasons as to why you think you deserve more pay.

Data, Data, Data… Yadda, Yadda!

Let’s say in an example, you were given a job offer and the pay they are willing to offer you is $50,000. Great, they’ve offered you $50,000 but you think you’re worth $60,000. Are you just going to say that to them? No! You have to come with data points and strong reasons for why they should pay you more. A company’s job during the offer phase is to ensure they can strike a good deal on you. Your job is to make sure you get a good deal for the worth you are going to provide for the company. If you think you can walk into the negotiating room and tell them you’re worth $10,000 more without any data points, you’re going to look like a clown.

Additionally, a strong point does not mean “I think I am worth $10,000 more because I need to pay my bills” or “I want $10,000 more so I can buy my dream truck”. Great, you want your dream car and you need to pay your bills… But how exactly does giving you $10,000 more justify the value you bring to the table?

You need to identify what they are looking for in a candidate and why your key experiences, strengths, and skills are worth $10,000 more.

If They Don’t Wiggle on Salary, What About Other Things?

Some companies have different compensation packages. Some can negotiate on 401K matches, vacation days, signing bonuses, and company stock. So, be sure to ask about other ways you can be compensated if the salary is something they cannot work with you on.


Rewarding Yourself with Experiences

Different Strokes for Different Folks – Spending Money on “Experiences”Image result for skydiving experience

Budgeting is a fun, challenging and rewarding task. Sure, budgeting does sound boring, but I strangely feel accomplished when I tell myself that’s right, no! You can’t spend money in this category.

But the point of this post isn’t to talk about why budgeting is exciting to me. I want to talk about the opposite. When people think of the word budget, they think of restricting themselves, spending less, being “cheap” and being more mindful of how much money they are spending on something. And, that can be widely off-putting to many. So, I’d like to talk about the importance of rewarding yourself with experiences, too.

To note, an experience is whatever thing, act, object, or moment that provides you joy, a fond memory, or something you consider a reward. I want to state this because I recognize that people value the same experience differently. For example, there are things I personally cheap myself out on. You definitely wouldn’t catch me buying fancy toilet paper or an espresso machine. However, I recognize that just because I don’t buy a certain thing or pay a certain amount of dollars for something because I don’t see any value in it doesn’t mean someone else feels the same way.

Image result for nespressoLike I said, you won’t catch me with an espresso machine because I don’t value having one, but to someone else, that could be a very useful and cost-efficient equipment for them, especially as a solution to buying a cup of Starbucks everyday. We all value certain experiences, toys, or gadgets differently. To add more examples, for some, traveling is a very rewarding experience. For others, it may be buying the expansion pack for their online video game. Different strokes for different folks. I realize that it may be easy for someone to spend $2,500 on a winter trip skiing on the alps at Whistler and find it absolutely worth it. For others, maybe not so much. Maybe for some, spending $700 on a new camera is the key to their joy. So, you get the point now?

I wanted to really drill this idea because often times, I see people quickly judging others for “wasting” money on certain toys and gadgets, only to turn around and tell them they should be spending money on traveling, instead, because it would be a “much better experience”. So my point is…

Find what is rewarding to you. Is it a $1,500 road trip across the country? Is it a Jacuzzi in the backyard? Is it a new phone? Or is it just staying home with your dog? Whatever it is, recognize that you can decrease the costs in areas where you wouldn’t necessarily find a lot of enjoyment in (for example, if a new phone is not something you really care to have, then don’t buy a new phone every year). And, reasonably increase or maintain the costs for experiences you find absolute value in (if a week-long trip to Mexico is what you look forward to every year, plan and budget for it!).

I know for myself that I am not one to save all my vacation hours and spend a 3 week vacation in Barcelona. Or, anywhere for that length of time for that matter. I’m much more content spending my vacation hours here and there, staying at home and not traveling. But again – DIFFERENT strokes for DIFFERENT folks.


Saving all your money and doing nothing is boring and depressing. Yes, you save money so you can one day quit your 9-5 job and have the freedom to do whatever you want in your life. But, you are also living right now. You still need balance in your life now. If a ski trip, a Chinese takeout meal or a new phone is what you find personally rewarding, then perhaps that’s an experience you should pursue. If all you are doing is saving your money, eating extremely cheaply, and overall, unhappy with your life right now, then you will easily burn out and fall into the depths of depression. Find what is rewarding to you and pursue it.

A QUICK CAVEAT…Image result for budgeting

Now, I am not saying go buy that brand new $45,000 luxury car. I mean, YOU CAN. But, if you are swimming in your student loans, mortgage payments, and trying to raise a child with a $40,000 salary… Perhaps this isn’t the wisest choice for you. Know your limits, understand what experience provides you joy and value, and know, absolutely freakin’ KNOW what is affordable within the budget you’ve created.

At the end of the day, pursuing financial independence is about placing yourself in a solid financial position. When you are financially responsible with your money, when you don’t spend more than you make, when you are budgeting and living within your means, when you are saving, and when you can still reward yourself… You are on track to being financially independent.

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