I recently had the opportunity to go to Indiana INTERNnet’s Intern Meet & Greet with Pete… Pete the Planner. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a financial planner by day and comedian by night. Well, he used to be until he decided to combine the two into one. Now, he writes for USA Today and is the author of ten books. He appears on local news broadcasts regularly to advice others on how to make yourself more financially successful. While he was speaking to the group of interns, he catered his speech to appease his audience by talking about student budgeting and student loans.
He started out by asking us how we paid for our social lives during college. Typically, it’s one of four answers. First, you have a job during the school year that funds your expenses. Or, you have a summer job so you store up your cash and deplete it throughout the year. Third, you use your student loans to fund your social life. Fourth, you get money from your mom and dad. Pete said the best way to fund yourself is to have a job during the school year, because that’s what teaches you the best money habits. You’re not saving and then spending (summer job), you’re not being a parasite on someone else’s bills (mom and dad’s earnings), and you’re not using money that you have to pay interest on for the next 10 or so years (student loans).
One thing he said that really stuck out to me was that “college is training you to eat at the food court or other restaurants,” and “eating out is trading money for convenience.” I’ve realized how true his statements were. I don’t have a meal plan, because I’m in apartment-style living. However, some days I wish I could have the freedom to just spend money and grab something quick to eat. Most of my friends have some sort of meal plan, I can see how convenient it is and why people enjoy it. But if you are willing to sacrifice time for money, you’ll quickly see how much money you can save … you might even have an external benefit by eating healthier!
I learned a lot about home mortgages from Pete’s presentation, as well. Did you know that if you have a 30-year mortgage on a $200,000 house, you’re going to be paying $108,000 more in interest when compared to a 15-year mortgage? See the thing is, home ownership is not about investing. It’s about being able to afford to live in your house. I guess it’s nice to have a really cool house, but if you can’t afford any social activities, what’s the point of even having the nice house? That’s some food for thought.
An emergency fund is just that… a fund for emergencies. If you break your leg and can’t work for a little while, you should be able to use some of your emergency fund that you’ve locked away. How much should be in your emergency fund be, you ask? Pete the Planner suggests you should set aside enough funds for you to live off of for three months.
I think what he really wanted us to know was that we need to start budgeting now, but don’t be too aggressive or else your budget won’t be a sustainable model. Creating good habits starts today. If you go to his web site, you’ll find a link under “tools” in which you can sign up and receive a worksheet that will show you exactly how much you should be spending on what. I HIGHLY encourage you, whether you’re a student or a professional, to head over there and just take a look at what he suggests. I know when I got home from his event: I downloaded the worksheet and budgeted my life right away. Do yourself a favor and just take a look at it and see what you think… your wallet will thank you!