Most Important Thing for Young Adults to Learn

On Friday, my wife and I were making our plans to go to Costco so that we could stock up on our food. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been too busy to go to Costco and we finally had a free evening. We did what everyone would do: talk about what we want to eat, what items we needed to get, and finalize our list. We grabbed a few bags and headed out.

After we had dinner at the food court (can you say cheapest date ever?!), we were walking through the aisles. I remembered seeing a solar-powered generator and my prepare-for-anything mentality kicked in. I had seen this generator before and had already been thinking about how we are likely months away from another week-without-power storm (if the last two years are any indication). I started to think about how nice it would be to have a generator that could run our refrigerator for a couple hours each day, how we could charge our electronics, among other things. The common theme running through my mind?

I “need” to buy this.

How to Say, “No!”

Mrs. 20s could see my mind turning as I inspected the features of this unnecessary item. Before I could formulate my argument for getting this generator, my awesome wife was there to set me straight. She didn’t hesitate to hit me where it hurts: our financial goals. She immediately brought up the point that we were saving for a down payment for our home. Her words were something like, “We can’t afford to buy this if we want to buy a home anytime soon.”

And she was right. I knew this, but somehow had momentarily convinced myself that I didn’t care – that this was more important. I had a moment of failure, a relapse, if you will.

In many ways, I wish I had a better story for you. A story where I dug down deep within myself and found some way to convince myself that will power was more important than my self indulgence to consumerism… But I don’t. The main reason why I don’t own a solar-powered generator right now is because of Mrs. 20s. She was and often is, the voice of reason. And that’s okay.

What Young Adults Need to Learn

If someone were to ask me what’s most important to financial success for young adults, or what young adults need to learn most, it would be self-control – the ability to resist consumerism. The priority of learning this life skill over others is based on a number of reasons:

  1. Spending less is the easiest way to increase your cash flow. We all know it’s not easy to earn more money or get a raise at work, but the thing you can control is how much you spend. It’s not easy, by any means, to reduce any part of your budget, but it is within your own power to do so.
  2. Spending less money also means you need less to live on, less money for retirement, and many other things. This take a lot of pressure off of you and your family. The last thing you want to do is to create pressure for yourself by having a high-cost of living.
  3. Young adults, from my experience, spend more time online, watching tv, and ultimately as a result, exposed to ads. While we like to convince ourselves that we are not swayed by advertisements, the truth is that they influence our decisions when we see them often.
  4. Young adults have the option to create habits, good or bad, that will change the rest of their lives. While older people should still work on changing their habits in a positive ways, young adults have more to gain by learning this lesson now.

Learning to control your urges to spend money on unnecessary items is a difficult skill to learn. I do, however, believe an important element is creating financial goals – things that can keep your energy focused on something positive.

Readers, how have you learned to control your urges to spend money?

12 Responses to Most Important Thing for Young Adults to Learn

  1. We use my wife’s student loan debt as our motivator. It is down below $40,000 which is awesome considering it started above $80,000. If we bought a ton of useless stuff the debt would still be much higher.

  2. I would tell anyone going to Costco, take a list (as you did), and stick to it. Anything not on the list goes into the “Gee, that would be neat to have,” part of your brain, and then gets shelved for at least 24 hours. If the “neat to have” item becomes a “must have item” after 24 hours, then go back and buy it. Most items, though, remain as “neat to have” items, which you don’t really need.

  3. I have to remind myself to walk away from things all the time. Most of the time it works.

  4. Our financial success or failure hinges on the amount of discipline we develop. Have it and we win. (I love the Costco food court. Our family of six can eat there for around $15!)

  5. moneystepper says:

    Thinking about the future impact of short term decision is always the best motivator for me. This is true for anything, but is easy to quantify for financial decisions.

  6. I just have to constantly remind myself about my financial goals. While it’s easier to give into short-term temptation, long-term financial freedom is so much more important. Great job resisting the urge to buy that generator!

  7. I’ve challenged myself to spend nothing except gas to get to work and bills for a month. It really is doable and not that hard. The first step is to limit the amount of advertising that you subject yourself to…

  8. I agree learning how to say “no” is an essential lesson in life. Learning to let go and choosing our battles, are also some of the important things for young adults to learn.

  9. dojo says:

    You are fortunate to have such a wife ;)

    Sometimes we do think that we ‘need’ stuff and it’s harder to resist the urge, especially when it’s not something frivolous. If you had your mind on some fancy shoes for instance it would be easier for you to say ‘hey, I don’t think it’s OK’, but in this case you had your mind on something that could be useful in the household. I think the ‘danger’ lies in this area, when we waste money on things that we could really use, even if it’s not the right time to purchase them ;)

  10. Mark Ross says:

    As a young adult myself, I can’t help but agree with you on those. Especially, on the learning to say “NO” part.

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