“You’re only young once” is what I heard from my mother recently as I lamented to her about my complete inability to save money. I finished college this time last year and I have been working full-time ever since. I don’t need to remind anyone how expensive it is to live in Dublin and this coupled with the fact that I still tend to take a rather student-like approach to my finances means that my savings are quite low (and by low, I mean non-existent).
I was surprised to hear my mother tell me not to worry about savings at my age – she is a staunch saver herself and when I had been working full-time long enough to start paying more tax she sat me down, talked me through my payslip, helped me budget my monthly salary and advised me to start saving for a mortgage (I’ve often thought that she should be in charge of the Department of Finance here in Ireland). I was horrified to even hear the word mortgage – I’m still having a hard time adjusting to paying for Internet access let alone a house. But the more I hear about how difficult it is nowadays for first-time buyers to get a mortgage, the more I think that maybe my mother had a point in advising me to start putting money away even now. A mortgage aside, any young person’s aspirations to go travelling or embark on a Master’s degree demand significant financial resources, and unless you’re lucky enough to win the Lotto or receive a generous inheritance (not so lucky for the predecessor) saving is the only way to go about acquiring such resources.
My mother reminding me that I’m only young once stemmed from me expressing my concern that saving money would require me to sacrifice certain other things – the opportunity cost of being financially responsible, if you will. While nights out and summer holidays may seem to many people like a small sacrifice to make for saving enough money for bigger, more long-term plans and aspirations, to me these are the little things that I look forward to and that make working worth it. I can’t help but wonder if saving money at the cost of the other things that make you happy is worth it in the long run – having a substantial figure in your savings account is all well and good but no one wants to reflect on their younger years with regret that they didn’t enjoy themselves a little more. Having said that, a person’s life extends far beyond their carefree years in their twenties and my 35-year-old self might be very displeased that 23-year-old me didn’t exert a little more self-control when it came to payday.
Perhaps it’s a little immature and short-sighted of me to assume that saving some money every month means I have to sacrifice all the other things I enjoy. As with everything, balance is key and there’s no real reason that I can’t cut down on my online shopping habit, and I can definitely stop bringing my debit card on nights out. If anything, knowing that my future plans and aspirations will require more money than I am likely to have at any one time will motivate me to work hard at my job and move up the salary scale. Saving for a mortgage may not be on my radar at the moment but regular saving is good practice for anyone at any age, as you never know what’s around the corner.