May 15, 2013

Advice I Wish I Would Have Gotten (or taken) Upon Graduation

I just completed my master's degree. WOOT.

Going back to school in my 30s was a very different experience than going to into an undergrad program fresh out of high school. While I still went into more debt this time around with student loans, I was much more aware of their impact than I had been at 22. After 15 years in the "real world" I've realized some things I wish someone would have told me (or I wish I would have listened to).

So in celebration of all the recent or about-to-be graduates, whether high school, undergrad, graduate, or others, I'd like to share the 15 simple pieces of advice I wish I would have gotten (or taken) my first time walking that stage.

1. Money doesn't buy you happiness. But it does buy you choices. And those choices can help bring you happiness. (I should have listened, Dad.)

2. Live below your means. WELL below. Buy less, conserve energy, make food from scratch. As you make more money, keep living on the same amount, and sock the rest away.

3. Cut up your credit card, and pay in cash. For EVERYTHING (food, clothes, car, house).

4. They'll say you need a credit card to get a credit history so you can get a loan someday. But you don't need excellent credit — or any credit at all — if you always pay in cash.

5. Don't sell your soul for a job, but don't underestimate your worth either.

6. Invest early, and often, and more than you think you should.

7. Things are just more to pack when you move. Find happiness with no more permanent things in your life than will fit in your car (minus a good mattress).

8. Call your mother, and grandmother. They worry, and they miss you, and it will warm their hearts to know you were thinking about them.

9. If you are not 100% sure that an item fits your exact need, fits you well, or will be used often, do not buy it. Instead, try to borrow something that fits the bill.

10. Meet your neighbors. Know their names. Make eye contact. I'm not saying you have to be friends, but be neighborly. These people are the closest geographically that can help you out if you need a cup of sugar, a push out of a snowbank, or a ride to the hospital.

11. Utilizing second hand, reused, and repurposed items is more socially and environmentally responsible than buying something new made out of recycled or organic materials.

12. Where something you plan to purchase is made, and who made it, matters. Really matters.

13. A car does not give you freedom. It ties you to a costly way to travel. Break up with your car. Going by bike, or foot, is limitless.

14. Keep in touch with friends and other people you meet along the way (preferably with actual, hand-written letters). If you don't, you will regret it later.

15. "Do the best that you can in the place where you are, and be kind." (Thanks for that one, Scott Nearing. Words to live by.)

What advice do you wish you'd have gotten? What advice would you give a new graduate?

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