Growing up, I never thought I would be the kid who gets excited about saving money. I always put the "fun" percentage of my allowance and my birthday money and all that I earned towards whatever goodies I had my eye on at the time. In middle and high school, it was clothes. During the first half of college, while working as a waitress, it was whatever my heart desired.
The second half of my college career, I only worked on a regular basis during the summer, and some occasional gigs once school was back in session. I was forced to put away about half of whatever I made, because once the next semester kicked in, I had to live off of that plus a monthly government annuity until the next break.
In all this time, even though I worked from the time I was 16, I never stopped to think about the fact that someday I'd need to start considering my financial future. That I'd probably need to purchase a new car. And a new computer. And oh yeah, save for emergencies. It wasn't until I began a full-time paid internship after graduating that I realized, Wow, I'm actually going to be making some real money. What am I supposed to be doing with it?
I sought out the advice of friends who had made good financial decisions and had a "financial dinner" to go over the basics, and this past winter, I made it through about half of a money management course (entitled "Act Your Wage" - there's a knee-slapper) before moving to TN to take on my first "real job."
I can't understand why I was never taught the basics of savings and finance in college. Sure, I was in the school of Communications and Theater, but starving artists need to know how to mangage the little bit of money they'll have! Every college student should have to go through "Money Management 101," so when they get out of school, they actually have a clue as to where to start, instead of piling even more debt on top of their student loans.
If you're reading this thinking, "But it's so overwhelming! I don't know where to start!" Obviously, you have to figure out a realistic budget before you can do anything else. (Check out mint - makes money management so much easier!) But once you figure out where you can make the sacrifices to save, you should move your savings that is more long term (you know you won't need it all in the next few months) into a high-yield checking account. What is a high-yield checking account? An account that will help you make money just by saving money.
I have an Orange savings account with ING DIRECT, and even in the midst of a terrible economy, last year from August-December I made over $20 in interest, and from January-present day, I've made almost $40. ING's also runs a promo where if you sign up through a referral and deposit at least $250, they'll add $25 to your account (as well as $10 to the referer's). If you're interested, leave me a comment or shoot me an email, and I'll hook you up.
So, the lesson is: it pays to save!