Learn to be uncomfortable, because it doesn’t get easier

Ok, so the title isn’t super optimistic, but if you’re a regular reader you know I sometimes like to venture onto darker topics, like that time I shared that planning is somewhat futile because something will inevitably go wrong. Now I need to make a similar confession about my tendency to catastrophize life: I worry about people that think they will be able to save “later”.

I think this might be most people, it’s certainly most university students. They’re going to save after they graduate, after they find a job, after they get promoted, whatever. They make a lot of excuses — but they’re perfectly valid excuses because money IS tight! Also, I think when you’re a student and you have no income, you think about money differently. It’s time for me to share a secret:

I saved my student loans.

I did. When I received my student loan money, I divided it up over the months of the academic year, and then I saved a portion just like I was earning an income. It’s not a coincidence that my first mutual fund was purchased the first year I received financial aid. I’ve been dropping $100/mo into mutual funds since 2009 — even though I was living on student loans.

I actually think I read somewhere that it’s illegal to invest your student loan income, but I was also tutoring or babysitting part-time so technically I would say I was living off my student loans and saving & investing my side income. I don’t break the law, you know.

By the time I graduated, I had both my student loan debt and line of credit debt — but I also had around $10,000 in the bank. I don’t think many people do it the way I did. They just spend their entire student loan cheque, and they don’t put any aside for emergencies or wealth building. You don’t have to do that, you can do it differently like I did. But people always claim they’re going to save later because now is just a bad time.

First they can’t save during university, because all their money goes to tuition and living expenses.

Then they can’t save after, because they have to pay their student loans and make their car payment.

When their 30’s arrive, they can’t save because there are children to take care of.

In their 40’s, they have to send those children to university.

In their 50’s, maybe they’re wishing they had planned it a little better because retirement is getting awfully close. Maybe they would have even liked to retire now but can’t because they just started to save!

Fact: it’s always a bad time, it will never be “easy”. You will always have financial demands, and money will always feel tight. Saving takes so much discipline, it’s important to make it a habit sooner rather than later. Putting $100 a month in savings during my last years of undergrad was excruciating, but because I did it, $100 just feels normal now. It let me push myself to save more because I eventually got used to $200, then $300, etc. Right now it’s still hard to save — I have a huge student loan debt and the only thing that outpaces it is my want list. It’s uncomfortable, money is tight, and I definitely think it will be “easier” later. But then I remember how being uncomfortable made me $10,000 richer and I suck it up.