How To Avoid Buying Stuff You Don’t Need, Or Even Want

We live in a consumer-oriented society. Constantly inundated by billboards, TV commercials, and internet ads, it seems like the world is always telling us to go out and buy stuff! But the people telling you to buy this merchandise are actually the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and other powerful people in the business world. And while some of their wares are useful and will improve our lives, a lot of what you buy will give you a poor return on your investment.

There’s a lot of cool stuff out there to buy! Today I looked at this uber-cool 3-D LED light for my room, and it’s on sale for only $59.00! And with my net worth sitting at $1,100, I could easily afford it and replace the old reading lamp in my room. While this lamp is, in my opinion, incredibly awesome(!!!), it’s not something I really need. If I did buy it, I’m sure that after a few days of looking at it, I’d get bored of it and question why I even bought the stupid thing in the first place.

Instead, that $100 will go towards my $400 savings goal for new camping equipment and a kayaking trip with my friends. I’ll get to spend a ton of time with people I enjoy being around, see some beautiful scenery, and get a good workout. Plus, I will get to keep the memories of the trip forever, and good memories never get old! Overall, I think that my money will be much better spent paying for an experience, rather than buying another material item.

New cars (of any kind), Rolex watches, Gucci clothing, and massive mansions, among other things, are all signs of excessive spending. Even those new Toyota Corolla’s rolling down the road are examples of overspending. Why spend $20,000 on a new Corolla when you can spend half of that on one that is only 3 years old and has less than 50,000 miles on it? You can even drive luxury cars on the cheap if you buy used. Many 10+ year old Porsche Boxsters go for less than 10 grand, and a writer for Automobile Magazine drives a 2000 Mercedes S-Class that cost him a grand total of 4 grand! Unless you are addicted to that new car smell, it’s pointless to pay MSRP for any car, whether economical or luxurious.

One piece of advice you should follow is to sleep on every major purchasing decision. Even if that new pair of shoes is the deal of a lifetime, go home, consider if you truly want it, and then wait until the next day to decide if you will actually buy it. And when you set savings goals, don’t aim to buy a new car or a luxury watch, but aim to take a vacation to Paris, or take your children to Disney World. Buy experiences, not possessions. If you follow those two basic rules, you will be on your way to living a more efficient and less consumer-minded lifestyle.

-Andrew

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A Beginner’s Guide To Not Screwing Up The College Admissions Process

This Spring, millions of students across the country will be deciding where they will be going to college next year. Their choices will range from the local community college to Harvard University, and even places off the beaten path such as Deep Springs College. Unfortunately, many students are either unsatisfied with anything less than an Ivy League University, or can’t even find a college they can attend in the first place.

With skyrocketing tuition costs and stringent admissions requirements at tier 1 schools, many students feel like receiving an adequate degree at a reasonable price is impossible these days. But this simply isn’t the case. There are thousands of colleges throughout the US, many of which provide good educations at reasonable prices. You could also take a nontraditional path, such as going to community college and then studying at your local university for another 2 years afterwards in order to receive your bachelor’s degree.

Ultimately, the goal of your college process should be to not screw it up, instead of focusing on one specific school. All you need to do is stay out of trouble and receive at least a 3.0 GPA and you should have a good shot at attending college!

There are numerous tips and tricks that I will write about in the future as I travel on my own college journey, but the main thing every student needs to focus on is not screwing up! As long as you put in a decent amount of effort and don’t receive a felony charge, a college degree will be waiting for you in the future.

-Andrew

Low Cost-of-Living Florida, And Why The Best Places To Live Are Hidden In Plain Sight

Ah, Florida, the land of retirees, cocaine, and in the spring, drunk college students. All over the country, millions of Americans believe that only the old and the mentally ill call Florida home. And to a certain extent, they’re right. But Florida isn’t that bad of a place to live. In fact, it’s a great place to live, if you know where to look!

From sleepy towns on the Gulf Coast such as Pensacola, to large urban cities like Jacksonville, and the tropical Manhattan of downtown Miami, there’s a place for everyone in Florida! And to top it all off, there’s NO STATE INCOME TAX in Florida!

While I do love going down to Miami to check out the beautiful beaches, the expensive cars, and eat the mind-bogglingly delicious Cuban food, the cost of living is ridiculously high, and according to the “experts” at WalletHub, it’s one of the worst places to raise children in America.

However, there is one city that’s often overlooked…

Jacksonville, Florida.

“Wait, what?”

Yes. Jacksonville, Florida.

With a median home price of $132,000, and a cost of living in line with the national average, Jacksonville offers its residents an urban setting at a fraction of the cost of a place like New York City or San Francisco. And while Duval County, the largest school district in the country, has a bad reputation, the combination of hidden gems in the public school system and the numerous private schools gives your children a variety of educational options.

One drawback of living in Jacksonville is that you have to own a car, since it’s the largest city by geographic size in the continental US. However, you don’t have to deal with the intense traffic other major cities have, and you can make a trip from the west side of town to the beaches in 45 minutes. And if you live downtown, there’s a thriving nightlife and great restaurants to enjoy on foot.

I could tell you a lot more about Jacksonville and other cities and towns in Florida, but the main point of this article is to show you that the top 5 cities in the US aren’t the end-all, be-all of living an interesting life. If you’re willing to take the time to actually visit some out of the way places, you may find your own perfect slice of American life.

-Andrew

The Snowball Effect, Saving $3,000 by Senior Year, and Setting Long Term Goals

Now that I have finally received my check for my last shift at work, my savings account balance sits at approximately $1,005. Success! But where do I go from here? My next goal, which I set in place at the beginning of my journey along with the $1,000 goal, is to save $3,000 by the end of Senior year. And even if you have not reached the $1,000 mark yourself, you should still plan ahead and set your own $3,000 goal.

Long term goals are just as important, if not more important, than goals you can reach in the near future. Your short term goals (Anything that takes one month to a year) should build a foundation for your long term goals (one year to five years) which should build a foundation for your major life goals (i.e. Buying a home, paying for your kid’s college, or buying a Lamborghini if you’re like me). There is no point to achieving a minor goal unless it eventually leads to greater things.

While this mindset can be applied to many challenges in life, it is especially important when trying to be financially successful. All fortunes are made $1 at a time. But eventually those dollars add up! Once you begin your journey to financial success, you must have an end goal in mind, even if that goal changes overtime. You need to have consistent goals so that each time you reach a milestone, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Otherwise, you will be embarking on a journey without a destination.

Here’s a rough list of my financial goals:

  1. Save $1,000 by the end of Junior year (Done, ahead of schedule!)
  2. Save $3,000 by the end of Senior year
  3. Save $100,000 by age 25
  4. Save $250,000 AND put a down payment on a home by age 30
  5. Save $1,000,000 by age 40
  6. Save $5,000,000 by age 65*

*(Not adjusted for inflation, so that goal will probably end up being closer to 10 mil!)

“But Andrew, $100,000 is SO MUCH MONEY! $1,000 was reasonable, but I can’t do that another 99 times!”

Well, if you follow the 4% Rule for retirement (which won’t work for most people, anyways), you will have a grand total of $40 per year to live off of for the last 30 years of your life, if you decide to not save anymore money. And in America, no matter how frugal you are, it’s impossible to survive on 11 cents a day!

One of the great things about saving money is that it will grow exponentially over time if you play your cards right. By continuing to lower your expenses, and progress in your career, the flow of money into your savings account will increase dramatically. Let’s say Bob made $3,000 a month Post-Tax last year, and saved $100 a month to achieve his goal of $1,000 in savings. This year, Bob continues to cut back, and lowers his expenses to $2,500 a month. He also gets a raise at work, adding $400 a month to his Post-Tax Income. By the end of this year, Bob will add another $10,800 to his savings, or over 10x what he saved last year. By cutting costs and expanding cash flow, you can increase the amount of money you put into your savings every year.

Once you have enough saved, you can begin investing and experience the “Snowball Effect” of growing money. Through investing, you can make money, and have that money make money, with almost no work! Let’s say Bob wanted to invest in the stock market and put his entire $1,000 in savings into Walmart Stocks (not recommended!). Let’s say the stock produces a 5% return every year. At the end of his first year of investing, Bob will have $1,050 in Walmart Stocks. Now, Bob decides to buy another $10,800 worth of Walmart Stocks (Again, not recommended!!!). By the end of his second year of investing, Bob will have $12,442 dollars in savings , and a profit of $592 for the year! So, if you save more money, and invest more money, you will eventually be raking in massive amounts of cash by letting your money work for you!

I know that was a lot to digest, and a lot of what I discussed here cannot be fully understood from just a blog post. But by committing to learn about investing and saving your money wisely, you can set seemingly impossible goals, and reach them through hard work and perseverance.

-Andrew

The $1,000 Plan: A Post for Anyone Ages 8-80

Do you think that Warren Buffett made 66.7 billion dollars overnight? Or Bill Gates just checked his bank account one day and it contained 79.2 billion dollars? Or that Mark Zuckerberg built a website in college and made 35.7 billion dollars? (OK, maybe he did, but your name isn’t Mark Zuckerberg, is it?)

Anyone who is rich of their own accord, whether they are a small business owner or a titan of industry, built their wealth over a period of years, or even decades. You don’t go from $0 in your bank account to $1,000,000 in one fell swoop, it happens in increments. And if you want to jump around naked, celebrating your newfound wealth like Mark Cuban did, you have to take that first step towards greatness.

I once read somewhere that if you have $10 in your pocket and no debt, you have a higher net worth than 25% of Americans. While jumping from last place to average among those below average may seem like an accomplishment, a homeless man can achieve the same by picking up a few stray greenbacks off the street. Plus, you’re ambitious enough that you want to get as close to average as you can, right? Right?

Whether you are a starry-eyed teen with dreams of one day owning a Lamborghini and a mansion, or an adult trying to solve the complex puzzle of the modern financial system, I think that $1,000 is a reasonable savings goal. My own goal is to save $1,000 by May,and I’m already 98% of the way there, with another paycheck on it’s way to cover that last 2% with change. And if a kid who will drink Starbucks frappuccinos as long as the grass is green and the sky is blue can do it, you can, too!

Unfortunately, a lot of you may have no money in your paycheck at the end of the month, or you have a large amount of debt, whether it be student, credit, or a large mortgage. But if you focus hard enough, you can slowly but surely make your way towards that first goal. Instead of going out to the club with your friends, watch a movie at home and put the $50 difference into your savings. Set a budget for eating out, and if you blow it in the first 2 weeks of the month, have fun eating ramen noodles for dinner every night!

One of the hard facts of life is that there is no reward without sacrifice. Even if you can only manage to put away $3 a day, you will have $1,095 in your bank account after 365 days; you’ll reach your goal and have enough left for a night out on the town!

I don’t promise to make you rich overnight, in a year, or even 10 years, depending on where you are starting from. But I do promise that if you commit to taking that first $1,000 step, and slowly but surely add to that initial stash of cash, you will wake up one day and realize that you have created a financially secure future for yourself and your family.

-Andrew