35 Money Lessons I Learned by 35

By the time you’re reading this article, I’m a newly aged 35-year-old woman. I just got back from a few nights in Las Vegas, where my boyfriend and I went to see Drake and 21 Savage in concert. This is a very different birthday choice compared to 10 days in Italy last year! Here’s a picture of me right before the concert:

My year from 34 to 35 has been one of tremendous growth. Not from a business or material standpoint, but from an internal one. It’s been a year of reflection, trusting the unknown, and having faith. It was a tough year personally and I was forced to do things I didn’t plan to. I was forced to slow down when I didn’t want to. I was forced to be content, which is something I struggled with.

The growth I’ve experienced in the past year has had a huge impact on the money lessons I’ve accumulated over my 35 years of life. I want to share with you some of the biggest money lessons I learned by 35. I have a feeling the lessons will keep coming!

35 Money Lessons I Learned by 35

#1 Money saved buys you time

When I took City Girl Savings full-time back in 2021, I had a goal of saving 15 months’ worth of expenses. I reached that goal and the money sat there, untouched, until I was able to add to it at the end of 2022. With the state of the economy in 2023, I’ve been on the brink of tapping into that savings.

As uncomfortable as the thought of tapping into my savings is, I’ve realized what a blessing it is to have it. Ultimately, money buys you time until you can figure things out. I can have slow months in business and bills can be paid. I can still enjoy my same lifestyle, because I have money saved.

Sure, I don’t like touching my savings, but doing so buys me time until I can make more money or replenish what was touched. If there’s any lesson I want women to learn about money, it’s that. Saving money gives you time freedom.

#2 Budgeting gets better the more you do it

I started budgeting my money during my first job out of college. I loved it then and I still love it now. I’ll admit, I’ve always loved to budget. However, I’ve seen clients dread budgeting and grow to love it over time. The more you budget, the better you get at budgeting.

#3 Traveling is so much better when it’s paid for in cash

Back in my early 20s, any traveling I did was at the expense of not paying rent or maxing out my credit cards. Now, my trips are paid for in cash when I travel. The difference is night and day. Not having to stress about money before, during and after a vacation makes the trip that much better.

#4 Your money situation can change overnight

I’ve learned this lesson a lot over the years, but it seems all the more apparent when money isn’t coming in as quickly as it used to. Sure, I’d make unexpected sales over the course of time, but when things are already looking good, it’s easy to overlook more coming in.

On the flip side, when you’re on the verge of not reaching your goals and an unexpected windfall comes in a matter of minutes, it’s a great reminder that your current situation doesn’t dictate your future situation. Having faith that things will work out keeps you open and ready to receive more.

#5 Don’t follow the crowd

When Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Shiba Inu cryptocurrencies skyrocketed, it seemed like everyone was on the bandwagon. Even people who didn’t know what they were doing or never invested before wanted a piece of the action. People made a lot of money, but it didn’t last.

Before we knew it, the tides turned. I had managed to make some money off of Dogecoin, but my profits were gone with the last purchase I made over 2 years ago. I’m still holding it so that I can get back to break even. Had I not followed the crowd, I’d have a couple more thousand in my regular savings account.

#6 Allocate money to the things you love

Life is too short not to enjoy the things you love. There’s a balance to enjoying yourself and being responsible. The sooner you find it, the better off you’ll be. I’m lucky to have found it some years back.

#7 It’s not money that makes you happy, it’s what you can do with it

While there’s a thrill in making a lot of money, the thrill fades. Money isn’t what brings happiness, but money can help you find or do the things that do make you happy.

#8 Don’t take on more than you can chew

At the start of 2023, I had big goals for City Girl Savings. I took on extra expenses to help me handle the increased workload. Then, the workload never came. I had more expenses than my business could comfortably cover. Cutting back expenses, like hours for the CGS team, wasn’t fun. But it taught me what not to do in the future. I’ll never take on more than I can chew again.

#9 Paying for experiences significantly beats paying for material things

When I was in college, I was constantly accumulating material things – clothes, shoes, accessories. For no reason other than the instant gratification the purchase gave me. I told myself stories of what I could use the material thing for. This dress will be perfect for when I attend an art gallery opening. Did I ever attend an art gallery opening? Nope. Did that dress ever get the tags removed? Nope.

As I’ve gotten older, I spend less of my discretionary money on material things and most of it on experiences, like traveling or doing new things. Not only do I make more memories, but the feeling of joy lasts far beyond the first few minutes.

#10 High yield savings are always a good idea

My high yield savings account interest generates me an extra $250/month currently. That’s an extra $3000 per year, just for having my money sit! While I know it’s all contingent on interest rates, it confirms that high yield savings accounts are always a good idea.

#11 Recession-proof your finances, even if there’s not a recession

At the time of me writing this article, the economy isn’t so hot. There’s fear of a recession, inflation is still high, and layoffs are common. Having a savings account, managing the emotion of negative investment performance, and keeping up with regular investments allows me to be in a position to succeed when things turn around. And, things will turn around.

#12 Credit cards can be your ally

When you don’t have lingering debt and you have a good credit score, credit cards can come in very handy. I’ve been able to pull cash from my credit lines (with no interest rate) to cover big purchases without pulling from savings. As long as I pay the balance down by the time interest kicks in, I’m golden. I’ve done this a few times over the years and it’s helped tremendously.

#13 You can buy anything, you just can’t be everything

A concept I help my clients learn (and one I’ve learned myself over the years) is that you can treat yourself to anything, but there has to be a limit. Just because you can buy all the things doesn’t mean that you should. So, you can buy anything, you can’t buy everything.

#14 A retirement plan is the best builder of wealth over time

One of the best things my younger self did was start contributing to a retirement plan at 21. By the time I left corporate, I had over six-figures in that 401k plan. Anyone is capable of having the same result, they just have to start.

#15 Small amounts saved add up quickly

I became a huge fan of Digit (now Oportun) a few years ago when I saw how quickly small amounts of money saved add up to large amounts.

#16 Everyone needs a budget

I’ve created hundreds of budget plans over the years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that everyone needs a budget. It makes all the difference when managing money and feeling in control of your income.

#17 Making money isn’t hard, making it how you want to is

When it comes to making money, it’s actually simple. Get a job. Sell something. Drive for Uber. Anyone can make money. What’s a little more tricky is making money how you want to. Last year, I would have loved for City Girl Savings to be my only source of income, but it wasn’t. I took on a consulting project that significantly contributed to my income. I’ve learned that making money is easy, but making it how I want isn’t. So, if I need more time to make money in the way I want to make it, I need to make sure my savings is ready for that.

#18 Annual expenses come around faster than you think

I have a savings account just for annual expenses that I add to every month, but it always feels like the annual bill comes due faster than expected. You can never have enough saved for those annual bills!

#19 Determine your budget non-negotiables and let the guilt go

I started getting regular lash extensions back in 2019. At first, the cost always made me squeamish. “Ugh, spending $100 every two weeks on lashes is a lot”. However, I never stopped making the appointments. Once I decided that lash extensions were a non-negotiable, I decided to let go of the guilt that came with that expense. If it’s in my budget and accounted for, there’s no reason to feel anything but blessed!

#20 It takes money to make money

I’m getting a little taste of how the wealthy stay wealthy. The more money you have, the easier it is to make money. For example, the more I have in my high-yield savings, the more interest I make. The more I have in my investment accounts, the bigger the return. The mortgage on my rental property stays the same while the rental income goes up. The real struggle is making the money you need for the money to work in your favor – AKA making more than you need to survive so the rest can go towards building wealth.

#21 It’s okay to visit the same place twice

I used to think that traveling was best done when going somewhere new. Almost as if you make the most of your money when you’re traveling somewhere you’ve never been. Now, I’ve learned that visiting the same place multiple times can be just as rewarding.

#22 Stay away from the comparisons

I’ve always been good about avoiding things that could take me down a comparison spiral. The older I get, the more I’m happy about this. The comparison game is a dangerous one that can end up costing you a lot of money.

#23 Paying for convenience is usually worth it

Now, I’m not talking about paying an extra $12 to have your Uber Eats order delivered to your door (unless it’s a dire situation). I’m talking about investing in a cleaning lady, so you can spend your time doing things that serve you better. I’m talking about paying my monthly CGS office rent, so I have a place to go if I ever need to be alone. Convenience costs, but it’s usually worth it.

#24 50-50 financial relationships work well

My boyfriend and I live together. We split our bills 50-50. There’s no stress, no arguing, no feelings of contention or resentment. We don’t have money fights and I believe it’s because we’re both equals in our joint financial situation.

#25 You can never have too many savings accounts

I’ve come to learn that 1 savings account per goal is the sweet spot. It keeps you organized, allows you to see the progress you’ve made or are making towards the goal and lets you easily identify if you’ve reached the goal.

#26 The waves of entrepreneurship are real

I remember when my boyfriend would tell me to max out building my business while working corporate as long as I could, and it would bother me. I didn’t understand. Now that my sole income is the business, I get it. One month, your income is incredibly high. The next month, your income is incredibly low. I’m still learning to ride the waves of entrepreneurship, and they’re no joke!

#27 Starting a business isn’t for everyone

I used to preach that starting a business is a great way for anyone to make extra money – I still believe that, but I now believe that starting a business isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Shoot, sometimes I still miss the stability of a regular paycheck. I wouldn’t change anything about my journey, but there’s value in knowing what your income is and when it’s coming every month.

#28 It’s okay if you need more time to reach your goals

Not going to lie – I’m constantly reiterating this to myself. I’ve always been a goal setter and a goal getter. However, things can come up to throw your plans and your timelines off. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean you can’t reach your goals at a later date. It’s okay if you need more time to make the money needed to reach your goals.

#29 Expect the unexpected

Just when you think you’re feeling in a groove with your money and budget, that’s when something will come up and throw you off. Expect the unexpected and do your best to handle them with grace.

#30 The lessons never stop

This was the 30th lesson in 30 Money Lessons I Learned by 30, and I’m still learning this! Just when you think you know everything, life will throw things your way to make you feel like a kindergartener. That’s okay though.

#31 Be grateful

Practicing gratitude has helped me feel true happiness in my life.

#32 Manifestation is real

You can manifest anything if you believe you’re capable of it. Amazing things have happened when I started to see what was possible for my life. Looking back, I’ve always had what I needed. I’ve always had enough. Looking forward, even when my responsibilities increase, I know I’ll always have exactly what I need.

#33 Pay it forward

There’s no greater feeling than helping someone else. For me, it’s the work I do with my clients and the donations I make. Helping others doesn’t have to be in the form of money given. Time, experience, and wisdom can be just as effective, if not more.

#34 There’s no greater feeling than being an independent woman

Knowing that I have my own money, my own savings, my own business, and my own willpower is incredibly rewarding. I’m choosing to be with my partner. I’m choosing to work for myself. Not needing a partner, not needing a boss, not needing anything but myself feels really good.

#35 The best is yet to come

After 35 years, I can honestly say that the older I get, the better my finances get. All that tells me is that the best is yet to come.

Related: 23 Money Moves to Implement in 2023

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the money lessons I’ve learned over my 35 years of life. I have no doubt that more lessons will be coming as the years go by. I’d love to hear your thoughts or the lessons you’ve learned! Drop a comment below to share!

The CGS Team


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