Making Sense of Dollars and Cents

By Hillary Holbrook

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Nine tips on how to earn, save, and manage money.

Did you ever have an uncle, dad, or grandpa who entertained you by pulling quarters out of his ear? And would you watch the magic trick in amazement, thinking, “How did he do that?” Well, by now you’ve figured out that money doesn’t appear mysteriously—or grow on trees.

Money isn’t just a magic trick—it has to be earned and taken care of. Forming good money-management skills now, while you’re young, will enable you to find peace and security, and it will help you when you go on a mission, get a job, or go to school. Here are nine tips to get you started as a wise money manager.

1 Be a responsible, honest worker.

If you’re too young to have a regular job that pays a wage, think of other ways to earn money. See the list of money-making ideas on page 17 to help you get started. Once you have a job lined up, be responsible. If you’re reliable, then your clients will remember you and may hire you again.

One way to make a good impression is by being on time or even a few minutes early to a job. And always be an honest worker by doing a thorough, complete job. If your family’s friend is going to pay you to wash a car, then wash the entire car, including the tires. Nobody wants to pay the whole price for a job that was done just halfway.

2 Involve your parents.

Never accept a job from someone until you have permission and approval from your parents, who can ensure your safety. They can also help you keep your school and Church priorities organized so that you’re not overwhelmed.

3 Have a good attitude.

Elder Stephen B. Oveson, formerly of the Seventy, said that one important aspect of working is having a good attitude. He related an experience from his youth when he had a job he didn’t like:

“One afternoon I was hoeing weeds with a friend named Arlen Jenkins. I was complaining and moaning and groaning about the hard work, but he looked at me and said, ‘You know, you really need to consider that if we weren’t doing this, we might be doing something worse.’ That was his attitude. He was always happy doing any type of work because he knew he could be doing something worse. I have tried to reflect that attitude in every job I have had since that time” (“Good Work,” New Era, Jan. 2007, 38–39).

4 Pay your tithing as soon as you earn the money.

Whenever you receive money, pay your tithing first. Tithing is 10 percent of the money you’re paid. If you wait a while to pay tithing on money you’ve earned, then paying it may be harder because the amount of money continues to add up.

The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet says: “Paying tithing shows your gratitude for all that God has given you. … Your attitude is important in paying tithing. Pay it because you love the Lord and have faith in Him. Pay it willingly with a thankful heart. Pay it first, even when you think you don’t have enough money to meet your other needs. Doing so will help you overcome selfishness and be more receptive to the Spirit” ([2001], 34). You can read about the blessings promised to those who pay tithing in Malachi 3:10–12.

5 Just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to spend it.

What can be more satisfying than receiving pay for a job well done? While you might be tempted to spend all earnings (minus tithing, of course) on a new pair of jeans or a video game, stop to think. Jeans fade and a video game becomes ordinary, right? One idea is to pay 10 percent in tithing, save 80 percent, and spend only 10 percent. If you make $10, for example, you could put $1 toward tithing, save $8, and spend $1 on something fun.

President Brigham Young said: “If you wish to get rich, save what you get. A fool can earn money; but it takes a wise man to save and dispose of it to his own advantage” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 229).

6 Savings accounts aren’t just for grown-ups!

With the help of your parents, you could open a savings account at a local bank or credit union. When you have money, consider taking it to the bank instead of collecting the cash in a sock drawer. Putting your money into a savings account could help you save it instead of spending it, because then it’s not just lying around.

Many banks and credit unions offer interest on savings accounts. That means your money will actually increase by a small percentage over time.

7 Have a goal in mind.

It’s good to have a reason for saving money. Decide what you’re saving for. If you want to save for a full-time mission, ask your bishop how much a mission costs. If you want to go to college, go online to find the typical price of tuition and books at your desired school.

Don’t be worried if the price of your goals seems out of range. Have faith that you can save the money! You’ll be surprised at the blessings that come from paying tithing, praying, working hard, and saving. Remind yourself of your financial goal(s) by posting a note or picture in your bedroom to remind you what you’re saving your money for.

8 Treat yourself.

No, I’m not just talking about an ice-cream sundae smothered in chocolate sauce! Don’t be afraid to spend some money. Remember that 10 percent that could go toward having fun (see tip 5)? Consider spending it! One friend of mine said she wished she had spent some money on fun things as a teenager, like going out to eat with her friends or buying a dress for a school dance. Reward yourself for working, but set limits on what you spend.

9 Remember the “garlic clove” lesson.

Although you can save money by purchasing items at a reduced price, don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. Keep in mind the strategies that many stores use to encourage you to buy their products. I learned this lesson when my aunt sent me to the grocery store to buy garlic. When I got there, I found it was on sale: buy three for $5. So what did I do? I bought three. When I returned, though, I found that my aunt needed only one small clove. “You don’t have to buy three just because they’re on sale,” she told me.

Your favorite clothing or gadget store may offer a second item at half price if you buy the first item at the regular price, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy both items.

If you learn how to earn, save, and manage money now, your life will be easier in the future when you have more responsibilities. So work your magic and get to work!

Photographs by Robert Casey and © iStock