First Person: The Recession Scared Me into Managing My Money

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I had a fairly lackadaisical attitude about my personal finances before the Great Recession hit. I really didn't worry too much about the bills because I assumed there would always be plenty of money to pay the bills. Still in my early 30s when the recession started, I was used to job security and a reliable paycheck. Now, I've gone to the opposite extreme, worrying too much about every penny. According to a recent article by U.S. News & World Report, the recession also had scared students into managing their money as well. A new study by Seventeen magazine and Citigroup Inc. cited by the article shows young people are more worried about money than about making friends and their lives after college. I've noticed my sons who are in college are also more concerned about their finances. In many ways, the recession has made us stronger as a family. We adopted better financial habits that will hopefully endure a lifetime.

Tracking expenses

According to the survey, six in 10 students track their expenses or maintain a budget. My sons receive daily feedback about their finances with balance updates and other alerts sent via text to their cellular phones. I never kept a spending diary until the recession. While my sons use their mobile devices to track their spending, I tend to use an old-fashioned notebook. I may be old-school about my money, but I'm just as committed to living within my means. Experts say digital tools can boost young people's money management skills.

Cutting costs

Although I had to live on a tight budget when I got out of college, I got a little too comfortable in my 30s. When the company I worked for started announcing layoffs, I realized we couldn't count on being a dual-income family. We started cutting costs by eating out less, buying used items and sharing cars to save money on gasoline. The survey found most young people try to be creative problem solvers when it comes to their finances.

Taking self-responsibility

Even though I can understand the different sides to the issue of whether moms should work outside the home, I felt an urgency to work during the Great Recession. Although I could have taken a company buy-out, I wanted to take self-responsibility for my finances. I have noticed my teenage children are more than willing to help pay the household bills. Another interesting find in the study was that 80 percent of students said they were responsible for their spending money. Seventy-one percent of the students paid for their clothing, while 59 percent had to cover the costs of transportation to get to school.

Even though I know my husband will look out for me, the Great Recession made me realize anything can happen. My husband and I are no longer competitive about who makes the most money. We work together as a team, with our teenagers joining in the game by paying their own way when they can.

More from this contributor:

My Gen-Z Children are Optimistic Investors

Millennials Don't have to Put up with Double Digit Rates

It's a Never-ending Recession

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