Oh, how I wish I could go back and talk some sense into my free-spending teenaged self

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As a teenager, I looked forward to growing up and leaving home so I could eat all the junk food I wanted.

But now that I’ve done that, my perspective has changed. I avoid junk food at all costs.

I’ve matured a lot when it comes to money, too.

As a kid I dedicated every weekend to blowing through every dollar in my purse. Oh how I wish I could share everything I’ve learned – often the hard way — with my teenage self.

If I could go back in time, the first thing I would tell myself is to start saving earlier.

All those impressive waitressing tips are now long gone, but if I could communicate with then-Alissa, I would tell her to set them aside, to even consider investing some of that cash.

My parents would always tell me that learning was my only job (lucky, I know), but I do wish I would have stayed on longer than a few months as a waitress, if only for the experience of learning to manage my money.

Unfortunately there were no real consequences when I decided I didn’t like my job anymore and wanted to quit immediately.

I hardly understood the meaning and significance of investing though, so I would advise my past self to pay better attention in 8th grade to the virtual stock market game that was prevalent in most public schools.

I wish I had taken the time to actually understand what we were doing, rather than coasting by with help from my friends, and maybe even had a few chats with my venture capitalist father.

I wish I had also become familiar with stock market terminology and paid better attention to events in the business world, and how everything was interrelated.

As I didn’t care much about either of these things until I graduated from college, there was a very steep learning curve for me in becoming a financially literate adult.

One of the most important, money-related things to know when you’re a teenager is to be wise about your credit card use.

Thankfully my parents were helpful in this department. They started me off with a debit card and warned me early on to never sign up with any of the credit card offers I began receiving in the mail.

Overdrawing my debit card enough times and getting turned away at cash registers was the necessary humiliation to start taking my money usage a little more seriously.

I now understand how I could have been much smarter about my spending, though I can’t be too hard on myself for learning the hard way.

I often shopped at Goodwill or thrift stores for clothing that would set me apart from the crowd, but this typically resulted in my owning a number of ugly, ill-fitting items I would never wear more than once.

I think I probably could have maintained my adolescent eccentricities while still splurging for a few staple items that would last me a few years and I would have actually worn.

I also spent a lot of time aimlessly driving around with friends because I was the first one with a car – and perhaps a little too eager to take advantage of that.

Often I would drive around alone when I needed to de-stress or just get out of the house (probably because my parents were trying to give me wise financial advice I didn’t want to hear).

I shudder now to think of how much gas I wasted back then.

It’s easy to think about all this now, but the reality is that most teenagers simply lack the forward thinking skills to care about what seems like the distant future.

I know for me, all that mattered was navigating the stressful social structures of public school.

So even if I could go back and share what I know now with my younger self, would I have listened?


Probably not.

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