Money Lessons Learned in My 20s

Money lessons I learned in my 20sI am not a money expert. Never have been. And also, let's go ahead and get this out of the way: money is sort of awkward to talk about, right? I think of it kind of like body image– we all think about it, it's a part of all our lives, but it still feels kind of weird to talk about. And honestly, I can only talk about my own experiences and perspective. So, take that for what it is. 

Despite the money weirdness, I wanted to share with you a few money lessons I've learned so far in my 20s. And I'd love to hear about your experiences and different perspectives as well… if you want.

1. Seek Advice and Don't Be Afraid to Learn.

Like I said, I am no expert and I never have been. I'm okay admitting that. The truth is, numbers in general terrify me. I have always struggled with math (gradeschool through college). So when it came time to start thinking about my own personal finances, I was more than a little intimidated. And if I'm being honest, I still am at times! What has helped me most over the years is to try and approach it all with an attitude that is willing to learn. I seek advice, I ask questions, and I read articles and books on things like budgeting. It's helpful. Two authors I've always enjoyed are Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. So if you have no idea where to even start, try checking out one of their books from your library and see what you think. The more you read about these types of things, the more confident and empowered you will feel. You don't have to know everything in order to make a good decision.

2. Build Credit Now.

I think it's super easy to think about credit as this nebulous thing that you'll need some day way far in the future. Credit scores are so mysterious, right? But the truth is, credit can be a little tricky to build. It takes time. And although it might feel like you don't need it right now, you probably will need it sooner than you think. Having good credit is useful for a whole host of things from getting a loan to buying a car or house to credit check requirements for rental agreements (even renting a car!). Bottom line, it doesn't hurt to have good credit. So, it's good to start building it now.

There are lots of different ways to do this, and tons of helpful resources out there that you can research (and you should). But here's the true story of how I built credit for myself, making it possible for me to buy a house when I was twenty-five. First off, I got a credit card when I was pretty young (like eighteen or nineteen). Sometimes this is referred to as your account mix, meaning how many lines of credit you have open. Having a few is good. Although I would not suggest this to just anyone, as having a credit card can have some bad consequences if you are careless. The secret is to pay off your balance (or the majority, like 90% of your balance) every month. There have only been probably 3-4 times over the course of the last ten years that I didn't pay off my credit card balance in full every month. If you feel you are the kind of person who will overspend and then not be able to pay off your balance, then I would not recommend a credit card. They can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but honestly pretty useful if you can stick to a budget.

The second thing I did was take out a small loan to, again, have multiple lines of credit in my overall credit history at a young age. I think it was around $3,500 from my bank. During the summer before my last year of college, I had decided to utilize my university's study abroad program. I spent a summer semester taking a few classes at the University of London while also checking out the city, and I got to visit Paris as well. I had never been to the United Kingdom or Europe before, and that was probably just about as educational as the classes I took. Anyway– I had saved up enough money to do the trip without the loan. But I had read (while seeking advice, my first point!) that taking out a small loan or line of credit and then paying it back is a good way to build credit when you are young. So I did it. I paid the loan back easily within the year (before I graduated). Yes, there was a small amount of interest that I ended up paying along with the initial loan (as that's how loans work). But, because the loan was so small and I paid it back so quickly, it didn't amount to very much at all. A worthwhile investment into my future credit score.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Debt.

Sort of the opposite of those two stories I just told you, right? Not really, well maybe, let me explain. I chose to get a credit card and take out that small loan because I had a plan: to build credit. And I knew I could manage those two little bits of debt. Debt that you are unsure you can manage is what you should aim to avoid. It sounds simple, but it's SO hard to do! And there's no clear cut way to do this. I have three challenges for you to think over though. Just a thought experiment. 

First, and this goes back to the previous point, ask yourself if you really need a credit card. If you already have one and there's some kind of promotional to sign up for another, do you really need it? It's not bad to have multiple credit cards or to leave a little balance on your credit card each month. But do you really need all that? Credit cards tend to have fairly high interest rates, so once you get into a cycle of debt with it, it can be difficult to get out. 

Second, if you want to buy something just for fun but don't really have the money, ask yourself if you'd be willing to sell something in order to pay for it. That's right. You really want a new food processor? (Now you know where my head was at in my early 20s.) Well, would you be willing to sell part of your DVD collection for it? Mainly this exercise helps me figure out if I really want something useful, or if I'm just in the mood to shop. Shopping for fun is fine if you have the money for that kind of thing, but if you don't, it's just a money suck.

Last, and this one's tough, but I would challenge any young person to really think hard on their college choice before jumping into a school that will require them to take out loans (which is most schools unless you have scholarships or outside help). Educational loans tend to have the best interest rates out there, but even still, if you find yourself at the end of your college career with a degree you don't really plan to use and a bunch of debt, you'll be disappointed. Even though I absolutely think we should value education, you still have to consider the worth in perspective with what job options you'll have when you're done with your schooling.  

Thanks for letting me ramble on about a few things I've learned in my 20s. So, what's the verdict? Do you like talking about money? Wanna hear more? Or did you hate it and never want to hear about it again? I love talking with you guys about life stuff, but I also love hearing what you all think and want to talk about. Also, if you all have any lessons or personal stories you'd like to share, I am all ears. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • This was SUPER helpful! Please do more posts! This broke down complicated things really well and was a very good read. I loved the personal anecdotes! I am starting out on my own and this put things in perspective! Thank you!

  • I particularly love (and agree!) with your tip on considering your education before signing up for a loan.

    I’m not sure what it’s like in America, but in Australia and New Zealand, we’re REALLY starting to see the tables turn on universities; they’ve been touted forever as the “must-do”, but as you mentioned, unless you’re completing a degree that you’re passionate about and tend to use, unfortunately, for a lot of people, they can wind up being a tremendous finance drainer.

  • Thanks for being so open and honest. I honestly like these life reflection posts best, I love learning from your business and careers and I appreciate you being so vulnerable about it!
    One thing I have always wondered about was the red velvet clothing line. I am starting my own clothing line now and I always wondered why you didn’t continue on with that venture?

  • I am 23 years old and just paid off my college loans in full (by sucking it up and living with my parents, not going out to eat much, spending less, and starting my own etsy shop. It’s been a tough 1.5 years, but I am debt free and it feels great!

    I recently learned that the credit score is an i-love-debt score and isn’t necessary in life. I don’t want to be a slave to my credit card or slave to any lender (Proverbs 22:7), so last week I cut up my credit card! I will no longer stress about my credit score!

    Take a look at this article:

  • Loved this article. So important to understand your finances and the nuances of the weird world of credit.


  • Love the post! I think it is a really important topic that you don’t often hear others talk about. I made all the classic mistakes in my early 20s (too many credit cards, late payments, etc) and Suze Orman’s advice about tackling one credit card at a time totally helped me turn things around. I kept a small journal where I would list and check off the bills I paid each month and slowly the list of credit cards got smaller and my credit got better. I wish I would have had money advice at a younger age. It is also good to let others know that you can start taking steps towards better credit even if you’ve already made a few mistakes. 🙂

  • I don’t often comment on blogs, but I felt compelled to after reading this article. Not only do I agree with and wish I had known all of the information you have presented, but I must chime in about your last point re: school/degree choice.

    In the UK and Australia there is a common practice in place called the gap year. This is a customary time for young adults leaving high school to take a year off in order to evaluate their priorities before making a decision about attending university or starting in a trade. I wish this was the norm in the US too! I am currently saddled with nearly $35k in debt with a degree I am not planning on using once I return to work. For the time being, I stay at home with my son and baby on the way and when I go back to work it will be in the teaching field so I can have a comparable schedule as my littles.

    It is very worrisome to me that young people take on massive consumer and educational debt without any real knowledge of how to resolve it! End rant.

  • I’m in my early 30s and I’m still learning those lessons – although it gets easier somehow. Great reminder though – thank you

  • Thanks so much for the advice! No, I love talking about issues that we all deal with. It’s hard but we all struggle with it. I am a small business owner too, and it has been a struggle to get out of college debt and credit card debt. It’s possible, just a lot of work. Good luck with all your endeavors and keep chatting about whatever is meaningful to you! It’s probably just as meaningful to us! XO, julie

  • Some great points in there Emma. It’s so important to make sure you can manage your debt, Bec x

  • The last one about college? I regret now looking at my loan debt. I wish I could have just worked and waited it out. A lot of what I’m doing now I learned by teaching myself, but our society (specifically in America) says in order to be successful we have to have a degree and blah, blah. It’s not for everyone, and that’s really OK.

    And the university you decide to go to? It’s no longer about the name.

    Love this post. Thanks Emma!


  • I’m in my mid 20’s and am still figuring out the finance game… Here I am with $10,000 in debt and still trying to figure out a plan of how to tackle it. I’ve made a list of my financial necessities (bills, food, etc) and my wants (clothing, eating at restaurants, etc) and have tried to shift my spending habits and my mindset. Instead of thinking about all of the things that I don’t have, I think about all of the wonderful things that I do have. Some days I feel more positive than others, but when I start to get overwhelmed it comes down to coming up with a solid plan, sticking to it and staying positive. It’s almost unreal how much your attitude effects the outcome of things. If you have a negative mindset about money, then negative things will come your way unfortunately. One thing that I just recently discovered on my financial journey is to not spread your finances out too thin. I was trying to save money for a big move coming up, and also try to pay off my 10K in debt. I had no money to live off of- and I was working so hard! I realized that I needed to change my plan- after all, the point of making money is to be able to reap the benefits of it. Now that I’ve once again changed my plan, I feel great about it. I’m focusing on one thing instead of 5 things and it feels like a weight has been lifted. In the words of my mom, “Life doesn’t have a manual, and everybody has to figure out what works for them.” I hope this helps someone out there a little bit! I know the stresses of debt and I’m here for support!

  • This post is so great (and helpful). I just turned 20, and am just starting to have to think about these things! I am also studying abroad in London right now just as you said you did, and did a similar thing with the loan! Thank you!

  • I love your tips and optimistic helpful views on everything I have come to read that you wrote. I’ve learned a lot from you and just wanted to thank you. I’m 23 years old thinking about my future business goals and just hearing your advice has helped me throughout this process of “discovering’ myself and being financially ready to start working towards my future. Thanks for everything! 🙂

  • The biggest issue that I face with money is Saving. I save a few bucks and then spend all of them in one go. I don’t want to do that. Any tips so that I could stop doing that?

  • I honestly did not know about the whole credit score thing until I arrived in the UK and I only obtained my first credit card this month 🙂
    One thing I do is put some money on my savings as soon as I get my payslip instead of waiting till the end of the month to see if there is any left!

  • Growing up my folks were always in debt. And I got a credit card too early. I racked up a few thousand dollars and had high interest rates. I didn’t really understand how to manage and budget. It got out of control, but I mustered up the courage to talk to a rep with my creditors and they got me on a payment plan. That is my biggest suggestion if you feel that your debt is overpowering. Just talk to a rep, and they will work with you. Now those cards are all paid off and I have a new one that I pay off every month. It feels a lot more comfortable to be in control of my money.

  • Great post, it had a lot of useful info! I just wrote a post about money saving tips & tricks if anyone is interested!

  • This is my first comment after reading ths blog for a long time. Funny that i picked the one about finance out of all the other beautiful things here. Anyways, this blog post is super helpful to me! I just turned 21 a few months ago and i’m graduating college in a few months, and I know absolutely nothing about managing money. I know i have tons of loans for school and I know nothing about credit scores. But now I sorta do! Thanks Emma! I was always scared of credit cards, didn’t know they could help you get a credit score.
    I use the app “mint” to budget my money (or to just watch how much money i spend on alcohol and clothes vs groceries and school things).anyways, I recommend it to other people if they are keeping track of how much they spend. I hooks up with your bank account and credit cards and stuff. I didn’t mean to sound like an ad, just wanted to share.

  • SO many people are afraid to talk about money and worries. I just turned 22 and I’m in my final year of uni, I’m struggling on my student loan amount so budgeting is key! I hadn’t even thought yet about credit so this has got me thinking. More posts like this please 🙂

    Rach x

  • I am 38 years old and have had to learn about finances the hard way. My parents didn’t talk about money while I was growing up. It was always a private thing with them. I had a student loan before I got married, but it had defaulted, and I didn’t understand what that meant until the IRS took our first year of taxes together. Let’s just say that’s not a good way to kick off your first year of marriage…My husband at the time was much better at managing finances than myself and had to teach me how money works. You would think that would be a good topic to discuss before marriage, but sometimes, just sometimes you go into things blindly. DON’T…Sad in my book, but had to learn at some point and quickly as we went into the rental business together. First, I wasn’t so oblivious that I didn’t know how to keep a checking or savings or how to budget. I was the queen at budget shopping and still am. It has still been a learn as go thing for me as life throws you curves here and there, but here are a few things I have learned that may help some of you to not make some of the same mistakes I did… DO NOT open retail store credit cards, as those are the worst lines of credit to have and offer the worst interest rates. DO NOT spend more than you make. Want more, make more money. Something I learned from Suzie Orman is if you have a pile of debt, like credit cards, and a student loan, pay off that student loan first, if that’s all you can do, because of the interest and to keep it from defaulting! You don’t want that on your credit! Suzie also says “Do what makes you feel powerful!” You know, with your money. Do what makes you feel secure. Create a savings that will pay you. I couldn’t tell you the names of those savings or accounts off hand that do that, but they are out there. If you can pay for something in full, like a car, do so. It seems near impossible, but can be done. Or at least save a BIG chunk for a down payment. My car is older, but payed for. It’s tempting to want brand new things, but you don’t want to put yourself in the whole for years to come for it. Trust me there! Create a budget and stick to it. Last, but not least, don’t give up on your dreams, like owning a home or taking a big vacation, even though they don’t seem in reach at the moment. Stay focused, work hard for it and you will get there! I am still working towards my dreams of owning my own home, again, and taking myself to Europe, even if it takes me until I am in my 40’s, but I am okay with that. Not giving up! I am sorry this was such a long comment, but hope it’s been helpful to those who are just starting out or rebuilding:-)

  • Thank you for sharing this! I’m in my early 20s and still trying to figure out this whole money thing too. This was definitely helpful!

  • thanks for sharing! I’m about to finish college in December and am a bit terrified about the whole thing. You know, life? I’ve always been told I am great with money, even as a kid, but now it’s different. I’ll be moving back home with no real plans. It’s terrifying. I hope I’ll get some kind of job, but I just don’t know what the hell I’m doing. As a musician, it’s not like I’m going to get paid anytime soon…


  • Great advice! The State schools near us are super affordable too so you can do it without debt 🙂

  • I’m 29 and finally saw the light a few months ago on what to do with my credit card balances. I wish I was smarter with my money choices five years ago, but hindsight is 20/20. Now I’m married to a guy who handles his money with extreme care and in order for our relationship as a married couple to get off on the right foot we discussed all our finances in premarital counseling.Eye opening but effective.
    And David Ramsey’s advice is worth its weight in gold. Less than 5 months and I already paid off a credit card plus got an interest rate lowered on my other card. Two more years and I’m credit card debt free:)

  • hey there, i really enjoyed & appreciate this post. i think talking & learning about money is really important for young people & i personally feel like nobody ever really taught me enough about managing money, and as a result, i’m really terrible at making good financial decisions. so i think it’s great that you posted something like this, as i’m sure you have lots of young readers who could benefit from learning these lessons before they make any big mistakes with their own money or credit scores!

  • I loved this post! I’m turning 25 in less than a month and feel like I have things somewhat figured out, but not everything, of course! Finance is probably one of the “haziest” areas for me because it’s something people don’t usually talk openly and honestly about. It’s hard to find good, applicable advice!

    I’d love to see more posts like this! Kind of like tips for twenty-somethings.

    Thanks, Emma!

  • Glad to hear I am not the only one having a hard time with finances.
    My dad helped me make a budget and make every regularly monthly bill automatically paid which has really taken weight of my shoulder.

    Hope you’re well x


  • I would also LOVE to hear more… money is one of those things that is so difficult to talk about honestly and openly in person (ahh scary!) but being 21 and about to graduate from college it’s quite daunting and there’s so much I wnat to know (just don’t always have the courage to seek out… clearly I’m growing up real well) You are so cool and open and real, that even just through a blog post already I was able to gain a little knowledge 😉 thanks so much for sharing! Any other future maybe “what I wish I knew” posts would be so awesome!


  • I loved reading this! I think finances is an important topic that not enough people talk about so keep it coming!

  • I loved this post! I am turning 23 shortly and I just graduated with a bachelors one year ago. I’m also in the process of applying to graduate school right now, so the questions that this post raises are questions that I need to be asking myself, but too scared to. I’d loved to read some more tips on this in the future!

  • Yes! The credit part especially. You don’t realize the power of good credit until you need it, so start working towards it now. Getting a credit card when I was just starting college, even knowing I wouldn’t use it for anything but gas for my car and books for school, helped SOO much when it came to having to unexpectedly get a new car this past year. This was really great advice!

  • Do you have any advice about where to invest larger sums of money?! Keeping it sitting in a bank account gets almost no interest. Any advice? 🙂

  • Very helpful post! I’m 22, still living at home (for another six months or so then I’m out of here!) and money honestly is really scary. I’m good at saving but I’m really good at spending too and the idea of rent money just going down the drain really terrifies me. I wish there was an easier way to buy a house and pay it off rather than wasting a minimum of $200 every week on accommodation.

  • My biggest fear is struggling to pay off my student loans once I graduate. I’ve accumulated quite a bit of debt over these four years and I don’t want to ruin my credit before I can even use it for things like buying a car. The only thing that gives me a little peace of mind is that everyone else is probably in some sort of debt but it does still freak me out.

  • Building credit is definitely something I’ve been nervous to do. I know it’s essential in today’s world but it’s a huge responsibility, and that scares me. Thanks for this post!

  • What a fantastic post, truly. I’m 20 right now and I’m at the point where I’m trying to earn more money, save it, and prepare for when I’m graduated. I really loved this post – it was so helpful. would love more tips like this for a young adult!

  • I love this post…keep them coming. I graduated from college this year and am starting to pay back my loans. It’s a scary premise, not because I hate math, but because I don’t know what the future holds. I totally agree with the idea of at least considering where/if you want to go to college at least once through the filter of cost. Yet, budgeting seems to be my downfall. All this money stuff, it’s an essential evil that I know won’t feel so evil as I go through life and learn about it, but hearing other people’s advice from experience is often the most helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • I agree on the credit card point- i’m steering clear!

  • Thanks for sharing! I completely believe that it’s important to build credit while young. Of course, self control is necessary. But if you have it, then go for it! I know I got my first credit card around 19 and all I did was pay for gas with it, and each month I paid it off. I have kept a habit of always paying it off, and it’s well worth the dicsipline. I love the life lesson posts you have, so keep ’em coming!

  • I definitely agree with the advice you’ve given in this post, especially regarding student loans. I would also encourage anyone who’s thinking about going to college to spend the first two years at a community college and transfer. It’s much less expensive, and you can get your gen ed courses out of the way while you figure out what you want to do. I wish I’d done that.

    While I am dealing with my own student loans, I try to find ways to pay ahead of my plan so that I can start paying the principal. Any bonuses or unexpected money I get goes to them. Yeah, it sucks when you think about how much disposable income you could have, but getting out of the debt is important (and, as you’ve said, a good way to build your credit score).

    Another thing: I don’t buy things I don’t love or need. Even if it’s cheap, if I don’t feel like it’s something I’ll wear/use a ton, it’s not worth it to me. I would also say that the easiest thing to cut out is takeout or coffee runs. I see my friends making these purchases almost every day and am floored at how much that habit must cost. Planning meals to take to work or snacks to have around when I need them does take a little more time, but it’s a lot cheaper.

    And finally: a lot of people I know who are my age (mid-20s) seem to underestimate the importance of saving! When I get paid, I immediately put 10% of my paycheck into my IRA. I pay that account like it’s another bill. I’ve saved up for big purchases the exact same way — just put it into another account and pretend it’s not there. Withdrawing from a savings account is only okay in my book if it’s an emergency, or if there’s an unavoidably big purchase I have to make that is really unusual.

    I’m still learning every chance I get how I can manage my money wisely, and it’s still difficult. But those are a couple of things that have worked for me.

  • I am 18 and have just started university and I have learnt a lot about saving my money! Textbooks are so expensive! x

  • Thanks for sharing these tips. When i first got my credit card I got a bit carried away but I’ve been trying to be more careful now in this economy.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I love the little life tips posts! Money has definitely been a struggle for me, and I am one of the many that got caught up in credit cards. I’m slowly rebuilding my credit, and though a bit daunting, this post has given me that boost of encouragement – just take it easy, do a bit of research, and all the good stuff will come in time.

  • I feel like so many parents have scared their children away from building credit! My husband had to learn to become independent at a very young age, so luckily for us, we realized how hard it is to establish credit if you don’t have anyone willing to cosign for you! Through a lot of education, patience, and the grace of God, we’ve been able to build our credit over these past few years. When we started doing this, many of our friends and some of my family members thought it was such a risky thing for us to be “playing” with debt. But it’s not debt if you know how to set limits and be disciplined with your spending and savings. Because we decided to take our finances into our own hands a young age, talking about building/owning our own home in a few years doesn’t seem like such an impossible thing anymore! Growing up is a scary thing, but it’s definitely better to learn and experience it all while you’re young! What a great post!

  • This is great advice, although people might want to verify that their car insurance won’t go up with multiple lines of credit. My dad had spectacular credit, so he routinely took advantage of those “Six months at 0% interest” offers, always paying off his balance in full and closing each account as soon as the 0% offer wore out. Unfortunately, he noticed that his car insurance went up, as they regarded his revolving-door approach to credit cards as evidence of a high-risk financial lifestyle (which, uh, it really, really wasn’t).

    Also, I recommend the book ‘The Two-Income Trap’, by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi. The title makes it sound like a 1950s throwback, but I promise it isn’t! Their basic point is that when households rely on 100% of a two-person income to meet their financial obligations, they find themselves in an impossible position when when they lose even a portion of that income. (For example, if you require both salaries just to make your rent, what happens if you have a kid? Or one of you loses your job?) Their book suggests that people try to cover as many basic expenses as possible via one income, and hold the second income in reserve-not necessarily saving it, but not making financial commitments with it (like a mortgage), either.

  • I love money posts! Definitely always useful. I consider myself a pretty thrifty person…but I also LOVE shopping. And spending on nice things. I love it but I have a hard time doing it! I need a better budget to give myself the freedom to do that. My parents were incredibly wise with money, and they often stressed that budgeting gives you freedom to spend just as much as it gives you a limit (at least when things are comfortable, which I’m very grateful for). We don’t have a credit card, but since my parents have given the same advice you just did, I’ll have to talk to my husband about that again. He’s really not interested in going into debt even for a car or house (we are renters and have bought used cars), but emergencies come up and good credit could still be valuable someday. Also, my husband will probably be going back to school and I stay home, so money will get VERY interesting in the next few years! Maybe the perfect opportunity to build good credit though.
    Budgeting would be a great post idea!

  • I find the whole building credit thing so backward. Here (in Sweden) you get a record for payment default if you don’t pay your bills or debts in time and it ends up registered with the Enforcement Authority. A credit report will include any payment defaults recorded against your name so it will make it next to impossible to for you to get a loan, rent an apartment, etc. But as long as you have the required income and pay what you’re due in time you’re good to go. Having credit cards and other loans (even if you’ve paid everything on time) can actually be a disadvantage when applying for new loans.

  • Very good tips! I wish I had thought about these issues more when I was first starting college (17-18), and not in my 20s 🙁


  • This is all such sound advice. I wish I’d learned many of them when I first entered my 20s!

  • I think we might have more in common than you think. Don’t be so quick to assume when you might not really know someone’s whole story. I know I’m typing this so you can’t hear my tone but I promise it’s friendly. Just a thought.


  • I love this money-post, we should talk more about money I think. I live in Sweden and we don´t have a credit system like you do in USA, instead our bank have some standard forms on how much a house costs and depending on how much you earn you´ll get a loan based on that. Pretty weird to, I think, because they´ll loan you an amount so you have to live out on the countryside and pay for gas and cars instead of a bigger house closer to/ in the city so you could commute by bus or train. At least that´s my experience from buying a house real young…

  • Yes-love your comment! Saving and also building up an emergency fund are two topics I might talk more about sometime. Totally agree with you, and kudos to you for saving 15%. Go you!


  • You work on Dave Ramsey’s team?! How cool! I’m a big fan, although as you can see I don’t follow all his advice to the letter. But I am so inspired by how much him and his team (you included!) have changed so many people’s lives for the better. Such an amazing thing to do with your life, help others in some way.


  • Hi Robmary, Thank you for reading and your kind comment. 🙂 I may blog about some of these things in the future but if you’d ever like to email me directly to ask something specific feel free: emma AT redvelvetart DOT com

    Best of luck to you and your fiancé!


  • Thanks for the tip Sam, sounds like a good resource to look into. I hear good things about Mint too. Although we just use excel sheets for our personal budgeting (Trey and I as we do our finances together ever since we married).


  • Love your advice Kylie-thanks for sharing!!! Also, you own a house and travel often at 21? You should way cooler than I was at 21. 🙂


  • That is going to get to be a big problem. Live within your means, get another job, cancel the cable, sell stuff…without knowing your situation it’s hard to give any advice…but If you are using a credit card to buy necessities and your spending is more than your income, it is not going to end well.

    Just being honest.

    What she offered was pretty simple guidelines.

  • Great advice 🙂
    I’m in uni at the moment and money will be a big problem afterwards I’m sure! xx
    alicekatex ♥

  • Thanks for the advice Emma! As an upcoming graduate, this was a really helpful read!

  • Thank you for posting this, just got keys for my boyfriend and I’s first cottage that we are renting. Had a little panic this morning about how I’m going to budget but this just reminded me that it’s quite normal to have these struggles in your 20s! We hope to buy in the future and the credit advice was helpful. Keep up the lovely work! Tori xx

  • Emma! I love all of your tips. I would love to hear more about this subject whenever you have the time. I’ve learned a lot about my finances during the past few years in graduate school. It is great to hear perspective from someone that lives in the real world. (aka. the non grad school life)


  • Maybe I’m weird, but I love reading (and writing) about money. Keep it coming!

  • I agree with Emily on this one. Also a long time reader here and although I love this blog, this financial advice is almost laughable. It’s good for those who, like you, have money and can afford to pay their bills. For people like me, who have unavoidable bills (bills that won’t be paid off for a very long time) it boils down to- “how do I keep us afloat this month”. I have a great job (I am a graphic designer on a very popular day time talk show) and I make enough money for a young person with normal bills to thrive on. My problem is that I have over 100,000 in student loan debt because I grew up poor and with no one to help me with finances, or financial decisions for that matter. When I was 17, my mom begged me to go to school- so I did by whatever means necessary. Needless to say I make enough money to pay my loans, eat, medical bills, and pay rent. No savings, no fancy vacations- none of that.

  • I really love hearing about financial insight. It’s nice to hear it from an unbiased source that’s not looking to benefit from sharing the information. My mom was a banker for 15 years, and she had also told me to start a credit card at a young age. That it wouldn’t be bad to open up a credit card at a store that I liked to shop at (Khols or Tjmaxx for instance), as long as you only spend as much as you can afford and always paid it off immediately.

    One valuable thing she taught me, was not to allow your credit to be checked too often. If you do apply for different credit cards, they run a credit check in the process. If your credit is check more than four times a year I think, it can negatively affect your credit score as well. So be selective for what you apply for, and make sure its something you can commit to.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  • I made most of my money mistakes in my twenties, so now I’m using my 30’s to make up for them…I guess that’s how life is sometimes.

    When I got my first c.c. (in college) I fell under the category of “person who should’ve never got a credit card”. After I got through all of that heartache & debt, I spent many years without a credit card, and I think it was the best thing for me. I paid off all of my school loan debt and a car during that time, and most of all I put together a very nice savings safety net, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I got a credit card again, and it is a completely different experience now. I pay off my entire balance each month now, and I keep my spending in check (most likely because I know how hard it is to come back from credit card debt…yes, if you’re not smart about it, it’s designed to keep you mired in the interest debt).

    How did I do it?…I put together a budget of all of my monthly expenditures (cutting things I suddenly realized were costing me a fortune, and really weren’t necessary…cable, going out to eat a lot more than I should, a bunch of stuff at Target that was so much fun but would often end up in a pile of misc. stuff). Don’t get me wrong, I still allow myself some fun stuff now and then, but it’s significantly less than before, and I appreciate those few times more than I ever did the bunch of times before. Other tricks to save…setting up a savings account away from the one that was tied to my checking account (a buffer can be a very good thing), when I got a raise, I would shift my savings amount to include that amount (after all, I’d lived without that extra amount previously, I could do it now), and if I was given cash as a gift, I’d often try to put most of it to savings, and allow myself a small treat from the rest. I’m not a total cheapskate, but I find a way to enjoy the free or low priced things in life, and it helps that my husband is the same way.

    I honestly think it’s the small things that end up making such a big difference in changing your financial future. More than anything, it’s creating a new way of thinking that will create a shift in your bank account…a positive one!

  • I think it’s awesome to see them give financial advice! They are just like us and started with an idea and turned hobbies and interests into a business. I doesn’t matter that they have a successful business and make more money than you or me… Look at the title – money lessons that they learned in their 20’s. This is just advice and what they learned and what helped them become so successful. I am 25 and pay off my credit cards 100% every month. It’s just to say that doing that will help build your credit and prevent the risk of getting into debt.

  • I am 25 and REALLY wish that someone would have told me that last piece before I went to a private university – those student loans are never-ending!

  • This was so helpful!! It may be a little too late for me (early 30’s paying for my early 20’s mistakes and student loans haha), but I will definitely check out those authors.
    I will forward this to the teens in my family and my hubby as well since he is just starting to build his credit from scratch (recently migrated).
    Keep the financial posts coming!

  • She clearly stated if you aren’t responsible with a budget, credit cards may not be for you.. If you don’t enjoy the post, just close the window or email them privately. Enough people probably took insight from her story.

  • Emma, I love articles like this! All of those “how you need to budget.. 3 things busting your budget” and “10 easy ways to save $100 this month” – I read them all. I am so interested in the ways people handle their money and the best/worst practices. I would really love to hear more about how you guys handle ABM finances, and how it worked before you guys expanded into a large team. I think alot of readers are dreaming of getting a blog off the ground at some point and could benefit from any insight/best practice advice you may give. Happy Friday!

  • This is such great advice! Finances are tough. I read a lot of Suze Orman, talk to people who I know and trust, and research online, and STILL feel like I have so, so much to learn.

    My golden rule is just not to spend money I don’t have. 🙂

    Always, Anita

  • Another point that I didn’t see mentioned – SAVING MONEY!
    I read somewhere that Americans save less than %6 of their paycheck – I personally save %15.
    And not the saving where you put it away and 2 weeks later take it back to buy new shoes.. the put it away and only take from when you’ve already gone through every other route!
    For me this means making sacrifices in the apartment I live in and the car I drive- but it gives me endless security.

  • I work on Dave Ramsey’s team and am a regular ABM reader. So cool to see these two paths cross! My husband and I (both 29) have benefited from sticking to a budget and using cash for things like food and clothes. It sounds restrictive, but it’s actually really freeing! We both feel comfortable spending money on fun stuff and necessities without worrying that it might derail our money plans. 🙂

  • I don’t know why you are taking issue with her advice. The ABM business is clearly successful and Elsie and Emma’s personal as well as professional lives are evidence of that. They must be doing something right in regards to finances so I think it would be wise of us all to seek the advice they are giving and figure out what best suits our own needs. I work in accounts receivable and, believe you me, there are many, MANY business owners that don’t know a thing about business and have no idea how to pay their bills let alone care about their credit score. ABM is the way it is because of the wise business practices that are used in their decision making. It would suit us all to humble ourselves and listen to the counsel of a modern success story.

  • Amen and amen. I fully agree with you and you brought so insights that I hadn’t originally thought of before. I have my BS in accounting and personal finance has always fascinated me so I super appreciated this post and would look forward to more. You are just so great.

  • Could you share more about this? I get so many credit card offers in the mail but my mom always freaks me out about “the fine print” .. I don’t know which one to pick, but would love a travel points one.

  • loved reading this! my husband and i just bought our first condo in southern california (he’s 25, i’m 24. and escrow was nuts). we pay off our credit card balances every month and mostly just use the credit cards for gas and groceries. we’re going to be paying for those items every month anyways so we use the credit cards as a way to build up our credit. it worked for us when buying our home and we both have really great credit scores because of that. i went to a state school and took out loans for my last two years in college. i paid them off as soon as i started working full time a few months after graduating so it barely accrued any interest. i really do love when you share articles like this. thanks!

  • I completely and one hundred percent agree with your third point. I have an acting degree and attended an out of state school, with resulted in about $36,000 worth of student debt, $10,000 of which was from a private lender. My biggest regret isn’t that I have the debt, or that I majored in Fine Arts, but that I didn’t think about the reality of having student debt after I graduated. Literally, I did not even think about it. My biggest advice to people getting ready for college, and what I wish I had done, is know that it’s okay to follow your dreams and do what you want, but be really honest with yourself about what it’s going to cost, and how that will affect your life post-grad. Especially if you’re working in a non-traditional field. The sooner you get your head out of your ass, the sooner you’ll be able to start making your dreams come true, whatever they may be.

  • I’ve been reading for about 3 years…? If not longer..and I think I’ve commented twice haha but felt really compelled to ask you to definitely post more about this stuff – money, business, investing. I love it. And learn so much!

    I’m getting married soon and talking about money is the ONLY thing my fiance and I struggle with. How did you guys do it when you got married? How did you get budgets? Credits? Assets? … Pre nup? (So weird to even think about) … And the ever awkward – I make more money than him. H.E.L.P

  • I love talking about the money!
    I thought you wouldn’t say to “build a credit score” as one of the advices because you said you liked to read articles of Dave Ramsey and Ramsey was all about “don’t get a credit card.” But I agreed that if you can do budget properly and pay off immediately, get a credit card wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    For me, I’m scared to get a credit card because I can be an impulsive shopper sometimes so I just don’t want to get into debts. 😀

  • Individual circumstances do need to be taken into consideration of course. It’s also clear to me (from reading years of ABM) that these ladies were not gifted a million dollar business and that their financial situation in their early twenties was much more modest.
    Having good financial advice can lead to having better circumstances, that was my take away. I don’t have my own business I definitely fall into the ‘working for the man’ and ‘underpaid’ categories myself 😉 but it’s still great advice and I feel like I can apply it to my own circumstances. Thanks for sharing Emma! Hopefully everyone is able to take something useful away from the post and I definitely love to see more financial posts.

  • Thanks for the great advice/tips! Financial matters are always confusing and intimidating. Happy Weekend!

  • I think this is great. I love it when people talk about money because everyone deals with it and wish we’d all get over the weirdness. It’s encouraging for everyone and probably especially important for younger readers.

  • People who make a lot can be terrible with money, and have tons of debt while someone who makes very little can be super wise with their money, and have no debt at all.

    So, even though the topic is money, ironically, I don’t think the numbers really matter that much. I think the point is the feelings associated with money, and how she took control of her financial situation that should be focused on rather than the specific differences between each person’s financial situation.

  • Hi Emma! Thank you so much for publishing this. When I was about 19, I started getting very curious about budgeting, credit, loans etc. all the big financial stuff you are never really taught in school. I started asking people I knew and that was the first time I really noticed the whole stigma behind talking money. It was a little shocking but like you, I love to read books about it now.

    Thanks again for sharing and I can’t wait for you to post more on this topic! Please keep it coming 🙂 Your success is admirable!

    xoxo from Miami- Jessy

  • This is such a great post, Emma, and I’m so glad you brought up the topic of money issues since it impacts all of our lives in some way or another! And, I could not agree more with you that the more you know the more empowered you feel.

    Once I made the single decision to do whatever I had to to FINALLY get out of credit card debt it was the start of shifting my money thoughts from something that was negative and horrible to something that was positive and “oh yeah, I actually CAN do this!” I knew I had to somehow step out of the constant cycle of: spend = feel guilty = vow to get things under control = spend again to make myself feel better. It had to end.

    Life is so much better now, and holy cow it’s amazing to know that you can have the power to change your life right where you, and without any external forces stepping in to “save” you. While I did a Spending Fast to completely eliminate all of my debt (24k) in 15 months ( there are small, less “extreme” things you can do everyday to start taking steps in the right direction with your money, or to just not go down the rabbit hole of debt in the first place!

  • As I am in my early twenties this is seriously what I need. Number 2 is what I really need to get on.

  • I also agree with this. Credit is a scary thing to get into when you’re twenty somethings.

  • I don’t normally comment, but I did want to say that I really really enjoyed reading this and I hope you talk about money more!

  • there are some really good tips here! money is always something you can learn more about.

    love, arielle
    a simple elegance

  • LOVE Dave Ramsey, although my husband and I are not sure how we feel about his “no credit cards at all” rule; neither of us have ever used the credit card we do have, but I think if you’re good about paying things off and know you can manage a credit card without getting yourself into debt, it’s okay to use a credit card to build up your score. We keep meaning to use ours as a gas card and pay it off every month, since that’d be the easiest way to utilize it, but uh… we’re not used to having it so we keep forgetting we even can use it. Haha!

    These are all such great tips! Thank you for sharing, Emma!

  • Great advice and I love your wording for choosing a college. I tell people this all the time and I get mixed reactions. I went to college, got a business degree and now currently work in an industry I don’t really need a degree for with a mountain of unnecessary debt. When I was younger I felt pressured to go to college and I tell people all the time I will never push that on my children especially since times have changed SO much when it comes to careers and college! Anyways, so glad to see someone else dare to just say it!

  • No offense, but it’s very hard to take financial advice from someone who regularly claims they own a million dollar business. Before publishing posts like these, I think you need to realize that you and your husband were both extremely fortunate to have been offered opportunities in an already-successful endeavor like this; and the majority of your readers are not in any sort of financial position to take advice like “pay off 90% of your credit card balance every month”. While that’s great in theory, and no doubt works for you, there are thousands of readers who are working too hard and getting paid too little, and have no choice but to use credit for life necessities. Although I appreciate you taking the time to share what worked for you, I’d hesitate to share it as a form of “advice” since I feel it really lacks perspective and relatability among your readers. I know you stuck “I’m not an expert” in there a few times, but I’m guessing you feel confident enough in your advice to have published it in the first place. Sorry – just a long time reader trying to be honest.

  • This is definitely one of those “if I knew back then what I know now” subjects. I was a financial mess in my 20’s and thankfully out of that in my 30’s. Great advice!

  • It was always kinda frowned upon to talk about money in my family. It was taught from an early age that I was to get married young and have my husband be in charge of money. Fast-forward a couple of years and I realized that I didn’t want that sort of life,but I was never prepared to my finances.

    Reading this has helped me put things into perspective that never quite clicked with me before. Thanks you for sharing your stories! I look forward to reading more on this topic.

  • Money can be so hard to talk about and yet so important to discuss. The “You Need A Budget” software has completely changed my life and how I see my money. It is also completely free for college students. I don’t work for YNAB just amazed how much it has effected our day to day spending and how much we are saving up for the things important to us.

  • This is an awesome post! I bought my home last year at 21 and have been trying to pay it off as soon as I can. Although I try to save, I do want to make the most of my time in my 20’s and travel. I started reading a lot of travel blogs and these past few months and allotted my regular purchases into a couple travel credit cards. I ended up saving up enough points to go on a FREE trip this fall!! My advice: TRAVEL CARD BONUS SIGN UP OFFERS! But MAKE SURE the minimum spending requirement is within what you are already spending!! I have seen a huge increase in my credit as well!

  • Thank you so much! I’m almost 25 and really hope to figure some of those things out before I turn 30 🙂

    Love from Italy and have a wonderful weekend,


  • Emma- I love posts like this! I’m 21 and about to graduate college (ahh!!!) but I just got my first credit card a few months ago, paying for things with it always makes me nervous but I know you have to use it to build credit- ugh! Money stuff is weird. Thanks for sharing!

  • I don’t personally think money is awkward to talk about, i think its super important! I got my graduate degree at my alma mater because of the sole purpose of not wanting to accrue a huge amount of debt to attend my dream school. It was a $5,000 cost (thank you cheap tuition and scholarships) compared to $100,000+. Kind of a no brainer but it was hard to let that little dream go. In hindsight it was the best decision of my life because I am doing something completely different than my degree by choice. I am glad I didn’t spend so much money to figure out what I didn’t want to do.

    Also, building credit is another thing I think is important. I got a credit card freshman year and NEVER spend money I don’t have. I have never once left a balance on my credit card. I also took a 15,000 loan out on my car to pay off in a year so that we will be able to qualify for a good home loan next year!

    Always have a plan when it comes to finances.

  • Thank you for sharing. These are some good tips 🙂 x

  • First off, congrats and good luck on the house shopping!!!!! Super exciting time, although a little stressful too. Or it can be. Anyway, I wish you and your fiancé all the best!

    Yes, there’s a lot of advice out there that it’s smart to not pay off your cc in full every month. Personally, I can’t stand not to pay it off as it makes me nervous and I know it’s just accumulating some interest. But leaving some balance on your cc from time to time is smart if you can manage it (stress wise and remembering to pay it off within the next couple months). This is where that small loan I took out came in handy because it gave me more credit history than just my cc, which I pretty much paid in full every month.

    Credit is just weird, really. You have to have it in order to get more. And it’s this imaginary number that you’re not even suppose to request to see more than once a year (because that also looks bad). Very Kafka if you ask me. But, having credit is extremely useful so it’s good to learn about it and find ways to make it work for you. 🙂


  • I think this is a great post. I am 50 and have a daughter in her early 20’s (and two teenage daughters), so I am going to have her read your post. While my husband and I have always worked to instill good money management with our daughters, I think it’s great for them to learn from others nearer their age. I really like the approach you took with building your credit.

    I enjoy visiting your blog for all your creative ideas, and I especially love that you all share your lessons learned about your business, creativity, and life in general.

    Wish you all continued success!

  • i love this post!! money tips are always so helpful. as a 22 year old, these are all things on my radar! thanks for sharing!

    xx nikki

  • Great article and actually really relevant for me because the other week my fiance and I went to apply for a loan because we wanted to put an offer in on a house. I too have had my credit card since I was 18 (though I’m only 25 now). I’ve paid off my balance every month and was looking forward to seeing a good credit score! My limit isn’t too high, but I made it that way on purpose so I wouldn’t overspend. I thought that was really smart of me until the lender told me that because my limit isn’t that high and I almost hit the limit every month (even though I pay off my balance EVERY SINGLE month) my credit score is lower because the credit card company sees it like that I’m not good at managing my money because I don’t keep a constant balance of less than 50%. I had no idea you were supposed to keep it at the halfway mark. I always assumed that it only mattered if you paid off the card every month. The more ya know huh?

  • Hi Mickie,

    Thanks for your kind words. I’d love to write more about my old catering business sometime. In the mean time you are welcome to email me if you have any questions (emma AT redvelvetart DOT com). I may not have an answer but I’d be happy to share anything I learned with you. 🙂

    Best of luck!


  • Love this post! And yes I would love to see more money related posts and tips :), I find them really useful. I am nineteen now, have just launched my first business, and am looking at the world through big BULGING eyes. So any helpful advice and experience that I can glean from is huge for me. Thank you for sharing Emma! Oh, and I would love to hear about your experience renting a commercial kitchen when you had your cupcake shop (my new business is a bakery) I am looking into that now, and feeling a little unsure.
    Anyhoo, have a lovely day Emma 🙂

  • I would love to hear more! I can always read more money tips, it is a common struggle for my family, so please keep on sharing.

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