Guest Post: Four Money Skills That Everyone Should Have



Mrs. Picky Pincher is the blogger and resident klutz at She’s on a journey to crush $225,000 of debt and achieve financial independence.


There I was, 21 years old with a fresh college degree in my hand. I’d never had a job, never had bills, and didn’t have my own bank account. Doomed from the start, I had a stupid sense of hyper-optimism.


But within months I carried a balance on my credit card and cried over my $0 retirement account.


Needless to say, I learned most of my money skills from the School of Hard Knocks. Adulthood barreled in with a big punch of Reality the minute I got my first rent bill. I dramatically sobbed the first time I filed taxes.


I had to quickly learn how to create a budget on my small and variable income.  I had to learn about credit cards (the hard way, of course) and the importance of saving. It took me a few years, but today I finally have a healthy grasp of my finances.


Money skills changed my life. Instead of scraping by every month, today I’m paying off debt and slowly building net worth. I now realize there are a few essential skills everyone should have to manage their money.


Here are four money skills everyone should know!


1. Have a savings mindset

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everyone talks about the importance of having X amount of savings at all times. But that’s easier said than done, especially if you don’t have a savings mindset.


When I was fresh out of college I earned $15/hour. That wasn’t terrible pay for the work and I was stoked to have real money in my hands. Instead of pumping funds into a savings account, I bought new shoes. And a pet rabbit. And fancy wine.


I was thrilled to make my own money, and I spent it with reckless abandon.  But then my company stopped performing well, and before I knew it, they slyly cut my hours. My pay shrunk week after week and soon I was in hot water.


I put $20 a week into my savings account as a “just in case” fund. Eventually I had $600 in savings.  That $600 was my lifeline when I went a month without a paycheck while transitioning jobs.  Without that savings cushion I would have either gone into debt or gone hungry.


I developed a savings mindset out of necessity.  I put away $100 a month and it definitely was painful on my small income, but it saved me.  There are real consequences to not having emergency savings.


Set up automatic transfers to a savings account so you can effortlessly build savings. As they say: pay yourself first.


2. Know what the hell an interest rate is.

I am bad, bad, bad at math. My eyes glaze over when people start talking numbers. Because of my mathematical ignorance, I had zero idea what interest rates were. And I really didn’t care.


I put my “fun money” expenses on a credit card and only paid the minimums. I was amazed by this newfound ability to buy things now and pay for them later!




That was until good ol’ interest reared its ugly head and pummeled my finances with a 16% APR. I learned about interest rates the hard way and realized carrying a balance was a great way to lose a lot of money.


Know the interest rates on your car , student loans, mortgage, and credit cards. Once Mr. Picky Pincher and I decided to get out of debt, we prioritized the highest-interest debts first. The higher the interest, the more we’d lose in the long term. That’s why we paid off those evil credit cards first.


Be smart about the debt you assume!


3. Make a budget and stick to it.

I used to think budgets were for other people. I didn’t need a budget! I had my life on lock with my new Keurig machine and $450/mo car payment!


Yeah, I didn’t have it together, y’all.


I was forced to learn budgeting when I went a month without income. I found a salaried position that paid twice my $15/hour job, but I wouldn’t get a paycheck for a month. I knew my income would double once I got my first paycheck , but rent was due tomorrow.


I crafted a crude budget in a Google Sheet. It included my income, credit card payments, rent, car payment, insurance, groceries, utilities, and entertainment. I had no idea what my actual expenses were, so my first month’s budget was grossly wrong.


The next month I disregarded my budget completely and spent $200 on a new haircut and manicure–yes, really. But soon afterwards I realized I didn’t have money for groceries!


Making a budget is half the battle. It’s so, so important to stick to a budget. Mr. Picky Pincher and I meet once a week to go over our budget and adjust our spending habits.


Know how to create and follow a budget to see where your money goes.


4. Avoid debt like head lice

My parents always said debt was normal. It wasn’t possible to get out of debt; it was something that everybody had, and that was that.


This mindset carried over into my adulthood. I put everything imaginable on my rewards credit card. I carried the balance month to month, occasionally paying it off for the fun of it. Once hard times hit, though, credit card payments were painful. Especially when coupled with student loan payments and a whopping $450/mo car payment (for a rinky-dink Honda Fit, no less).


It wasn’t until Mr. Picky Pincher and I got married that I realized how important it is to avoid debt. We lived paycheck to paycheck and had $0 for savings. We became avid followers of Mr. Money Mustache and soon realized our monthly debts were the problem. We cut our grocery costs with smart shopping strategies, moved to a cheaper apartment, and used the Snowball Method to pay off our credit cards.


Without debt, we were able to build a healthy savings account and save for the home of our dreams.


Nowadays we avoid debt like head lice. We bought and renovated our first home back in September and paid for the renovation with cash. If we can’t pay for it from our debit account, we won’t buy it.


Learn to avoid debt and try to pay cash for everything. Future-You will appreciate it!


The Bottom Line

Sometimes the best way to learn is by stumbling through life. I appreciate my money struggles because they’ve made me the frugal lady I am today. Thanks to these four skills, I save 50% of my income and I’m on track to be financially independent by age 35. Not too shabby, eh?


Take the time to develop positive money skills. They’ll pay off not only today, but for decades to come.


We want to know: What money skills do you think everyone should have?

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. Saving is incredibly important but you make some great points about interest rates and budgeting.

    Luckily for me, my parents instilled the habit of saving in me when I was very young. This has benefited me; I’m able to delay gratification and save for the future.

    I agree with your #4 but believe debt can be used in an effective way to earn more money. For example, rental properties. You can leverage debt to increase your income.

    Great post Mrs. Picky Pincher 🙂
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…Blog Traffic and Income Report – January 2017My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Emily!!! I definitely think it should be required to learn personal finance in high school and college before you graduate.

      Credit card companies prey on young people that don’t have the financial skill sets to say no.

      That’s amazing that you have had the opportunities to share your knowledge and hopefully they soaked it all up 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by Smart Provisions. Debt is like any tool. It can be used wisely or unwisely. Although personally being out of debt, I’m not sure I’d ever want to go in unless it was a no brainer decision.

  2. That are indeed 4 good basic skills.

    the hard one is to define a budget that makes you happy, balancing saving and enjoying life now! We made a lot of progress tha last year on that front!
    Amber tree recently posted…January Passive IncomeMy Profile

    • Creating a happy budget is definitely a hard challenge. It’s definitely something my wife and I struggle with between enjoying life now and saving for later 🙂

  3. “Make a budget and stick to it.”

    I think this might be the hardest one. People don’t like to be held down, even by themselves. I admit it’s hard sometimes for me to follow my budget so more often than not I need to go in and increase a line item, particularly if something unexpected comes up (e.g., a wedding I was invited too, don’t want to go but have to for one reason or another, and buy a gift).
    SMM recently posted…What’s a REITMy Profile

  4. Nice work on the networking Mrs. Picky PIncher and Mustard Seed Money!

    I agree with some of the comments regarding “good” debt. I am very debt adverse, but for certain investment opportunities I have definitely come to embrace some debt (that I know we can pay off!).

    And I didn’t know that you were planning to reach FI by 35, especially given your student loan debt. Just curious, how long ago did you get started? That is inspiring!

    • Oh man that is the truth TPOHappiness!!! Every year I somehow get surprised that we owe property taxes on the house. Since we have the mortgage paid off we have to make two lump sums each year and each year I forget that it’s due in June and December. I hate those tax payments 🙂

  5. I literally laughed out loud at the analogy of avoiding debt like head lice. My kid’s school has had a bit of a head lice epidemic this school year and I experienced the trauma of dealing with that situation for the very first time. I think I would take on credit card debt before another head lice incident, and I’m very opposed to credit card debt! There’s a lot of anxiety and sadness in both, ha!
    I think looking forward to the future is key. We’ve all made some bad money mistakes, but realizing that you can start right now is so important.
    Making Your Money Matter recently posted…RE404: Social Security & Medicare EssentialsMy Profile

    • I still remember when I got head lice in the first grade. My mom freaked out. After that she wouldn’t let me share hats, helmets or anything that went on someone’s head with anybody. She still reminds me about getting lice. Clearly it was more traumatic to her than me 🙂

      • I got head lice so bad once that they wouldn’t respond to special shampoo. We had to suffocate them with (drumroll)…


        We coated my head in mayonnaise and I slept in a shower cap all night. I still hate mayonnaise to this day, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t kill the lice.
        Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What’s For Dinner?My Profile

      • It was a hundred times more traumatic for me than my kids. I went straight to a lice salon with my daughter because I couldn’t handle the thought of it. I actually spent over $500 on lice treatments (that first one was not the only incident unfortunately!) last year. It’s too bad that I don’t post my budget publicly on the blog, because that would make for a fun little line item there in the budget. Ha! Your poor mom-you should give her a retroactive thank you for dealing with that! 😉
        Making Your Money Matter recently posted…ES401: Essential Estate Planning DocumentsMy Profile

  6. Simple, yet profound Mrs. Picky Pincher! I agree on all points and unfortunately just like you, had to learn the all the hard way (sometimes more than once). I really like the concept of your blog. Being frugal does not have to mean you live in a self built deprivation chamber. Rather, it means you efficiently use your spending to maximize your enjoyment of life.

    One additional comment about debt that took me some time to internalize. Mrs. Zero and I now live off the same level of spending we had when we first graduated from college 17 years ago! AND because we no longer have large portions of our spending paying interest (on a new car, credit cards, student loans, etc…) our lifestyle is off-the-charts better. We now live a fairly cushy existence and are saving 3X our annual spending rate each year!

    When you finally have a steady income, it is so tempting to immediately jump start your lifestyle by leveraging debt, but in reality it only inhibits your lifestyle and freedom.
    Zero recently posted…I might be an A-Hole.My Profile

    • Wow that’s incredibly impressive that you are able to spend the same amount of money that you did when you first graduated from college. You definitely have not let lifestyle creep take over your finances 🙂

  7. A Honda Fit for $450 a month?!! Ouch!! But you know, we all have been there. Done some silly things that we can now look back and laugh at…all while calculating what the savings would have been! Regardless, FI by 35 is an awesome goal and undoubtedly one you will accomplish by following these guidelines. I never knew anything about savings rates until a year ago but man, when you figure that out, it changes your whole way of thinking. Great stuff here and keep it up, MPP!! 🙂
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…I’m Officially Famous For Being In DebtMy Profile

    • I echo your sentiments!!! I definitely had no idea about savings rates until just recently. I thought I was doing well until I came across some of these PF bloggers out there who are doing AMAZING!!!

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