By Mary Bruce

I adopted a dog today. I hadn’t planned on it. But my husband and I stopped at the local SPCA and, well, this pup chose me. And I’m smitten. I named her Nalu (Hawaiian for “wave”). In my new-dog-mom excitement, I went to the nearest big box store to get The Necessary Supplies: Dog bed. Dog bowls. Chew toys. Treats. A leash. Food. Poop bags. More treats.

$237 later, I’m slightly less smitten. But no less in love.

When I got home with my loot, a friend shared “Do you know they have almost all of that stuff at the dollar store, for a fraction of the price?” (No. I did not know that. But I’ll be making some returns.) Ah, the wisdom of friends and family. In addition to the sage advice to check the dollar store for pet supplies, here are a few more money-minded lessons that I wish I’d learned sooner:

 

  1. Start Saving. Even If It’s Just a Few Dollars a Month.

 

When I was in the Peace Corps, my first post-college job, I made less than $250 a month. My sister encouraged me, in the way only sisters can, to put a portion of that into a Roth IRA retirement account. I did. And through magic compound interest, it will matter. One way I was able to stick to these retirement contributions was because another friend recommended Mint.com, which helps people create budgets you can actually stick to.  It’s helped me make choices (no fancy cheese from the grocery this week! Time to borrow clothes from a friend, instead of buying new!) and set goals (saving not just for retirement, but also paying down debt, saving for travel and a deposit on a house). There have been ebbs and flows, for sure, but it’s trending in the right direction.

  1. Ask. And Keep Asking. (And invest, and keep investing.)

When I started investing, I didn’t know what stocks were. Or bonds. Or asset allocation. Or any of the other finance-related terms, which, frankly, overwhelmed me. But I got to asking. According to Sallie Krawcheck, author of Money Magazine’s recent special report on Women & Investing, nearly half of women are not satisfied with their knowledge about finances. And there are consequences. The report also showed that women don’t invest as much, or as early, as men do. And this all adds up. The real cost of the investing gap over a 35-year career span could be more than $1 million. I just learned this. So, I’m going to ask more questions — and step up my investing game.

Source: Money Magazine’s recent special report on Women & Investing
  1. Invest in Experiences. Not Things.

My mom says, “Always have your passport and a smile ready.” Sometimes, when she’s in a store and finds something she wants to buy, she’ll walk around with it for a while but then says to herself, “I’d rather be in Prague.” She puts the item back on the shelf and puts that money in her travel fund. When you turn 70, what are you more likely to remember? Those items you just ordered from Amazon or that bucket-list trip to the destination of your dreams?  

Celebrating my mom’s 70th birthday with her on the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve never had a dog before. It’s going to be fun and there will be mistakeson both my pup’s and my part. But I’ve got people in my life to help me figure it out.  And that’s how I’m approaching my finances — and I invite you to, too. The B.A. Rudolph Foundation is a network of women (and some men!) who are doing incredible work in the world, and can help each other out. Have other financial questions or tips to share? Send me an email and let me know your thoughts!

About the author:

Mary Bruce headshotMary Bruce is the executive director of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation, where she advances the organization’s mission of championing the educational and professional development of progressive women for whom a small amount of support could make a significant difference. Read more here and read her introductory blog here

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