What I did with my money at 18

Financial blogger Paul Tebbs shares his experience of being in control of his money for the first time - as well as the challenges he faced.

Welcome to adulthood

My first year of adulthood was a big one for me on all fronts. Of most significance that year was that I finished college and went to university. Within a couple of weeks, I went from earning £4.35 / hour one day a week at McDonalds (I wasn't loving it), to technically earning nothing but suddenly having access to thousands of pounds for the first time.

My windfall was thanks to a combination of my first Student Loan instalment and money that my Grandad had kindly gifted me for university. Mine was a four year degree and my Grandad had, (in hindsight very foolishly), given me £5,000 for my first two years upfront. I should have budgeted that five grand a lot more carefully than I did, because my student loan barely covered my accommodation cost.

"I recall that I did actually do some budgeting weeks before university even started but the problem was I didn't stick to it!"

Like many first year students, a lot of money was spent on nights out. Despite Aberystwyth (where I went to university) nightlife being relatively cheap, nights out were what I spent most of my money on that year. I remember a few splurges on large ASOS orders too. One thing that helped was that my halls of residence were catered every day except Sunday. So, gladly, I didn't have to budget much for food that year.

What happened next?

By the second semester of my second year, my gravy train was pulling into its final station.

"I remember calling Mum to tell her that I was into the final few hundred pounds of my overdraft. It was an awkward conversation that shamelessly concluded with me asking her for money. To my complete surprise, she said no!"

And that's not sarcasm: my Mum is pretty soft so I wasn't expecting that to be her response. It wasn't that I was against getting a job. Rather, I didn't think I'd be able to find one. Aberystwyth is a small town, whereby students make up 50% of the population. As a result, part-time work is competitive and hard to come by.

A couple more weeks passed and despite applying for many jobs, I hadn't even managed to get any interviews. I was getting quite desperate and, whilst I really didn't want to have to do what I did next, I decided I was out of options. That's right, like a moth to a lightbulb, I returned to the golden arches: my old employer, McDonalds. Putting that cap and name badge back on didn't feel great. I never expected to be working for Ronald McDonald ever again. That said, I'm proud of myself for doing it and pleased that my Mum gave me that tough love when she turned me down for a handout.

"Years later, I have since proven myself to be pretty savvy when it comes to saving and investing and even write a blog on money management."

My advice for 18 year olds today

If you've saved enough to go to university without having to work a part-time job then great! Just make sure you stick to a budget whilst enjoying yourself at the same time.

Not everyone is so lucky. Working a part time job whilst at university certainly curbed my hedonistic ways at little at first. But, if you're organised, you can make it work! I believe juggling a job and an undergraduate course set me up for success later in life by teaching me self-discipline and the importance of managing money.

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Paul Tebbs is an Account Manager at Paddle and also runs a finance blog, Moneytipsblog.co.uk.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of OneFamily.