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Terrell Owens, Warren Sapp, Vince Young. What do they all have in common? They all earned millions in the NFL, and still managed to go broke. Between bad investments, buying 240 pairs of sneakers and spending $5,000 a week at T.G.I. Friday’s, they all made poor financial decisions just like many, many others do at some point.  You can avoid a similar fate by learning these money basics.

You can’t have champagne taste on a beer budget

When it comes to your finances, the main idea is to spend less money than you make. Get your budget under control by taking these simple steps:

1. Calculate how much money you make monthly
2. Tally up your bills
3. Subtract your bills from your earnings

Are you overspending? If so, cut out any unnecessary expenses. Netflix, Hulu and Tidal subscriptions all fall under this category. If you have money left over after paying the bills, give yourself a pat on the back. You could take a few dollars to spend however you want but make sure to put a major part of the remaining money in your savings account.  The goal is to save at least 3-6 months worth of expenses just in case.

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Getting a credit card doesn’t mean you hit the lottery

As soon as you turn 21, you’ll likely start getting credit card offers in the mail. Don’t skip the fine print and pick the one with the highest limit. With a swipe here and a swipe there, you can buy anything your heart desires. It’s cloud 9, until the bill comes. What takes seconds to charge, can take you six months or more to pay off. It’s really not worth it.

Credit cards aren’t free money. Every time you charge an item, you’re borrowing money that needs to be paid back by the monthly due date.  It’s ok to use credit cards to earn points and rewards, but you’ll serve yourself well if you spend responsibly.  If you’re unable to pay in full, credit card companies will charge you a lot of interest on top of whatever you already owe until they get all of their money back.

Learn to balance your needs versus wants

This by far is one of the hardest lessons to learn because it’s more about self-control. Imagine you’re walking through the mall when you spot a sale on the phone you’ve been wanting for months. Never mind that you already have a phone that works. This one is shiny, has more features and it’s a good deal. You should buy it, right? Wrong! We’ve all tried to justify buying something we don’t need just because it’s on sale. Needs are things that are essential to everyday life (i.e. air, shelter, food, etc.) while wants are just things we desire. Before you buy anything, always ask yourself “Do I really need this or can I live without it?”