top of page

The 3 mistakes I made managing my money in my 20's & what it taught me

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Unless you learned money management at school or your parents taught you, like me, I suspect you learned the hard way!

Learning to budget and plan my money came from my life experiences juggling my first home, bills &

bi-weekly pay.

(Me about 1995 in my first management position, Gap in Canterbury Kent, UK. I LOVED that job)


Nearly everyone I speak to has a problem or 3 with money.

Not enough of it usually tops the list, but it's also the skill of managing & balancing what's coming in with what's going out that is often causing confusion.

With multiple income streams now the norm, simply managing income can be a tough place to start.

Layer in the psychological effects of our relationship with money & we've got a volcano rumbling away.

So, what practical things did I get wrong & what did it teach me?

1. Not having accurate figures of what was going out or coming in

Biweekly pay was a nightmare to get used to!

I overly complicated it each month & found it really stressful.

Simplifying it, I learned to reduce the amount I lived off compared to my previous monthly paid job. Ouch!

I took my 2 pay days per month & that was the money I lived off, not 1/12th of my annual salary like before.

I then noted the 2 months in the year where there were 3 paydays - woo hoo best months of the year!

I did try to save as much as I could those months but often I did treat myself to some gorgeous things because life is very dull if you can't!

I also just chose a date that I was happy to consider my "Monthly Payday" instead of overcomplicating it again.

Some friends managed theirs by splitting up expenses into sections of the month & getting in a right old state.

It did mean I needed to keep a buffer of £50 in the account all the time for overlapping bills & had the occasional dip into my overdraft, but ultimately it worked for me! I knew where I was, even if I didn't like it that much.

Now the other problem...

"It's all up here" *taps head with finger, but adding everything up each month in my head was just not ever going to work.

The price of petrol & food had been increasing so my £70 budget for both each week, was going over without me realising. I'd started having random lunches out whilst at work.

I'd get a refund on something & buy something new that cost a bit extra again...

The result? Several hundred quid down in my overdraft & nearly passing out at the ATM when it declined my cash request *sob

It's so easy to do, isn't it?

It's like eating a few more biscuits, drinking a few extra glasses of wine on the regular & realising a few months later you're jeans don't fit!

What did I do differently?

This was before mobile phones so no banking apps with built-in categorised spending.

I had a little notebook.

And I used cash.

Not so easy now to use only cash, but for me, seeing so visibly how much I had available that week was so simple it worked!

Funny that.

I used to borrow from my future self if I really wanted something, TK Maxx I blame you, and I had to eat like a student to make up for it in the coming weeks.

But therein lay the magic of leveraging. I understood that to have the thing, I had to sacrifice elsewhere.

Until of course...

2. Getting a credit card & overusing it

I needed a new sofa for my first flat so I got a credit card to pay for it. Actually, I bought 2, then rather liked a coffee table and a sideboard... so you can see where this was going.

Paying back monthly instalments took such a chunk of my income that I ended up putting other bits & bobs onto the card just to keep going.

Now, not all debt is bad, far from it. Needs must, and actually being able to pay down my debt sensibly earned me a great credit score which has labelled me a good person to loan to. Useful, providing you're careful.

But that's what I learned.

Deciding what is a need from a want & cross-referencing it with my affordability = making tough decisions

I did not like being in debt, not one bit.

The thought of carrying over the cost of my furniture for 18 months or more was depressing, the proverbial albatross around my neck.

A few late payments meant I incurred a £12 fee each time, which enraged me! £12 was a night out with my friends. It was a luxurious takeaway. It was a new top to wear. Instead, Barclaycard got it & I was back on beans on toast.

I was so angry with myself & immediately knew I would learn to get a grip on my money & fast.

I learned the power of changing credit cards once the low-interest rate had finished, for a new interest-free account so that the debt wasn't costing me any money.

I made absolutely sure I didn't miss another payment too!

I also worked out how much I needed to pay each month to clear the balance by the end of the term so I had a mental clock counting down the days until I was FREE!

What I didn't learn for another few years, was to make sure I actively CLOSED these accounts behind me so that I could get a car loan easily & not have to experience the humiliation of being declined - on account of having too many credit card accounts open albeit with zero balances.

3. Not planning for those expensive months & relying on work bonuses to pay for Christmas

Slightly panicked I waited for my wages to go in on the 23rd of December one year, so I could START my Christmas shopping.

No Amazon, no internet it was a proper old-fashioned stressful Christmas shopping trip, lugging bags around an actual high street in the cold & rain!

Big stuff happens on repeat whether that's a car service, birthdays or seasonal cultural events.

I never planned for them so I was always painfully broke that month, desperate for the next month's pay to come so I could eat!

I learned the magic of planning ahead.

Adding up an assumed amount of money for these things, and worked backwards to the month I was in to see how much I could save to go towards the big thing in advance.

My trusty pink notebook has everything in it - I still have it.

It wasn't always possible to save £100 or so every month, but I did the best I could & it was a game changer.

I felt more on the front foot every month - it's like feeling too tired to clean your kitchen before going to bed. Then in the morning groaning seeing the washing up to be done before your day has even started, I hate that!!

So, 5 of the best money lessons I learned in my 20's

  • Living within my means.

  • Deeply understanding what my means were each month & how they naturally fluctuated

  • Leveraging from other months in times of need because I understood that a more abundant month was coming up.

  • Planning forward so the bumps in the financial road become smaller

  • Using credit wisely & for things that I really need or really want but learning to love savings more.

If using pen & paper is too provincial for you here's one way you can achieve all of these 5 lessons for yourself:

And if spreadsheets leave you cold, and you have a stationery addiction like me, you can use this printable version to achieve all of these 5 lessons for yourself:

Please do leave a comment or give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ it's lovely to know you've read it & it's been useful.

Until next time

Love from

Lucy x

Related Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Sep 16, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.



Sep 16, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love this!

bottom of page