I was at a fundraiser the other night and the gentlemen next to me recognized me. He told me that his philosophy is, "I manage my money, my money doesn't manage me." He was prepared to retire comfortably at 65, he said.
I thought about this man and his money management and retirement plan, and I started analyzing my personal plan. It's right on track, but I would be in a better financial situation if I started saving earlier.
Here's what would I tell my younger self to do — or not to do — to achieve better financial success:
1. Try harder to get scholarships for school. Do not use part of your school loan to go to Florida for spring break. Education, whether it is a trade school or college, will only increase your chances for a higher salary.
2. Do not use your credit cards for clothes, dining out or paying other bills unless you plan on paying the credit card balance each month. Learning to decide what you need and what you want is a hard lesson, but once learned will save you money.
3. Start a savings account. If you had put $20 in the bank each week starting when you were in your 20s until you retire that amount could surpass $40,000. I know this isn't enough to retire on, but you could save that much and not even miss it. And, speaking of saving money, don't overlook any "free money" when your employer offers a 401K with matching funds. Put in the maximum allowed.
4. The condo I was renting went up for sale. At the time I thought I didn't want a mortgage payment. However, if an opportunity arises for you to purchase a property you are renting, try to see if you could qualify for a mortgage. It might be worth the investment.
5. Don't think you are too young for a Roth IRA. If you start putting away $200 a month in a retirement account from your first full-time job at age 22, within 10 years you'll have a stash of more than $37,000, assuming your investments grow 8 percent a year. In 20 years, you'll have more than $122,000 and by the time you reach age 67, your investment will be worth $1.2 million.
6. Balance your checkbook. Doing this every month will help you understand exactly how you spend your money. Going out with friends to parties, restaurant, bars or concerts can eat up your budget quickly. I am not suggesting you don't have a good time, just budget yourself a reasonable amount of money a month for entertainment.
7. Be responsible for your money. Don't beat yourself up if you think you paid too much for something, but do the research before you shop. Impulsive buying can lead to overspending. There is nothing that you need that can't wait a couple of days. Walmart is helping customers get the best prices. Enter your Walmart receipt at Walmart.com/savingscatcher and Walmart will check top competitors' advertised prices for the item you purchased. If a lower price is found on a grocery item you purchased, you will get a Walmart Rewards eGift Card for the difference.
■ P&G is offering a free safety latch starter kit.
■ Get a free custom cookbook and apron from Gourmandize by submitting up to 40 recipes. Offer expires March 17.
■ Grow some free seeds from Angie's Boomchickapop popcorn when you like its Facebook page.
■ Buy one get one free on all 16 count Starbucks K-Cup Packs only online when you enter promotional code KCUPBOGO16 at checkout. Expires March 24.
■ The EAA Young Eagles Program offers free plane rides for kids. This program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 — 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through EAA member volunteers.
■ Get a free Muppets Most Wanted movie ticket with select movie purchase at Amazon. Complete your purchase of any eligible title through March 31.
■ Lysol is offering a purchase price mail-in refund up to $3 when you purchase the new product Lysol Power & Free Multi-Purpose Cleaning Wipes through April 11.
■ Get a free Save the Date kit from Minted for an upcoming wedding. This includes date magnet, postcard, silhouette shape and Luxe Museum Board.
■ Kids ages 10 and younger can get a free one year United States Tennis Association Membership ($20 value). Offer is good for new members only through December 31.
■ Kikkoman is offering a free subscription to K magazine, a semiannual mini-magazine for food enthusiasts. It includes tips, new recipes and photos.
■ Get 99 4x6 prints for just 99 cents at Snapfish. Just enter promotional code PENNYMAR at checkout. Shipping is not included. Offer good March 17 only.
■ Receive Target coupons on your smartphone when you text SPRING and THANKS to 827438. You can use a Target coupon with a manufacturer coupon for the same item.
Deborah Morris' weekly column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get through these economic hard times a little more easily. If you know of a way to save some money, feel free to share it on her Web site, Fru-gal-friends.com .