Welcome to another installment of IonTuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. Today we have Taylor Milam sharing her personal finance advice with us.

Taylor is a writer, traveler, and money enthusiast from San Diego, CA. She founded TheFreedomFromMoney.com to help people combine money and self-care in order to create a life they love. When she is not talking about money, she can be found running on the beach, reading library books, or sipping mimosas.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?

The best piece of financial advice I ever received was to not waste money on soda in restaurants. It might sound a little strange, but growing up my parents would never let my sisters and I order drinks in restaurants. We were only allowed to get water and we HATED it. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I later learned that they had that rule as a way to save money so we could travel to different countries as a family. My dad is in the Air Force and we lived in Germany for three years. We were able to see all of Europe and the UK because my parents prioritized travel. The advice has always stuck with me because it really taps into the money mentality I believe in—don’t spend money on little, irrelevant things.

Instead, spend on big experiences that will change your life.

 What’s your advice for those who already have student loans?

If you already have student loans, don’t view it as a prison sentence. Your debt does not define who you are as a person and it doesn’t make you lesser than anyone else. Create a plan to pay it off, set your payments on autopilot and enjoy your life. Whether it’s one year, five years or even twenty years, the debt will eventually be gone. But more importantly, those years of your life will be gone too—make sure that you’re living them.

If you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?

If I could give my 18 year old a piece of financial advice, it would be INVEST! My parents never talked about investing in the stock market and as a result, I was scared of it. I thought it was a big scary place that was only for people who truly *understood* money. (Spoiler: it’s none of those things). I would have set myself up with a Vanguard index fund and started investing way sooner. Compound interest is amazing and I wish I had known that sooner.

Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student debt?

I wouldn’t have gone to a different school. I graduated from a public school that also happened to be my dream school (UCLA, Go Bruins!). I had a phenomenal education that really pushed me to learn and think for myself.

Any other financial tips for our readers? 

1) Create a debt repayment plan and put your payments on autopilot

2) Experiences > things

3) It’s okay to go against the norm and spend (or save!) your money differently. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t have outward markers of “success.”

4) Think differently, spend differently, and live differently. Create the life you want

5) INVEST! Index funds are your BFF

I also have a free 21-Day Abundance Journal that I would love to provide for IonTuition’s readers.

Read more from Taylor on her blog or follower her on Twitter!