As we continue on our financial journey, I felt that I should share some things I wish I had been told when I was in college. College years is where most people start to pick up bad habits for their finances. If your parents didn’t set you up for success (aka – teach AND model good finances), you get out of high school and are plunged into the adult world, filled with bills, responsibility, college, stress and trying to stay afloat in all of it. And, so you try, kudos to you for trying! But, if you are reading this, you probably in need of some tips.
“I know I could have used the help 10 years ago when I struggling to keep my grades up and my bank account postive…”
so here is my post college financial wisdom…
1. Credit score isn’t as important as living in peace.
And, by peace, I mean – living within your means, living by the paycheck you are getting instead of charging it to a credit card. And by peace, I mean – minimizing your bills so you don’t have so many monthly stresses. Really, a credit score will be helped when you buy your first car and your first house and make consistent, on time payments. Don’t assume you won’t make it as an adult unless you have 5 credit cards.
2. Don’t get that retail card.
I know. It sounds awesome when Kohl’s says you will always get 20% off and you get coupons and such. But think of it this way – is the interest you will pay worth the coupons you will never use? Or is the 20% off worth the chance of getting into the habit of over buying? Nope, it isn’t. Just work on #9 when you are struggling at the checkout.
3. Don’t eat out at the Student Union.
Don’t use the snack machines. Price comparison – A soda from a snack machine – $1.50-$2. A 12 pack of sodas – average of $3 or less, depends what is on sale. What do you pay for a signle meal at the Student Union? Basically your entire food budget for the week?You know it’s a rip off, but you still buy it. Why? Because it is convenient and it is right there as you are stressed and needing a quick energy. But if you pack your food and refuse to buy on impulse, you will save yourself a lot of money (just make sure you pack ENOUGH food, or you will be eating out still).
4. Get more sleep.
Stress eating, stress buying and stress going out is real thing, and as a college student you are running on way too much stress. One way to cut the stress, and hence the spending, is to get more sleep. I know – hard thing to do, but maybe 30 minutes to 1 hour more a day? Not enough to make you fail a class, but maybe enough to cut the extra stress spending down some. You don’t believe me? Check out these articles on it –
5. Save 1 day of work a week.
Irregular hours and no PTO? Yep, it feels like there is no way to save up, let alone take a day off. I thought savings was last in the budget! HOWEVER, here’s a system that may work – if you work 5 days a week, put aside 1 day of pay a week to savings, Monday you work for savings, Tues-Friday you work for budget. In other words, plan your budget off of 80-90% of your income, not 100%. Consistently put it aside and that savings is for emergencies only, not pizza in the Student Union!
6. Spend in cash.
They say that spending money in cash gives a different rush than spending on your card. I say it also helps you track your excess fun money. See, if you pull out $20 every paycheck and that is what you get to splurge with, then once it is gone, it is gone and you are done. You have to decide every time you pay for something and every time you get handed back less and less change how you will spend that money next time. It works! Make sure you grab receipts so you can see how you are spending that money, too!
7. Get a financial buddy.
It helps you be accountable. It prepares you for relationships where financial transparency is a must for survival. It helps you find your weaknesses and how to better yourself in your finances. Someone who you trust enough to hand your card over if your laziness or shopping addictions get the best of you. You will have days where you will need them and they will need you.
8. Always find a way to give.
Give a dollar, buy someone dinner, take a friend to a movie or buy the groceries for the week and don’t expect it back. Actually, build it into your budget. Maybe just $5 or $2, but it is set aside to give to someone. This puts you on the lookout for someone who needs a little lift me up. It also helps you be grateful and puts your struggles a little more in perspective. But again, make sure it is budgeted – it is always best to plan the amount of giving, allow the moments and who you bless to be spontaneous, but make sure it is a set amount.
9. Learn to say no.
Say it without justifying it or explaining it. Say no to people who say you have to do something, or go to an event, or spend money. It is easier to make excuses than to consistently say ‘That isn’t in my budget right now.’ However, if you are willing to be verbally honest about your financial goals and limitations, then you gain strength and willpower to stick with them.
10. Lastly, believe in your budget.
It will suck, you will cry when you have no money to give, you may throw packages of Ramen noodles in frustration, you may need to dig into that emergency fund once in awhile, but still keep believing and working toward your dreams. Revise it as necessary, but keep moving forward. Never decide it isn’t worth the energy, it is!
If you are really interested in getting on track with your finances, read the books, listen to the podcasts, find the Tedtalks, surround yourself with financially-successful people and get serious about your finances. Make it a priority to become a money nerd and you will see your understanding AND your control of your finances greatly grow.
But, hey, I believe in you and so does Baby Samson! You can do this!
With all peace,
Lydia and Baby Samson
P.S. – Here are a few of my other blogs on finances –
P.S.S. – Here is a great book for budgeting in college.