Illustration by Trevor Robertson
Handling personal finances during college may be one of the hardest tasks to be proficient in. Learning and implementing how to handle money is one of the best skills to be acquired right now.
Before spending any additional money, setting a specific budget is essential to establishing control of your funds. Writing out a list of all known expenses is a great start to hold you accountable for where your money is going.
Whether you prefer excel spreadsheets or handwritten lists, find the method you like best.
Mint.com is another great tool that’s free. It helps give you visual and detailed information regarding all of your accounts. You can monitor loans, credit cards, debit cards, investments and cash.
By creating a budget, you can understand your mandatory expenses and where you might have space to indulge.
As social and entertainment opportunities present themselves, determine non-negotiable expenses that you can view in your budget. Usually rent, utilities, gym membership, car insurance, cell phone and other costs are things that you have to pay monthly.
Mobile banking has increased convenience and you can check your account and recent purchases in a matter of seconds. Evaluate where you are for the month within the budget you set for yourself.
If you want to see a new movie that came out but you’re up on spending, maybe wait till Tuesday night for the $5 student discount at The Riverwoods.
By prioritizing the order of things you can afford, you will save yourself from fret and money you need by the end of the month.
Wants vs. needs:
When you have an unlimited access to online shopping and free shipping, coveting items and making a wish list is easy with the click of a button. With repeat visits to the same items, you begin to justify why you need a Kitchen Aid, tablet, headphones or handbag.
Although items wear and tear, evaluate what you want and what you need. Taking a break from Pinterest is helpful to not taunt yourself about unrealistic items and wanted purchases.
If something of yours has worn out and you are looking to invest, consider a couple more factors. Check your budget and savings; if you realistically can afford it then it’s your time to splurge. If not, specifically set aside a small percent of your income and plan your pennies.
Money management is all about making your dollar stretch and being mindful of where your change goes.
Eating out may be convenient and social, but money can go a lot further when you stock up on groceries and start cooking meals. Instead of eating at Costa Vida on campus every day, pack some snacks for classes throughout the day.
You can buy snacks in bulk at Costco that will last a long time. By cutting back on eating out, not only will your food quality improve but your bank account will also when you notice the extra cash.
If you still want to be social with food, start planning meals with friends and trading off making dinner or bringing items to contribute.
If your employer provides it, direct deposit is extremely beneficial to monitor spending and holding yourself accountable.
Having small amounts of cash on hand can be helpful, but when money is safe in an account there is less temptation, and viewing your transactions improves responsibility in tracking money.
Another advantage companies provide is having a certain percent of your paycheck automatically go into savings so you never see it.
Though it may seem early, starting a 401k is a smart choice that will pay off over the years.
If that seems intense, a money jar can go further than you think. Collect and keep all your change, over time the pennies add up.
Although this might be a lot to process, smart spending is the ultimate way to have savings and the right track to gaining control of your accounts.