I haven’t always been the debt-smashing budget boss I am today.
Nope! Far from it!
I wasn’t a financial disaster in college, BUT I was a complete newbie to managing money.
I got my first checking account and my first apartment in the same week (after moving two thousand miles away from my family).
There I was all on my own and no one had ever taught me to budget!
If I could go back and have a chat with my college self I would share some financial wisdom that I’ve picked up over the past (nearly) two decades. Knowing then what I know now would have saved me so much stress, anxiety, and tears over money.
Since it’s #FinHealthMatters day, I’m going to get personal and share those gems with you. Let’s go back in time and chat with 17-year-old Stephanie.
Why here, in public view? Because it looks like I’m not alone in struggling with finances during college. Apparently 70% of college students are worried about their financial situation too. (source)
Feel free to listen in as I share the good, the bad, and the ugly with my college self.
Hey Self!! Let’s talk money!
(You look great, by the way!)
Before I hit you with some habits you need to improve, I want to assure you that you are doing a lot of things right.
I love how you are meticulously tracking all of your transactions.
I know managing money is a completely new thing for you, but keeping track of what’s coming in and going out is essential. You even do a great job checking your bank statement to make sure your check register is up-to-date. I know it’s a drag, but the good news is that technology will make it much simpler soon.
Keep rockin’ the frugal lifestyle!
Between choosing an affordable apartment, shopping at the thrift store, and finding inexpensive entertainment, you are doing a great job of really stretching your precious dollars. With money being tight, you are good at keeping expenses to the bare minimum.
Your caution about credit cards is a good thing.
Even though other college friends are getting carried away with credit cards and some are already carrying big debt, you have kept your credit card use to a minimum and you’ve paid off the card in full each month.
—- Now for some things you can work on. The sooner, the better. —-
You need to make a budget!
I know you do a good job managing money in your head so that you don’t overspend, but making a budget will transform your life! Decide what you need your money to do for you between now and the next paycheck. Write it down! You’ll need your whole brain for freshman calculus, don’t try to also keep a mental budget in there! The written version will work better and you’ll gain so much peace when you have a plan for your money!
Save up an emergency fund
When you’re living paycheck to paycheck just one “emergency” can throw a major wrench into your finances. Having a stash of money, say $1,000 or so, set aside just for emergency situations can prevent you from relying on a credit card or other debt to get by.
Trust me. When the transmission goes out on the ’96 Taurus you got from Grandma, it’s going to be very expensive to repair.
Don’t settle for jobs that just have you scraping by.
I know scooping ice cream has benefits (love those sample spoons!), but it doesn’t do a whole lot for your resume or your bank account. You can do way better than campus minimum by creating your own job!
Don’t be afraid to be an entrepreneur! Don’t let the fear of failure stand in your way!
You’ve got this! You’ll rock this money thing soon!
And by the way, just relax and be yourself. Don’t stress about boys. The man of your dreams will come around soon and you’ll be so glad you’re around when the time comes.
If you’re curious how the story turns out, know that it has a happy ending. 🙂
I graduated without any student debt (and married the man of my dreams several months later).
Although we didn’t have to deal with student debt as newlyweds, we got our share of debt several years later when my husband went back to school for a law degree and an MBA. In the process of paying off $144,000 of student loan debt we upped our frugal game and became the hardcore budgeters you know today.
Financial health is a huge concern for college students! College grads in the US owe over $1.3 billion dollars in student loan debt and nearly two-thirds of that is held by women. (source)
If you’ve got littles like me, start arming them with financial know-how from the time they can count! If your kids are already in college or beyond, it’s still not to late to help point them in the right direction so they can overcome their financial hurdles. If you’re a student now, take the time to educate yourself about money so you can win at this whole finance thing. Because your financial health matters!
Happy #FinHealthMatters Day!!
It’s your turn!
- If you could go back and talk to your college-age self what financial advice would you give yourself?
- What would you pat yourself on the back about?