I am a full-time student, which means my priority in life is my education. As well as the rest of the students on campus, I have definitely invested both a lot of time and money into learning. However, now that I am a junior, I am starting to more seriously think about money. Thankfully, I have a family that has helped to support me in my endeavors over the last two and a half years. But growing independence also means I need to start saving and thinking about the future: graduate programs, apartments, houses, a new car. All the lovely things that cost money: The kind of money I don’t have.
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So, after outlining my budget, I realized I need to be more proactive in my approach to life after Union (i.e., The Real World). I’ve laid out some steps and some tips on how I plan to save and build credit.
- Mint (Intuit): So I quite honestly just downloaded this app, but it has immediately changed the way I view saving money and being financially aware. Mint is an app that lets you sync everything: checking/savings accounts, credit cards, student loans, and puts it all in one place. It calculates your net worth (mine is embarrassing ATM), gives you a free estimate of your credit score (doesn’t hurt your credit to see the estimate), tracks and categorizes your spending (and alerts you if you go over your budget), and allows you to set goals for saving money. I have set up an emergency fund that I am hoping to grow before I graduate. Oh, and the app is free.
- Credit Card: BUILDING YOUR CREDIT IS SO IMPORTANT!!! So many of my friends don’t have credit cards and I am constantly telling them they need to get one. Credit is built over time and can’t be done overnight. Don’t be denied the apartment of your dreams because you don’t have any credit! Over the summer I got a credit card through Bank of America and it was SUCH a painless process. I really think more people need to understand how much your credit matters for everything. Just get one and use it for gas and Chipotle every month, then pay it off on time. Easy-peasy.
- Winter break job: Union boasts a three-term schedule, meaning we get a six-week winter break to sit on our parent’s couches and pet our dogs. If you aren’t going on a Mini-term abroad over break, get a job or internship! I know it is not always easy to find someone to hire you for such a short period of time, but with some dedication to searching job listings, you’re bound to find something. Lots of stores hire seasonal and temporary workers. You’ll want to earn money over break because the holidays are always so horribly expensive. I use Indeed.com as well as Union’s HireU website to search for internships and jobs.
- Check prices before you buy: Whenever I have to buy anything, whether it’s makeup, groceries, or textbooks, I scour the internet. I check Amazon, eBay, and the brand’s own prices. Then, I search online for promo codes. I also only shop for groceries at places like Price Chopper, where you save money just by having an AdvantEdge card. Now I’m not saying you are going to find anything dirt cheap, but at least you know that you found the best price. It’s good procrastination from studying, and you’ll feel rewarded afterwards.
- Keep your spare change: You know that you have half a pound of quarters and nickels floating around in your bag/wallet. And if you are anything like me, you just throw all of it in some sort of jar when it gets too heavy. Coins are STILL MONEY. I sometimes forget it too. I have seen people literally vacuum up spare change instead of saving it-that’s ridiculous. Go to your bank and ask for coin rolls, they’ll give them to you free of charge. One roll of quarters is $10, so you can see how easy it is to rack up $30 from the change sitting in your dorm room right now. You can skip the hassle of rolling the coins and bring them to a machine that counts the money for you, but they do take a significant portion of that money (nothing is free). I recommend just taking an hour and counting your change. $30 is like, seven lattes.
Overall, I have taken this year to start taking an active role in my finances and start good habits now, so that I don’t have to worry so much about money (and how to deal with it) down the line. College is the perfect time to work on building a knowledge and understanding of personal finances.