The Hard Truth About College Finances

 

During my first two years of college, money was never an issue. I had savings, scholarships, and my parents ended up footing most of the bills. A couple weeks before the start of my junior year, I get a call from my parents telling me that they can no longer help me pay for school and my heart dropped to my stomach. Not only had I used up most of my savings, my parents would no longer help me out.

I had to quickly found a job and about two weeks later I was able to find one. However, I wasn’t saving money I needed to pay bills and spending money that I clearly did not have. I ended up getting credit cards to help me pay for eating out, shopping, and going out. It’s a very typical situation for many college students and we often just joke about it.

I remember this day like it was yesterday. I went grocery shopping and spent a little over $80 in groceries. After I loaded the groceries into my car, I texted my boss about my schedule for the upcoming week. My boss apologized for not calling me sooner, but she fired me via text. She let me go because I had to cut my hours for school, and she found someone to replace me. As you can imagine, my heart dropped to my stomach once again. I sobbed in the car for a solid twenty minutes because not only was it my first time being fired, I had less than $20 in my bank account. How was I going to pay for rent, utilities, gas, credit cards, food, and more? What I did next was so embarrassing, but I knew I had to do it. I went back into the grocery with about half my groceries and returned them because I couldn’t afford it. That humiliating moment put a fire in my belly to never be in a position like this again.

I’m not telling you this story to give me pity. I’m trying to place you in my shoes. Maybe not a situation as extreme as mine but very similar.

According to Ohio State News, 7 out of every 10 students are stressed about finances. Which comes to my question why do college students think it’s a good idea to not have better money management skills?

According to HuffPost on a recent study they did with 465 college students:

58% of college students are not saving

58% of college student’s parents taught them nothing about managing money

43% of college students are not tracking their spending

I think a lot of us look at our bank accounts wondering “where the heck did all my money go?” Then we look at our bank statements and realize “Oh sh*t I screwed up”.

Here are some tips to help you get started on tracking your spending:

- Make a budget and stick with it! Your budget will be a process of trial and error so don’t worry about making it perfect. I personally use MINT which is budgeting app that is super friendly for students!

- Pay or set aside money for your fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, car payment, etc. It’ll make your life a lot easier!

- Try new ways to save money! Here is a great article: https://greatist.com/happiness/ways-save-money#Socializing

- Get rid of the credit cards! Unless you can afford to pay it off completely every month, they’re not necessary

- Start saving up $500 for an emergency fund. This is your security blanket just in case you have car repairs or anything of that nature.