Financial Planning: Doing the Small Things For The Big Return

Keeping track of your finances in college can be very tricky. It’s easy to get easily confused or carried away with your spending. I’ve learned a lot about finance management mostly through my own mistakes. All I ever wanted was to see a clear-cut list of how I could solve this overwhelming mess. If you are anything like I was, here is that list. A simple 5 category list of little things you can do to start effectively making money and saving it. 

 

Make money:

This sounds kinda obvious, right? But if you’re anything like me, when you first get to college in a very unfamiliar place, it can be overwhelming trying to find a job. I don’t know about you but I like making tons of money working as few hours as possible. Here are some weird ways to earn money:

  1. If you have a nice DSLR camera, use it! Real estate agents usually need photos of their listings photographed, so contact real estate agents near your campus and let them know of your talents.

  2. If you have a car and you’re over 21 then get yourself a job with a ride-sharing service. Ubering on weekend nights can be extremely lucrative for obvious reasons. 

  3. There’s nothing better than studying with a furry friend. Apps like Rover, Pawshake and Mad Paws provide platforms for practically anyone to pet sit in their free time. 

  4. This is one that is particular to your college campus culture. If your school allows you to live off-campus, rent yourself a big two-bedroom apartment or house. Then find two or three roommates, and upcharge them a little. 

 

Track your money:

I personally don’t like tracking my money because I’m usually looking at impulse purchases that give me buyers remorse, or I’m looking at an empty bank account. So here’s an absurdly easy way to track your finances.

  1. Download Clarity. Clarity is an app that will help you budget using intuitive graphs and pie charts. All you have to do is link your bank account to the app, and it will start tracking all your purchases for you. You will get a breakdown at the end of each week as a notification on your phone. This kinda forced me to watch my weekly expenses and adjust as needed.

  2. If you don’t want to use Clarity, then ditch your debit card altogether, and only use cash. Studies have shown people tend to  spend less money when they use cash as their regular means of spending

 

Put aside a small amount for a big return: 

The goal of saving your money while in college seems like an unrealistic goal. But is a vital habit to develop and maintain for your future even if it means just a few dollars a week. This will make a difference when you graduate, and leave you a nice soft cushion to fall on for when you’re transitioning from a student to a professional.

  1. Start by opening a high-interest savings account. My favorite is the CIBC USA agility savings account. It offers a very competitive 1.85% APY(annual percentage yield)

  2. Set up an IRA. An IRA is an individual retirement account and there are different types of IRA accounts. My favorite is a Roth IRA. They offer various benefits, most notably, your money in the account is tax-free. An easy way to set up a Roth is by using the app Acorns. This app will round up all your purchases and use that money to intelligently invest and save. 

  3. Limit your unnecessary purchases to very few (or none at all depending on your situation.) It’s okay to want a lot of unnecessary items, but you must prioritize ones that give you long term value, or they do not depreciate over time.

 

Use your money to make MORE money:

If you really want to invest in your future in college, then you need to be able to flex on your friends with a stock investment portfolio. Here’s a quick guide to start investing.

  1. You’ll need a way to start buying and selling stocks. My favorite is an app called webull, but the most user-friendly one is Robinhood. These apps act as mobile-based brokerages that offer commission FREE trading. Yeah, that’s right. FREE

  2. The stock market isn’t as volatile as what the media makes it seem, but it can definitely be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. So its best to learn from people that do know what they are doing. Youtubers like Graham Stephen and Andrew Jikh can help you open the door to stock trading. 

  3. Your best bet when just starting is to buy big company stock, like Apple. These companies are less volatile in the long term, and sometimes they will pay you dividends...AKA FREE money. 

  4. You can also buy index fund stocks, they are very safe ways of investing while also paying you dividends.

 

Build your credit: 

Let’s say you did all of the above for your 4 years at school. You should have a healthy savings cushion for when you graduate and a few owned shares in some companies on the stocks market. What you probably don’t have is any big loans other than your college loans. You are eventually going to have to take one out though, and in order to do that, you need good credit. 

  1. Getting your credit card: Apps like credit karma can help you pick the best credit card for you, my personal favorite is the CitiBank Aadvantage platinum select card. I get to travel off miles and I’m guaranteed a free checked bag on my American Airlines flights.

  2. Remember that you’re just trying to build credit! No need to make crazy purchases because it will only land you in debt if you are unable to pay it on time.