Personal Finance and Budgeting in College

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A skill that probably no one is really taught, yet one that no matter who you are you will need to know in life is understanding your personal finance and how to budget. Something that, in my opinion, is more critical to know in life than the quadratic equation or chemical equilibrium is how to become financially independent and how to do it in a correct and calculated manner that will not get you into debt.  And debt, unfortunately, is something that too many college students know too well.

The basis of understanding personal finance is understanding the common flow of money. To start, you must establish a steady source of income. Although for college students that range is limited due to the amount of classwork and lack of experience, there are still a lot of possibilities out there.

 

Student College Income Possibilities:

  • Kids Jobs

    • Babysitting

    • Tutoring 

      • For both of these options, you could try posting on Mom Facebook pages

  • Student lab or research assistant

    • Send out cold emails to a professor or look at websites such as handshake.com

  • Target

    • UCSD target is currently hiring

  • Other On-Campus Jobs

    • Handshake.com is an amazing place to start

  • Walking Dogs

    • Rover App: This app connects you with people that are looking for dog walkers or dog sitters 

 

After establishing a steady or some sort of income, money will start flowing into a checking account that you will have to set up. In your checking account, you should always have at least a month’s worth of money. There are many different checking accounts that you can pick from, and you should pick the one that works best for you. However, when you are picking a checking account try to avoid two main fees that come with some accounts that will cause you to lose money.

 

  •  Account minimum fee: Some accounts will require you to have a minimum amount in your checking account and if at any point you do not have that minimum amount in your account they will charge you a fee. Some checking accounts can charge up to $50. 

  • Overdraft fee: A checking account may fee you if you transfer or spend money on a debit card that you do not have. 

 

The money that collects in the checking amount, looked at usually on a monthly basis, will then flow into three categories that you can budget for. The most common budgeting system, popularized by Elizabeth Warren, is known as the 50%-30%-20% rule.

50% of the money in your checking account will go to the must-haves you need in life. 30% will go to the nice things you want. And then 20% will go into your savings. Of course, these percentages can be adjusted for different individuals who are in different situations. For example, if you pay a lot for rent you may need 60% of your budget to go to the must-haves and only 20% will be spent on entertainment and things like that. But the 50-30-20 rule is a good place to start if you really have no clue where you are going with things. 

The saving part of budgeting is the money you set aside for future goals you wanna obtain, so in that sense having a plan for your savings 3-5 years in advance is a good starting goal. Doing this at a young, with time still on your side, will allow you to set aside money for things like retirement. Many college students open up retirement plans through Vanguard and slowly start setting money aside that can add up to alot of money at the end having such an early start. 

Another thing students can look into, if they are interested in a path of financial independence is getting a credit card. A credit card is like a month-long loan. Every month you have to pay off the money you spent. Hence in order to get a credit card, it is important to understand that getting into credit card debt is not the best thing to do. Therefore you must be very responsible with it. The good thing about getting a credit card is it allows you to start building up a good credit score at a young age. Having a could credit score will make you seem more reliable to loaners. So when you are looking for a loan to buy a house or a car and need to take out a loan, banks are more likely to give you that loan. In addition, it gives you a lot of other fun perks like entertainment and travel points as well as cashback. A good place to look at if you are interested in getting a credit card as a student is the Discover Student Credit Cards website. 

 

Other Useful Budgeting and Financial Apps Include:

  • MINT

  • Everyday Dollar

  • YNAB

 

It is definitely very scary stepping into the adult world, but it is important to start somewhere. Understanding the ways someone can become financially independent is a critical stepping stone in the adult world and the sooner you start the sooner you will become comfortable and confident financially with your money and gain a skill that will help you get very far in life. 

 

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