By Veronica Graff
For most, college is about embracing bankruptcy and finding peace within the fact that you’re simply broke – that was quite the wake-up call. Spending money is like gaining weight, it’s definitely noticeable, and the proof is in your bank account, but for some reason you don’t make the connection that those smoothies or juice cleanses and even those shoes that you had to have, eventually add up to a hefty credit card payment.
I vowed to myself when I came to college that I would get a good job, or two, and establish a steady income, maybe even start a savings account where I could start accumulating money for a rainy day – boy was that a rocky road. Yes, I did get a job and yes, I did establish an income. The only problem: my cash outflow was harrowingly close to my cash income every single month—it was an incessant cycle. Honestly, it took me awhile to learn how to manage money; I was always good at it when it wasn’t mine because I felt guilty spending it but as soon as I started making money, I noticed I was going out more, booking more trips…saying no less essentially. The thing is, I have friends that do the same and don’t even have a job! So, I’m not lying when I say this spending thing is an epidemic among students. Shopaholics anonymous anyone?
I mean the temptation of a fun weekend out on the town simply outweighs the benefits of opening up a Roth IRA or investing your money right?! Yes, and no. Ultimately, my advice is: have fun and be excessive, gluttonous, etc. – you’ll go insane without doing so – but, do open a savings account and do put away some of your earnings because nothing is a guarantee right now and being smart with your money will always – present and future – be crucial to your livelihood.
I still sometimes (in reality, this happens every weekend) spend money and go out and then regret it when I see that credit card balance but the memories I made that night or the laughs I shared (as cliché and corny as it sounds) make it worth it. Developing good financial habits can only be an asset and I’m grateful that I had my lesson sooner than later. I don’t think that saving means you have to deny yourself certain pleasures, maybe sometimes, but for the most part you will be happier and more at peace if you set aside a cushion for yourself.
A lot of students also struggle with time management and getting a job amidst all your schoolwork sounds absolutely impossible – it’s not. Getting a job is incredibly important and your first job will teach you more about money that you’d think. You will get to know the lovely taxation system and find that a seemingly large portion of your paycheck goes to social security and Medicare payments even though you probably don’t even know what that is. You learn what W2 forms are and 1099s, so there is a lot to learn from getting a job and something that will only be beneficial.
All in all, have fun, spend money but be smart and confident in your decisions. Always have a backup plan and you should be pretty well off.
So, my lesson? All bank accounts are finite – especially mine.