By Michael Boyer

I have been managing my own finances since I was about 15. This was never a huge issue until I came to college.

In high school, I could count on one hand the number of times my parents gave me money for something. I didn’t ask, and they didn’t have anything to give me. I knew they had their own money problems. Fortunately, I earned enough from various jobs – from lifeguarding to fixing iPhone screens – to pay my expenses.

The same goes for college. I pay my own rent and all of my expenses here, thanks to my savings and a part-time tutoring job. If I have something I want to buy, the funds come from my personal account. If I need groceries, I pay for them. Same goes for my car maintenance, cell phone, and virtually everything else.

As for how I handle all of this, it is pretty simple. Most of my earnings from summer or other jobs is in a savings account. I also have a CD at my credit union with money that will be waiting for me when I graduate. I check my account every day and could always tell you exactly how much is in there.

On top of this is the credit card I signed up for at the beginning of college. It has to be one of the best financial choices I have ever made. I throw a few purchases a month on that card. I pay the balance when the statement comes out. Sound simple enough? It really is.

In the first year they matched the cashback I earned, and I still get bonuses for having good grades. With that in mind, I just put purchases on it that I would have been paying for out of my checking account anyway, and like magic, I now have cash back through the credit card. I mean in a sense I am making money just by putting purchases on that card.

Of course, if I miss a payment, it would be very bad! However, I am proud to say that in about a year and a half of owning this card, I have never missed a payment. My credit score is above 700 and things are going very well. The main reason I wanted this is so that when I graduate college, I already have some established credit for when I am looking to buy a car or house. Southern New Hampshire University says, “establishing and maintaining a good credit score could be arguably as important to your future as achieving academic success.”

Picking out my apartment was definitely the hardest fiscal thing I’ve ever had to do. I knew it would be a huge financial responsibility, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I spent my previous summer working at a glass factory, and saved enough to pay for a year of rent.

I work very hard to maintain my finances and keep my fiscal responsibilities. I shop at cheaper stores, try to save on gas when I can, and keep myself from spending unnecessary money when possible. In August, I decided to track my expenses on a spreadsheet as a reference to my first semester living on my own. Here is a very simple graph that I constructed.

As you can see, the monthly expenses left me with not much money. This was certainly an issue. I tried to be responsible with my money, but I think I greatly underestimated the amount of expenses I would have from living on my own.

These past couple of months have been a very difficult economic time, but has also taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I now see the real effect of every single purchase I make and how it affects all of the other purchases I make. I would say above all else it has helped me prioritize my purchases and in really determining what I NEED to be spending money on.

Boyer is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Missouri.