By Sierra Downing

I hadn’t thought much about personal finance until about a year ago – I was too busy working and completing classwork.

Then I reached the part of my journalism training that required me to work to spend hours at our school-affiliated NBC station, including being an on-air reporter. That is the work experience that will get us jobs after graduation – so it’s very important to do well.

I realized it would be hard to keep my outside job, while collecting b-roll, write a story, and setting up interviews. So I talked to my parents about reducing my hours at work and set up a plan to have structure to my spending habits (which admitted are not the best). I know all the financial advisors say to have this conversation earlier – but better late than never!

My parents decided it would be fair and doable for them to give me $70 per week, 20 going to my gas tank and the rest towards food and grocery shopping on the budget. But like everyone knows in college there are so many events, parties, and lunch dates to attend—so that $70 has to stretch over a lot of things!

In addition to me wanting to have a social life, I also had to pay for electricity for my apartment, food for my dog, and credit card bills. I decided to use the $250-$300 biweekly check I get from my job to pay for necessities first, like food. I would put aside money for monthly bills, like the electric bill.

One way I saved was deciding to team up with my boyfriend to buy groceries – that’s saved me a ton!  We are both able to spend around $60, which lasts us sometimes over two weeks since we already plan to eat with each other every night. Another thing I began doing was fill my tank up every time I got paid and when it reaches the half mark, I fill it again. This means that I have plenty of gas for news assignments, and I can shop around for the best price on gas.

Frankly, if you have to fill up, that’s when gas seems to cost more! I have found this to work with my lifestyle and the amount of driving I do.

When it comes to my social life, I find alternatives if I think things are too costly like going to things that are free or going to happy hours because college is really about finding the good deals!

When it comes time for me to want clothes or shoes, I use an app called Klarna (Klarna.com) where it splits the payments into four and you can buy a lot of things and just stick to a payment plan which I find to be extremely helpful and useful.

Now that I’m thinking of personal finance, I know I’ll have to adjust my spending and my priorities over time. My plans in the next 5 or 6 months may be different than my current living situation because I will be a graduate, in a new city, trying to find the best way to budget for what is going on. But at least I will have learned some good habits while in college.

Sierra Downing is rising senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in broadcast journalism.