By Nicole Gutierrez

I have always been a diligent planner. I remember planning a vacation as a kid down to the cost of dessert and the tip for the waiter. This desire to plan has stuck with me and has been very helpful as I have gained financial responsibility as a college student.

How I thought about money changed when I started college. I now had more financial responsibility than I have ever had. I had to think about money for groceries, textbooks and gas. Now when I do spend money, I have to justify to myself whether what I am purchasing is a smart purchase or not. I usually ask myself if the product will last, if it will help me grow and if it is essential.

This fall I decided to buy a new DSLR camera. I justified this purchase for multiple reasons. I was in need of an upgrade, I had been saving up for it and it was an investment in my future career as a photojournalist.

Not only have I found justifying my purchases and thinking about them more critically helpful, but I have also found managing my time has been very helpful to my finances. For my whole life, I have heard the term “time is money”. College life showed me just how true this is.

Compared to high school, my schedule became much more flexible in college. I had some control over when I would do homework, spend time with friends and participate in extracurriculars. With this newfound freedom, I soon realized the importance of prioritizing and budgeting my time.

I dedicate a lot of time to schoolwork. I look at this time as a job. My grades are essentially my paycheck. By managing my time to prioritize school, my GPA has benefitted which has allowed me to maintain my membership in the Honors College. This membership allows me to receive my grant which funds my education.

Professional development is another part of my schedule that I prioritize. I dedicate a lot of my time to developing my journalism skills. Whether this is practicing on different Adobe programs, being available for photojournalism assignments or updating my resume and LinkedIn profile; I justify this use of my time as an investment. These skills and networking connections that I am developing will help me in the long run when I apply for a job after graduation.

Investing in yourself can look different for everyone. It could be taking time to attend networking events, participating in a workshop, broadening your knowledge through a book or podcast, or even prioritizing your health. By investing in yourself, you are investing in your future.  I found this article to be extremely helpful.

College itself is an investment. What you learn and the degree to prove it is what leads you to your post-grad job. By applying this idea to smaller things, like eating healthily to avoid possible medical costs, you can take low-risk significant steps toward financial stability.

Managing my finances in college has helped me see the big picture and the potential influence of my current actions. Planning ahead, purchasing smartly and investing in myself have been critical components to making me feel secure in my current finances and prepared for my future ones.

So when you’re making financial decisions, make sure to consider the impact. Your future self will thank you for it.

Gutierrez is a sophomore majoring in photojournalism at the University of Missouri.