By Matt Brolley

Record-keeping. That’s it. That’s the most important thing when it comes to personal finance in college.

College is an amazing thing, but only if you do it right. It isn’t so amazing when you are broke halfway through the semester, trying your hardest to keep up with your peers socially, which in my experience usually requires you to spend some money, and getting more and more desperate weekend-by-weekend.

My first two years of college, I had no reason to be broke. I worked twenty hours a week at a college bar earning a decent paycheck. But there I was every Saturday night, looking at my bank’s app on the phone checking to see if I had enough money to go out.

Then the greatest idea came to me come junior year –recording my paychecks.

At first, the spreadsheet on my laptop looked so lonely with just paycheck amounts getting entered every two weeks. Soon enough, I began adding more and more to the spreadsheet. I started recording my week’s total expenses, dates when bills are due, and took note of money I had in things like Venmo and CashApp weekly. I know it may seem like busy work that won’t change anything but let me tell you in what ways financial record keeping helped me.

  1. Don’t spend as much or make any dumb purchases

Let me tell you, there is nothing more annoying than having to record a purchase of $100 at a bar in one night. However, that embarrassing feeling began to creep up on me every time I was going to buy something. Every time I think of buying something, I always picture myself having to write that down, then it makes me really think of the necessity of buying the item.

In addition, being able to add up the total amount spent on what I call “lazy things” like fast food or rental scooters will also have a psychological effect on spending. Once I witnessed that my lazy things took up 50% of my income, it made me realize that I could save a fortune by making an extra effort to cook for myself or leaving earlier for things.

  1. Motivates me to work more

As a bartender, recording my tips from each night I work has become an essential thing for me. By keeping records on what I make on specific nights allows me to predict when the best nights are for me to work. I can also predict how much income I can expect to make, which results in my budgeting process going a lot smoother. Whenever I want to make a big purchase now, I look to see how many shifts I should take to completely pay it off. By simply recording what my finances are, I am now aware of how often I should work to support my lifestyle and still make money on a weekly basis.

  1. Avoid missing payments and bills

Late fees, overdrafts, and even fraud cost Americans an extra $577 annually. Nothing is worse than just giving away money when you don’t have enough of it to begin with. As all my bills and payments land on various days throughout the month, I used to get dragged with late fees. Now, I simply know all the days certain payments are due, how much the payment will charge, and what my finances will look like after the payment.

Brolley is a senior at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.