College Students Should Take Responsibility for Their Financial Situation

College Students Should Take Responsibility for Their Financial Situation

Don’t you find it kind of funny when you hear high school students putting off learning about their finances because they think that’s what college is for? Just by talking to younger relatives and high school students in the community I have noticed that many assume they will learn how to handle their personal finances once they are in college. Unfortunately, I have taken many finance courses in college and none of them have taught me how to improve my spending habits or how much to put in an emergency fund. The truth of the matter is that if you want to learn about personal finance the responsibility is all yours.

student and money

Photo by stuartpilbrow via Flickr

3 Ways to Start Taking Responsibility for Your Finances

Here a few things you could do as a college student to take responsibility for your financial situation.

1. Keep track of where your money goes.

It’s about time you put that iPhone or Blackberry to good use and keep track of where you spend all of your money. Tracking your expenses is hard for many of us. In fact, many people give up after a few weeks because they don’t want to accept the harsh reality of their financial situation. For me it was difficult to accept how much money I spent on food every month. The trick is to keep track of every penny that you spend so you can see where your money went at the end of the month, and see where you can improve.

2. Open up a savings account and set up automatic deposits.

It doesn’t matter if you earn $50 or $500 a week, you should make savings part of your finances. Also, you should make your savings automatic. Don’t let anything stop you from doing this. There may be some barriers — e.g., having too many monthly fixed costs, not being with the right bank, or just sheer laziness — but don’t let these stop you.

When you’re just starting out, the best place to keep your money is in a good bank that offers high interest rate.

3. Buy just one book and follow a few personal finance blogs.

Do not be a victim of information overload. Too many times have I seen a friend get all excited about personal finance, go to the library or even worse go to a local Chapter’s and head back home with many great books. On the surface it seems like a good plan, but what actually happens is that you won’t read any of those books. Best case scenario is that you read the books and end up confused after hearing so many different perspectives on the same topic.

Sure that doesn’t sound exciting at all. Who wants to spend their free time reading about retirement or frugality when there are so many great reality shows out there or Thirsty Thursday parties happening? But in the end, the responsibility is yours.

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11 thoughts on “College Students Should Take Responsibility for Their Financial Situation”

  1. bravo’s…

    #1 is crucial. Do that and hopefully you will realize just how fast your money goes away. And when you want that new ipod…
    It’s probably the MOST and BEST way for college students to realize they are spending money.

    #2 Not sure how important that is. I think developing that habit is important, but if you don’t have steady income… or any income, it’s kind of tough. I just saved all my internship money and lived off of it but I had trouble estimating how much money I could actually sock away for retirement.. so never did that (tho part of me wish I had, the other part of me is yay for dodging 08)

    Almost all my money was in a high-yield savings account (back in the day…) And I would just spend off my credit card and rent checks, transfering money as needed.

    #3 I think starting small is good, but getting diversified is needed. Watch TV news? Or google news.

    I think everyone should use a pure news source and some entertaining blogs. I think the first I read was punny.org. Pure humor w/ some financial context.
    Also, don’t lie, all ugrads have too much time on their hands. You stay up late chatting, faking hw, playing games etc… Just mesh in some readings at that time =)

    Make a game out of it =)

  2. Students are not exempt from taking care of their finances, you are right. I could never understand how some students would just take out gigantic loans and actually spend that money like it’s theirs: not based on necessity, but wants.

  3. I think the habit of saving is especially important (#2), even if it is only a little bit. I’ve been keeping track of my money since I was 12, and my mom helped me open a checking account. I think it’s very important to take responsibility for how we use our money. Another thing you can do, if you have a job at school, is offer to pay for some things. I paid for my own books and car insurance while at school. My parents paid for my housing and food, though. I was responsible for my tuition, but a scholarship covered that. I think that it helps if parents and children sit down ahead of time and know what each will be responsible for. I knew since I was 14 that I would have to be responsible for my tuition, so I worked for a scholarship. I think parental expectations play a role as well.

  4. yes i agree with you. Today students not take care of that… previous day it very difficult to get money there is not enough facilities to get money. Today that situation completely changed to compared to previous days they get money easily and same time they spend easily without responsibilities.

  5. All good points but a student should also look to reduce the cost of college. Why, because the value of the degree isn’t related to price. How many times do you ask your doctor or accountant where he went to school?

    How much can it cost? National averages for a 4 year degree are:
    Private university: $138,528
    Public university (out of state): $100,800
    Public university (in state): $57,332
    U of Phoenix and similar schools: $18,181

    If you know what you are doing you can get the cost down below $7,000. I’ve done it twice (BS business and BS engineering technology). My wife has done it (BS Business). My 15 year old son is a year and a half into his BS Business degree and will graduate before he turns 18. I’ve also coached friends and helped them do the same thing.

  6. I would add to limit yourself to one credit card. Establishing credit while you’re young is important, and the card always comes in handy when you least expect it. Don’t carry balances. Compound interest will crush you and that $299 i-pod can cost you over $500 if left to run on the card.

  7. As a CPA, I have been asked to prepare the FAFSA (student financial aid application) for a client’s college age student. I have a major problem with this as the student generally has no idea what goes on there and how it affects their financial aid and student loan options. When do these adult kids ever figure this stuff out for themselves? Where’s the expectation for them to take some financial responsibility? How long will they need to rely on their parents to fund their life? No wonder they graduate from college and have no idea how to support themselves.
    I agree with you totally that the 3 items you’ve listed are a great starting point. However, this should be started at a much younger age so that by the time they get to college they have a clue. As a parent of 3, I hope I teach my kids how to be financially literate while they are going through school so that by the time they leave for college they can handle their money like the adults they will be. I’d rather see them make money mistakes while they are at home then when they are off on their own.

  8. Very good thoughts! But maybe we are giving college students too much credit. Pun intended. Banks are more than happy to extend credit to college students in addition to student loans. But we may also give students too much credit thinking that they have the maturity level of an adult. I think the reality is such that too many students are not even responsible when it comes down to studying which is their main task/job. How can we expect them to be financially responsible?

  9. Like @My Journey said, imagine if WE WERE this interested and engulfed into our own personal finances when we were in college? Why stop at college and turn to high schools? More and more kids these days are taking on more financial responsibilities at earlier ages these days, but what doesn’t make sense is that the financial literacy rates for the same people is lower than before? More education and reform is needed ASAP. More college and high school students need to start reading some PF blogs, or is that just not “cool” to do?

    @Dana – I was one of those students and I learnt the hard way! The problem was I did not know any better and now I am paying back my huge loans. Its on people like us to help others from falling into the same traps.

  10. Thank god for the credit crunch. In my days of going to college, credit card companies would be proactively recruiting students for credit cards. This often time got inexperienced young adults into early credit card debt. Great article. Wished it was updated.

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