By Sienna Walker
Students have a tough time. It’s difficult to be a full time student and keep your head above water. School is expensive, stressful, and time consuming. Many students also work part time to supplement their budgets. There’s a lot to juggle, and it’s easy for highly important priorities to get lost in the shuffle. This often leads to students making some glaring mistakes with their money, and unfortunately, some of these habits stick with them long after graduation.
1. Throwing Money at Junk Food
When you’re a busy student, the idea of grocery shopping and preparing meals feels almost impossible. Instead, you order pizza or settle for soggy, fatty drive-thru burgers. Of course these meals aren’t healthy – that’s a separate debate all on its own. In truth, setting a grocery budget and cooking your own meals is healthier for both your body and your bank account. You might still be leading a busy life after graduation, especially if you’re working hard at your dream career, but your time can be mitigated by meal prepping on Sunday nights.
2. Using Credit Cards like a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
Credit cards can sometimes be helpful in an emergency, but if paying your water bill every month is an emergency, it’s time to do some restructuring.
Relying on credit cards for basic living expenses, like rent, groceries, or utilities, typically indicates that you are living beyond your means. You’re never going to get ahead of yourself if you’re charging the most basic things to your credit card. If it’s on your credit card, that means you can’t afford it. Cut back in other areas and save the credit card for unplanned expenses or a (very) occasional fun night out.
3. Improperly Managing Your Savings
Having a savings account is excellent. You probably had one in college, even if the amount was less than impressive. You may have grown into the habit of tossing some cash into your savings account and allowing your willpower to take over so you don’t dip into it. Unfortunately, savings won’t really do much to help that money grow.
Instead of relying on a low interest rate to accumulate over time, consider investing your savings. There are a wealth of options for investments. There’s the traditional route of the stock market, which many busy people choose for its minimal level of commitment. Then there are slightly more labor intensive methods, like residential real estate investing. Choosing an investment method largely depends on how hands on you want to be.
4. Keeping Your Budget in Your Brain
Once people get into the swing of things, they tend to operate by force of habit. They roughly know when all the bills are due, and a quick check of their bank account balance lets them know where they’re at. Without an actual budget however, they’re likely to struggle. You might have got by without one when you were still in college, as there were fewer expenses to remember, and perhaps you even had the help of your parent. Now however, if you want to have more money, you need to plan carefully, review your spending, and determine where cuts can be made.
Create a calendar and mark dates with what specific amount of money is going in and coming out at any given moment. Keep your receipts for the things that you purchase. Add up what you spend and compare it with what you have left. Would it be a wise decision to cut cable TV and switch to online streaming services? Would a budget grocery store save you enough money in food costs to cover a bill every month? You won’t know without a stable budget.
You learned a lot in college, and you can learn a lot now. Your circumstances and your income are likely very different from the way they were when you were a student. The sooner you teach yourself to be an expert at managing your money, the more money you’ll have for the next big chapter in your life.
About the author:
Sienna Walker is an experienced careers and self-improvement blogger with a deep love for creating smart, passive income. She is often found on educational forums, sharing her learning, work, and money management tips with students. Privately, a huge fan of traveling.