Financial Learning from My Freshman Year

Highlights

  • Overspending is easy, so track your spending and be disciplined.
  • Earn money and set aside some out of each paycheck for building savings.
  • Max your earnings by starting your job searches early.
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Spending, Saving, and Earning- Learning from my Freshman Mistakes

The end of my freshman year of college! I made it. My first year living on my own with complete financial freedom. While I’m proud of the way I’ve handled and earned money, I have definitely made some missteps along the way.

Here are my reflections about what I did right and what I wish I had done differently over the past year. I hope you, some incoming college students, or anyone living on their own for the first time will take advantage of the conclusions I’ve drawn and avoid mistakes I made. It is definitely possible to put enough time and energy into doing well at school and to take good care of your financial health, too.

Set Aside Savings from What You Earn

My first bit of advice: SAVE, SAVE, SAVE! Making money and effectively managing it can be a difficult challenge. If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself using the fact that you’re employed as a justification for unnecessary purchases. This is a dangerous game. If you’re smart, making money won’t become a free pass to spend without thought. I’ve mentioned my love of shopping in previous posts, and I’ll admit, my susceptibility to it caused my bank balance to suffer quite a bit. Something I’m trying to do now is create a budget for myself.  Each month I’m allocating a certain amount of money to be spent for recreational purchases, including shopping, and setting the rest aside to save. I use the app my bank provides. If I could go back, I definitely would have started doing this at the beginning of my freshman year, but it’s never too late to start practicing financial mindfulness

Max Your Earnings During Summer

Spending is one side of the equation. Earning money is another. My reality is that I need to work during the school year. It is an important part of paying for my college. Also, every dollar I earn is one that I don't have to take out in a student loan.

In order to earn as much as possible, my next suggestion is: start thinking of summer in the winter. The summer is long, which means a lot of time to start new things. While summer is of course, a break, it is also an opportunity to prioritize working and making money now that classes are temporarily suspended. You can get an internship, work at a restaurant or store, or even work freelance with a company like Postmates. With classes off the table, summer provides room for a fun break and work. The one crux about working over the summer, you have to plan ahead. Summer internships and jobs are extremely coveted meaning research during the school year is required to land a gig you are excited about. Because they’re so sought after, it is also smart to apply aggressively. You never know which opportunities will work out, so it’s better to create as many chances as you can for yourself. I was lucky enough to secure a paid internship this summer that I love and starting my search early was key.

The Early Bird Catches the Job

A final suggestion: think of the fall over the summer. Yup, more planning ahead. As stressful as it can be, if you don’t begin thinking about your plans in advance, you can miss out on opportunities or not find one at all. If you’re like me, soon, you’ll be returning, or just arriving, to a campus filled with broke college students and where there’s college students, there is a high demand for paid, part-time jobs. Get an edge on the job search by looking over the summer.

Most colleges offer some sort of job search platform or have career centers you can be put in contact with. Exploring work options through your college increases your chances of landing an on-campus job, which can be extremely beneficial for a full-time student. It can be difficult to stay motivated when you’re sending out lots of applications and not getting immediate responses, or any at all. Stay patient; don’t give up. There are tons of opportunities out there. Start early and get a leg up on the competition.

In summary, be frugal and seek out opportunities in advance. The more you learn about yourself as a financially independent individual, the better you’ll be at managing your finances in a way that allows you to both have fun and be responsible.

Let me know what end-of-year conclusions you guys have reached. Anyone have any summer job hunting tips? Any tips for making money during the school year?

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