I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school, I had this misconception that college kids ate ramen every night and lived with $3 in their bank accounts. When I came to MC, I realized that I needed money to have fun, pay for emergencies, and plan for the future.
WARNING: I am about to sound like a parent. Just go with it.
I don’t care if you’re 16, 18, or 22 about to graduate. You need more than $3 in your bank account. Seriously. Emergencies happen. I also don’t care if you’re 16, 25, or 55. You need to be saving for the future. I learned these lessons the hard way. The summer after my sophomore year I had just gotten back from studying abroad with only a few hundred dollars left. I moved to Clinton for the summer to work, and one day, my van started shuddering on the interstate. The fix cost over $400, which I had to pay in cash. Which I did not have. My savings were drained, and it wasn’t payday yet. Luckily, I had an extremely generous boss who lent me the extra cash I needed, taking it out of my next paycheck, and parents who sent me a little money to ensure that I had enough to pay rent that week.
Life happens. People are not going to care why you can’t pay your bills, but they will care that you haven’t. And sometimes, you aren’t going to have generous people to help you get on your feet. It’s up to you—and you alone—to ensure that you are financially stable. Sure, it’s hard, but it is possible.
Get a Job
Babysit, get a job on campus, ask businesses if they’re hiring. Working through college has been an important experience for me. Not only have I gotten life experience, but I’ve also been able to build up my savings (and fund travel, eat out with friends, go to concerts, etc). It’s possible!
Start saving for retirement
There are several options out there for you. I opened my retirement account while I was in college and have a set amount withdrawn from my account each month. Knowing that I’m taking small steps to fund my future gives me a peace of mind.
So you can’t find a job? Make something and sell it. I have friends who sew, knit, crochet, and do calligraphy. People want things that are homemade. Start marketing your work for a little extra cash.
Make a budget and save as much as you can
If you’re able, save part of the money you make. I understand that some of you will be paying out of pocket for school, and that’s where your money will go. If that’s not you, pay for the necessities, put some money aside to have fun, and save the rest. Make a budget, stick to it, and see your savings grow.
I know that this might seem a little intense, but the future comes quickly and shows no mercy. Don't get caught without a safety net. If you're just terrible about saving money, try little tricks, like saving every $5 bill you get. Find something that works for you and stick with it.