On Becoming Financially Responsible

Look at you! You’re mastering the grown-up world of college life at a rapid pace. The washing machine is no longer a daunting collection of undecipherable buttons. And you’ve graduated from Hot Pockets to haute cuisine. The only thing that keeps tripping you up is money. You still need some help becoming financially responsible.

financially responsible student

Talking to your piggy bank will get you nowhere. It wants to be filled.

Don’t get frustrated. Conquering the realm of personal finances takes practice and self-discipline. Here are a few tips that will better enable you to become fiscally responsible–completing an integral step in your journey to becoming a full-blown adult.

Needs vs. Wants

One of the most important life lessons we can learn is the difference between a “need” and a “want.” Without this, you can find yourself spending beyond your means and drowning in credit card debt.

A “need” is something that you must have such as food in your belly, a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and some basic tools of hygiene. A “want” is something that you’d like to have, but can do without. Bear in mind that not all roofs, clothing, foods, and hygiene tools qualify as needs. For instance, you do need shoes, but you don’t need a pair of swanky Jimmy Choo’s. Nor do you “need” Starbucks coffee, a sprawling penthouse, or Shiseido face cream.

That’s not to say that you can never satisfy a “want.” It simply means that “needs” are your priority and “wants” should be put on hold until you can actually afford them.

Budget

Some people go through their entire lives treating “budget” like it’s a dirty word. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creating a doable budget and sticking with it can help you accomplish your future goals–including getting your hands on Jimmy Choo’s and that sprawling penthouse.

Making a budget involves listing your expenses, tallying up your income, and figuring out what’s left over. Don’t forget to allow for a contribution to your savings. If money is tight, you will need to find ways to cut back on your expenses–not your savings. “How to Create a Budget If You’ve Never Had One Before” offers step-by-step advice including looking back over your previous spending, considering your monthly income, and splitting up your monthly income. With a budget in place, you will be able to spend less time worrying about money woes and more time studying, socializing, or perfecting your next culinary masterpiece.

Dodge Debt

The best way to avoid debt is to stay away from credit cards. The temptation to “buy now, pay later” can be huge–just like their interest rates–so it is wise to rely on good old-fashioned cash, instead. As the University of Texas at Dallas’ “Financial Responsibility” warns, college students are prime targets for credit card offers and “low-or no-interest introductory offers and free gifts are ploys lenders use to entice you to sign up.” Steer clear of these gimmicks and keep your wallet credit card-free.

Save

How can you save money when you are scrimping to get by? The truth is that you need to pay your savings account before you pay anything else. Having some extra cash stowed away will protect you in the event of an emergency, an unexpected expense, or if–heaven forbid–your income becomes even smaller. “How to be Financially Responsible in Your 20s” suggests instructing your financial institution to automatically transfer a certain amount of funds to your savings account with each deposit. Once you see how quickly you can amass a nest egg, you will become a huge fan of the art of saving.

Becoming financially responsible takes work, dedication, and usually involves changing how you think about money. A bright college student like yourself, however, will be able to blossom into the model of fiscal accountability. So get budgeting.

What is your secret to becoming financially balanced?

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I am a freelance writer, avid blogger, illustrator, and aspiring novelist who thinks the world is a terribly funny place filled with bizarre things to observe--and, of course, comment on. You can follow her somewhat neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and at Searching for Barry Weiss.

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