Setting off to college will likely be the first time you are independent which means you’ll be responsible for keeping your finances in check and having a seamless plan and a good budgeting strategy allows you to really focus on your studies.

With that being said, it’s more of a challenge for college students than any other age group. The good news: you have your whole life ahead of you so you have time to get it right. You’re young, you’re bright and you have the opportunity to mold your life for success right now. Making good financial choices at this moment will have a huge impact on your future and the steps are very small indeed.

When you head off to college, you’ve hopefully been able to save some money. A student loan is a great tool that allows you to afford college for the moment. It is, however, advantageous if you can cut down the amount of money you borrow. The cost of college also includes the cost of living which is something you may not be experienced in.

Here are some of the fundamental costs you can expect to face:

  • Tuition, which can include additional costs for use of services like the library.
  • Room and board, whether it’s on or off campus.
  • Textbooks, supplies and whatever other supporting tools you need for your studies.
  • Basic personal expenses such as clothes, entertainment, medical and insurance.

I think most of you know what you’re in for when you head to college. I personally had no clue how to deal with finances in my first semester. Although I used many of the tools to improve my finances further in my college life, I spent a lot of time paying for bad financial decisions and this blog will help you, among other things, to not make them. Putting myself into debt had me paying off the principal of various loans for a long time, and believe me, it’s not a great way to begin your independent adult life.

Keeping Costs Down

My personal experience with college years left me financially distraught. Some of my worst mistakes, which may seem obvious to some but they certainly were not for me at the time, was thinking about the consequences of the credit card I used.

I incurred several unnecessary costs which as I think back today, I can say I didn’t buy or invest in anything of value!

I got a student loan and bought clothes, airline tickets, entertained and much more.   Instead of studying at night, I would go out partying with my girl friends.  I can tell you that this is exactly what you should not do. The time was of course fun but it passed. When I was done, I was stuck with so much debt and going into entry level jobs where the vast majority of my payroll check was going to pay the debt.

Debt collectors starting beating down my door and the amount of stress I was in was terrible. I owed thousands of dollars more than the original money spent. Due to years of unpaid debt that I ignored, I was in trouble.

The habits you form with your finances at a young age is how you will more than likely handle financial situations as an adult.  It’s a really important time to learn not only how to save money but how to make it and manage it for financial stability and, eventually, financial abundance.

Putting yourself in mountains of debt creates more debt as the years go on. All of your pay checks are spent before they’re paid to you. Whether you realize it or not, this actually does have a negative impact on your spending habits. It’s much like an evil cycle.

Minimizing how much you’ll need to pay back later and maximizing your finances is the goal.

The process is slow and consistent and doesn’t restrict your life in an unmanageable way. After all, college years are supposed to be some of the best so you want to live it to the fullest. The strategies don’t require you to have a lot already… it only requires some easy habits and actions. That’s it!

Write Down Your Goals

Take some time to write down your financial goals. What you want to see in the near future and for one year later. It may seem like a large mountain to climb but if you plan accordingly, you’ll easily you’re your goals. Write the steps you will take to make the goal happen and stick to it. It’s much like creating a map for your success. This will entail you to:

  • Plan expenses intelligently
  • Plan strategies to earn that money
  • Focus on smaller goals that get you closer and closer to you goal.

To accomplish this you’ll need to shove away the “poor mindset” and cultivate the “abundance mindset”.

The “poor mindset” is focusing on how to cut costs as maximum as possible, maybe getting a small job somewhere, and that’s that.

The “abundance mindset” is about planning expenses with intelligence + practicing small financial habits + generating new income.

When I finally decided it was time to think about finances, I achieved goals quickly. They gave me confidence that I could accomplish anything I wanted to. There are more rewards for meeting financial goals than just having money. You are building trust within yourself, a deeply rooted belief that you can achieve whatever you want, and the freedom that extra money can provide.

Writing down your goals and viewing it regularly will give you one of the best tools one can have for achievements in life: accountability.

The formula of accountability is consistency + practicing over a long period of time = great accomplishments.

What better way to start cultivating and growing your money by creating a yearly financial goal?

Also, every time you see the goal are reminded of what you want. Take some time with goal setting and make sure they are realistic.  Stretch goals are even better because more times than not we are capable of more than we think.  This will expand your efforts, your ability, and your results.  SMART goals are what I call it…Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time- bound.

When you’ve accomplished your financial goals a certain feeling of comfort will grow within you. You know that you have funds in the case of an emergency and this feeling of financial security.

Keep this in mind, how much you spend is a more important factor at the beginning of your financial efforts than how much you make.

Why?

Because intelligent spending habits set the pace to create a lifelong pattern of great money management.

Part of your map for success should, therefore, include a detailed budget.

There are a lot of pluses when you’re starting out for the first time. Life is actually incredibly simple and most of your finances are spent on “wants” as opposed to needs. Your responsibilities are much less than you may realize.

While life may seem overwhelming at the moment, you’ve only just begun.  When you’re young and just starting out, you don’t have the financial burdens yet. Why is this a benefit to you?  Because you don’t have to save much per day to get ahead and see the benefits of your discipline.

Be conscious about What You Really Need

As you begin to make your own financial decisions, the freedom can be overwhelming. When your parents paid for expenses, they had the luxury of choice. You have choices as well but they come with a tighter budget.   Say, for instance, you’re a kid in a candy shop…you want it all.  You must learn to condition yourself by determining if your purchase is a want or a need.  Think about this…do you want to struggle through life or do you want to feel abundant financially.

This is where you will have to be mindful of what you really need in your present circumstance. Do you need new furniture or is used furniture for the fraction of the price enough? It may be hard to say no to things you want but consider the feeling of looming debt.

You may say “It’s only cost” but don’t fool yourself. This same thought, repeated several times during a long period of time, is what causes people to do poorly financially.

In life, income and time progress, if you manage money wisely, you’ll be able to obtain the thing that is not strict necessities without any financial burden on you.

Find contentment in the things you do have. Things that won’t break the bank like a new car or the Louboutin shoes.  Don’t allow yourself to buy into things that you don’t need when your main focus should be your studies. It might feel nice to start building up your adult life with “materialistic” things but be cautious about getting in over your head with debt.

Be VERY Wary of the Credit Card

As with many people, I had my share of problems with credit card misuse. Nowadays, there are credit/debit cards available when you do happen to need to use a credit card. They’re great because you can’t spend more than you have in your account (big life lesson unpracticed by many).

Many of the credit card companies target college students to use their cards. They usually don’t give you a large amount of money you can spend. They do, however, charge a lot of interest. A credit card that is misused is an anti-money managing tool. It’s important for you to acknowledge your boundaries. Many consumers are unable to properly manage their credit card spending and the credit card companies want consumers to fail miserably at the management of it too. Think about it…the interest alone that credit card companies gain from late payment is gravy for a credit card company.

Having a credit card for emergency purchases or necessary online purchases is fine but using it for entertainment when you’re broke is not. You could end up in a perpetual pool of debt that takes years to get out of. That is painful.

The problem with credit cards is you never see that money you spend leaving your account. In many ways, people don’t even realize that they’re spending real cash. This makes you spend more recklessly on things you don’t need which goes against your success of being financially sound.

Decide now if you want to be wealthy in your life or live paycheck to paycheck. Credit cards are the reason so many people live beyond their means and get completely stuck. Stuck in jobs they don’t like without the possibility of making a change. An insane amount of dreams go unmet this way.

The amount of money you pay in interest when you’re not able to pay the bill when it’s due is debilitating. You not only have no opportunity to save money and have it work for you in an investment account, you unnecessarily pay. If you don’t believe you can use the card responsibly, cut it up and walk away from the whole idea.

The best thing you can do is to not own a credit card if you can’t assume personal financial responsibility.

If there is a true and real emergency, which is very rare, there is one friend that will always be there for you – your savings account.

Watching Finances Grow Gives You Motivation

When you downsize your life such as your cable plan or a long distance savings plan, you begin to realize that saving money is pretty easy. Make sure you allocate the money saved to a separate account or actually put cash in a jar. When you begin to see the nest egg you’re creating for yourself grow, it’s highly motivating. It actually releases dopamine to your brain, which is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Now… how cool is that?

You will probably find that the discipline and motivation you feel while saving money is more rewarding than life’s extras. When you combine that with increasing income your finances will grow tremendously to the point of having true financial abundance and financial independence.

Giving up the little treats daily is just a thing that is done at the beginning… you’ll be able to afford the big stuff later.

Take your first action towards financial abundance: monitor thoroughly your daily habits for a week.

That’s all you need to do to start.

This will give you awareness of where the money is going, which will, in turn, allow you to create an improved financial planning for the following week, being able to then put your first saved dollars into your savings account.

The first step closer to a great financial reality.