Planning for your financial health
Money and what it takes to manage your finances is a skill set many people, young and old, haven't been taught. If you have, fantastic. If you haven’t, take comfort in knowing that at this point you have life experience to draw on in your process of learning what you need. In short, you’re already good at learning, so all you need to do is direct some of your curiosity and time towards your own financial success. Not only is this an empowering experience to take control of your own life even in this one aspect, but it’s also a crucial step to personal freedom. Here are my tips to get started:
Get curious about money
There are tons of resources to start learning the basics of money — and we recommend that you use them. Essentially your learning will come down to 3 things:
Living wisely with the money that you have
Using strategies to ensure you have enough for the future
Making good decisions when life throws you a curveball
In financial terms, these are the core concepts of budgeting, banking, debt, credit, taxes, saving and investing. ASU has partnered with iGrad to help students track their loans and take free financial literacy courses on these topics. We recommend starting here, but definitely explore further. Part of learning is comparing multiple viewpoints and settling on what works for you and your life.
Take time to understand your financial situation
As college students, there are 3 components to your financial situation that we recommend you understand.
Money available - any leftover aid/loans or savings you have built up.
Money going out - any expenses you’ll have on a regular or one-off basis (think books vs. phone bill).
Money coming in - your income from a job, work-study, or internship. (TBD? Knowing the first two will help you understand if and how much you need to earn by working)
As a note, if your parents or other family members are a part of your financial situation we highly recommend that you talk to them about it.
Make a starter budget
Budgeting can be difficult prior to starting school, because your understanding of what your days will look like is theoretical at this point. So much of the college experience is made up of little decisions: Making lunch today or eating out? Going to study at a library or coffee shop? Getting a haircut every 6 weeks or 8? We have rough numbers and guidelines to help get a sense for your budget on our Student Budget Worksheet, but here are some additional resources to help with this process:
Save as much as you can
Working during the summer? Getting graduation money? Save it! Every little bit saved can help once you get here. You can put it towards books, supplies, or getting coffee with a professor.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t celebrate this milestone before starting the next chapter of your life, or that you should never spend your hard earned money on fun. Instead, come up with a balance that you can live with.
By now you’ve probably noticed that I don’t really have concrete advice for you, and that’s because everyone’s situation is different. College is a time to learn about yourself, and really explore what works for you and what doesn’t. Of course, this carries through all aspects of your life but it’s definitely key to your financial health.
So I recommend taking some time to reflect on what’s important to you in life, and if needed, what types of things you would be able to give up on the path to achieving this. The most successful students I see are the ones who are able to navigate the many little decisions they’re faced with each day— recognizing the difference between a want and a need, and they’re able to connect these decisions to the pursuit of the things that are truly important to them.
Expert tip: Schedule a time to review your spending and adjust your budget
You’ll want to review your budget as your finances change (usually every semester), but definitely after the first month of classes, as these early days are busy enough just getting used to your course load and the ins and outs of college living. Remember, your starter budget is really an informed guess, so you’ll want to take time to tweak it to reflect your new reality. Time will pass quickly - so pre schedule this check-in before you lose track of time.
By Melissa Pizzo, ASU’s Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Services