Many students take on incredibly huge loans to finance their education. They are unaware of common financial traps such as credit card debt with its high-interest rates. All of this is probably caused by the lack of transparency in our society. People don’t talk about numbers openly. If someone is struggling financially, he will probably not scream it out loud.
Sometimes, students may be under the impression that their debt will clear out easily once they get a job. But salaries and perspectives often end up disappointing. On the other hand, young students have a FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE that none of the best investors in the world can have: THEY ARE YOUNG. Thanks to the power of compounding interest, SAVINGS, AND INVESTMENTS made at a young age can go a much LONGER WAY.
Without further due, here are great financial habits that students should put in place as early as possible.
1. Track ALL of your expenses as they occur.
Most students haven’t had much to do with money until they start studying.
They were living at their parents’ house and only really know the cost of little extras they could buy from their small savings.
And then BOOM. You’ve got to PICK A CAREER and a HUGE CREDIT to cover for your student expenses, when you actually still have NO NOTION whatsoever of budgeting, saving, making money…
So the first thing I would recommend is to get yourself an app such as Spendee, which I personally use on a daily basis.
Put in ALL OF YOUR RECURRING EXPENSES first. Such as your rent, your audible* abo (I hope you have one!) etc.
To do this, be sure to check out all of your accounts and balances: your bank account, your credit card report, your Paypal activity… Go a few months back just to see whether you missed out on any yearly fee. If you find any yearly fee, divide it by 12, and add it to your recurring monthly expenses. That’s to reflect the reality of your yearly expenses on a monthly basis…
Once you’ve done all this, you’re ALL SET!
Now I’d recommend you track your spendings AS THEY OCCUR for at least a month. I still do it today, because I am currently building my business and need to pay attention to my expenses. It’s a very valuable habit to build!
2. Budget based on your expenses and student loan or side-income…
Now that you have a very precise overview of your monthly expenses, you can start BUDGETING. When you do so, be sure to include any side-income you may earn and the overall sum of money you have at hand for your student year.
I would recommend being somewhat conservative, including a little monthly buffer for unexpected expenses in your budget.
You can also have 2 or 3 versions of your budget if you’re having fun doing it. Ultimately, it’s important that you DON’T SPEND MORE MONEY than you have at your disposal. And if possible, that you SAVE as much as you can…
3. Set clear, SMART, and motivating financial goals.
Now that you have tracked your expenses and created a budget, you know where you’re at.
It’s time to KNOW WHERE YOU WANT TO BE IN THE FUTURE.
In order to do this, you have to set clear financial goals. They should also be realistic, even though you can try to stretch yourself a little. Go for SMART goals.
I believe this kind of ambitious goals can drive you to make the best choice and build SOLID SAVING HABITS… which brings me to the next great financial habit to have!
4. Save money into categories.
As a student, it is crucial that you learn how to save money, even when you are earning only a side-income or even no income at all.
I find it more motivating and meaningful to classify my savings into different categories. For instance, you could put 10% of the money saved into long-term investments, 10% into an emergency fund, 10% into trying to build your own business, etc.
That’s where your financial goals will help you. You should know what you are trying to achieve financially by now. Just make the extra effort to translate this into SAVING goals and to split your savings up into the relevant categories, in order for you to be able to better track your progress.
Now, there are a few things you can do to kick-start your saving habit…
5. Go for second-hand wherever possible.
First, go for the low-hanging fruits. When I was a student, I made sure I bought every book from another student. The prices were very cheap compared to the brand new edition.
I also started to look into second-hand stores for clothes.
If you need to equip your student apartment with a piece of furniture or some appliances, ask your family or friends first.
Be sure to check out any Facebook groups (or other community platforms) for second-hand deals in your neighborhood. You may also find great sublets, in case you need it…
6. Take advantage of your student status and your campus’ resources, whenever possible.
As a student, you can benefit from many discounts and offers. Always be sure to ask whether there are specific student discounts when you go out to the cinema, museum, or any other cultural place.
Also, your campus most probably offers you many amenities you can use for free or at a great discount, such as gyms, swimming pools, libraries, etc.
Be sure to look around and take advantage of every opportunity whenever possible.
7. Sleep on it before you make a purchase.
Now, this habit has helped me SAVE SO MUCH MONEY over the years…
When I started studying, I became more environmentally cautious and began questioning the use of potential buys.
I would always ask myself “But, do I really need this item? Will I really use it?”
This habit became truly impactful when I learn to have at least one night’s sleep before actually buying something when I’m unsure. Very often, I end up NOT BUYING the item at all.
That’s because sometimes, a strong desire or clever marketing tactic will trigger us, emotionally. We feel like we HAVE to buy! Having one night’s sleep works like a reset button. The next day, very often, you’re able to consider the buy from a distance.
8. Apply for scholarships and grants to save up money.
You should perform a thorough research on any scholarships or grants you could get for your studies.
You can get a little creative, too. For instance, if you’re passionate about your studies, maybe you could find grants for a specific topic you want to write a paper about? Maybe there are some fun competitions (such as hackathons) to participate in with the possibility to win a prize?
9. Earn money by learning.
As a student, one may often tend to think that we can’t really earn money in our field yet, because we’re not “qualified” enough.
Very often, this is a mistake. There are plenty of opportunities out there to actually get practical experience and deepen your understanding of a study subject by earning money.
For instance, you may want to start a blog or a YouTube channel, bringing your knowledge to others, in particular students. This will help you learn better and, potentially, earn a small side-income!
Maybe you can participate in Hackathon (which are not only computer science-related) and earn a prize.
Or you may look for freelance jobs in your field (writer, film-maker, marketing…?).
There are many options, if you start early, you can have a clearer path and already have earned some income by the time you graduate.
10. Start building credit as soon as possible…
Building a good credit score is very important, as it may impact you in the long run, especially if you need a loan, later on, to buy a house, build a business, or something of the sort…
That’s why it’s very important that you start using a credit card (your own, or your parents’ for instance) early on…
11. … BUT use your credit card(s) with caution.
…however, be careful! Credit card debt is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE! You don’t want to wake up one morning with a credit card debt in the thousands of dollars.
In order to avoid this, make sure you ONLY SPEND money you already have in your bank account. Never spend more than you can truly afford. And don’t spend IN ADVANCE. Wait for the money to be in your bank account BEFORE you spend it with your credit card.
Also, be sure to check your bank account and credit card report MONTHLY. This will prevent you from doing a mistake…
12. Read and learn about investing and diversification.
As mentioned above, you’re YOUNG and therefore have SUCH A HUGE ADVANTAGE WHEN IT COMES TO INVESTING.
Because every penny you invest well now will mean MANY MORE PENNIES in the future.
If you start investing at 20 vs. 30, you’ve won so much time and could be financially free much earlier.
I strongly recommend the following read on this topic: Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need* from Grant Sabatier.
Grant Sabatier is a millennial who DIDN’T HAVE A CLUE about finances as a student. So much so that he ended up TOTALLY BROKE at about age 25, with only $2 or so on his bank account. He had to move back into his parents’ house.
When he was studying, he HAD THE IMPRESSION that once he would get a job, MONEY WOULD NATURALLY START FLOWING IN. But it didn’t. The PAY WAS TOO LOW and the work exhausting.
When he hit his LOWEST POINT, he decided to teach himself a new skill and to channel all of his energy towards financial freedom, as quickly as possible.
He went from BROKE TO MILLIONAIRE in 5 years.
In the book, he explains how he went about it.
Even if you are not WORRIED about your finances right now, IT’S VERY IMPORTANT that you acquire financial knowledge.
Read about INVESTING AND DIVERSIFICATION. And if you have a few cents to invest, just go ahead and do it, now.
13. Check out if there are any savings or investment plans that offer favorable tax conditions.
There are TWO OBSTACLES to making good use of the power of COMPOUNDING INTEREST in order to miraculously help your money grow.
FEES and TAXES.
Nowadays, thanks to software and automation, there are many investment options that have VERY LOW FEES. Of course, I urge you to read more about this and ALWAYS ask about fees when you are investing your money.
But TAXES can also eat up a huge portion of your interests. And that’s okay, BUT you should be aware of the fact that there are OFTEN good options, ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND STUDENTS, to have tax-exempt investing options.
Wherever you live, make a quick search, and start comparing investment products and programs FOR STUDENTS. Don’t miss out on easy wins.
My mom helped me out when I was younger. She helped me figure out and put some money into savings account for 4.5% interest per annum, tax-free, and without fees, which lasted about 8 years.
What options do you have?
14. Get informed about Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies.
Now, we are entering a risky territory here. However, I feel the urge to mention this NEW FINANCIAL HABITS since I personally believe that Cryptocurrencies are emerging as a new asset class, which will be part of most investment portfolios in the long run.
Remember, DIVERSIFICATION is very important, and, at this stage, you should only invest what you could potentially afford to lose into this market.
Most importantly, I believe that you should start building KNOWLEDGE of this market. You don’t need to risk any money doing that. You can just read relevant blogs, follow a few serious channels, and look at the charts regularly.
This will help you build a great wealth of knowledge, progressively, and be a savvier investor when Cryptocurrencies start making their way into regular diversified investment portfolios.
Note: this is not financial advice! You should consult a professional before making financial decisions!
15. Even if your budget is tight, remember to treat yourself every now and then.
This sounds counterintuitive but it’s important to REMEMBER that you have enough to TREAT yourself to something special about once a month.
It can be a massage, a piece of clothes, a nice restaurant. Whatever fits within your budget but feels SPECIAL TO YOU.
It will prevent you from falling into a SCARCITY MINDSET and also increase your quality of living.
I hope this list of financial habits was useful to you! Now is the time to take your motivation and actually act on it.
Putting habits into place can be difficult at times, that’s why I recommend taking it one step at a time.
If there is just one thing you could start doing, I recommend journaling about your financial habits, daily. REFLECT on what you’re doing every day, why you’re doing it, and MAKE A SPECIFIC PLAN on how to act tomorrow. That’s the most powerful habit, which, according to science, will make you much likelier to stick to your new habits!