How to Not Be a Financially Messy College Student

One of the biggest and most generic complaints I hear from college students is that they are broke or they have no money. And then they proceed to blame everything around them for that problem, the high tuition costs, expensive college textbooks, the constant need to go out and eat with friends, etc.

I used to be that college kid. As a child, I came from a single parent household with a mother who worked barely above the minimum wage. She was an immigrant, of the hundreds of thousands that fled from the Vietnam War to find a better life in America. The mindset she developed through out that journey was of survival, not of financial stability. And once we were able to make enough money to survive in America, my mom didn’t have any bigger plans for us. So we spent every extra penny we got. My mom and I would save up money, and drop most if not all of it on materialistic items that gave our family immediate gratification. New clothes, iPhones, cars, you name it. On the outside we look rich, but in the long term we were struggling financially.

It wasn’t until I was at the drive thru at McDonalds with my friend and my debit card declined that I was completely horrified on what I had become. I was an 18 year old college student who couldn’t afford a freaking McChicken. I was humiliated. And then I proceeded to blame everyone around me when I should have been blaming myself. I was never taught on how to manage my own money and at that time I didn’t care enough to.

But after that incident, on that night I decided I had to change, not just for me, but to also be able to provide for my mother and my family when I grow up. I learned that you are only “broke” if you choose to be. With the help of some friends, I did a lot of research and tested out a couple different saving concepts until I found ones that worked the best for me. And I thought I’d share it with you too! Because a part of me feels like I’m not alone on this whole super financially irresponsible life. So here are the ways I save and invest my money. My tips are adjusted to my own preference, feel free to use them as reference or change them to what you would think could benefit you the most. As a beginner, these are the most easiest and effortless ways I found on how to save/invest money.

How to Save Money

  1. Personal Finance Spread Sheet – Make a spreadsheet organizing and tracking your credit, debit, savings, and spendings every month. You can use Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, and there are many free online templates online that you can use. This may seem like a lot of work but trust me it pays off. This is a great way to keep track of all your accounts while also seeing how much you have spent each month. It is a definite motivator for me to save money while spending less when I see the numbers all played out.
    • If you want me to show you how I make my Personal Finance Spreadsheet, let me know and I’ll make another post detailing it.
  2. % of Pay Checks – This is pretty self explanatory, but every pay check you take a percentage out of it to save. Personally, I save about 60%-75% of my paychecks, and the rest of the money I call my “fun money” and I use. If I don’t end up using up all my “fun money” once my next paycheck comes, I take it and shove it into my savings too!
  3. Qapital Savings – This app lets you develop your own savings account in it. All you need to do is connect your bank account to the app, and then within the app you can make separate savings folders (for instance mine is “LA TRIP” and “EMERGENCY FUND”). The last step is to just set up your money transfer rules (ex: take $2 out every week) and the app will automatically take the money out of your bank! I found that not having money in my bank account helps me not spend it.
    • Use my referral link if you do end up signing up for it! get.qapital.com/bzAc/xEqACU8SnF

How to Invest Money

  1. Acorns – This app allows you to easily invest your money into stocks and bonds! When setting up your account, you connect your bank account, and then choose which type of portfolio you would be interested in investing in. Your portfolio is a variety of stocks and bonds that Acorns will invest your money into. I chose Moderately Conservative. After, you set rules just like Qapital Savings. The money you put in is invested and you earn money for basically leaving it in there! Keep in mind that you are investing so there is a chance you could lose money also, so that’s why I recommend doing a little research on stocks and bonds before jumping in.
    • One rule I recommend utilizing is the “Round Up” Rule. It basically rounds up all your purchases to the nearest dollar. (ex: you spend $4.25 on milk tea, acorns will invest 75 cents)
    • One thing to note: Acorns does charge a fee of $1 per month for their services!
    • Use my referral link if you love me acorns.com/invite/8QGWFG

I just want to say that saving and investing money only works if actually start it and commit to it. And actually commit to it for the rest of your life. I know it’s not the easiest, especially when there are raves to go to and milk tea to drink. But for me personally, that’s where patience, determination, and long term thinking comes in. Do you want to spend everything, be super happy, but flat out broke in the future? Or would you rather spend in moderation, still have fun, and have savings that can help you achieve your future goals?

 

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