Radiating Sunshine: Finances and Happiness

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Finances and Happiness

To continue with my work as flow goals for March, today I'm talking about finances (I know one of the biggest topics not to discuss publicly on a blog). However, before you get concerned that I'm going to share all of my personal details, let me tell you what I actually intend to write about: college students. I know, shocker! I spend every day with college students, have them as neighbors, and they make my job incredibly valuable. However, recently a common theme that they are all experiencing is a concern for finances.

College is expensive and the cost to attend a four-year institution is increasing at alarming odds. In December, I met with five different students who told me that they did not even know if they could come back in the Spring to continue their degree. Nothing brought me more sadness than seeing bright students who work so hard worry about when there next meal will be and or whether they will be able to pay for their books.

So, today I'm writing about sharing some money saving tips for college students. I recognize that I was an extremely fortunate college student. My parents helped me pay for college and I worked as an RA and RCL (Senior RA), which paid for my room and board. I also worked a part-time job at a clothing store for money to spend on purchasing a car and various college adventures. I'm grateful to my parents for their assistance, but many college students aren't as lucky as me!

Over the years, I have talked to many different students in a variety of financial states. I've learned that almost all college students are pressed for money and I think these financial tips will help students see themselves in a more comfortable financial light.

Tip One: Plan reasonably

This was a tough lesson that I learned when I started saving money! I kept thinking, okay I'll save money and then found myself disappointed after I splurged on a Chipotle burrito. So, be reasonable with your financial planning. Think about how much you spend every month. There are great apps that you can get for FREE that will help you track your spending. Check out Credit Card Insider for more helpful tips! Look at what you're spending on and see what areas you can cut back in. I like to look at my credit card as a debit card. The way I do this is any time I use it to buy something, I only swipe it if I have that money in my bank account. Debit cards take money directly out of the account in one transaction, however credit card bills can sneak up on you and it can be easy to rack up those bills.

When I budget, I look at the whole semester. I think about everything I need first (i.e. gas money and groceries) and then I think about what "splurges" I want to spend on. Yes, I budget in my occasional target therapy sessions! This way I'm prepared for what I'm spending on over the semester and I track it on a spreadsheet.

Tip Two: Set measurable goals

To continue on about my spreadsheet, I track all of my spending. Ever semester, I think about things that I need to spend on at the start or end of the semester (where I do most of my big spending). So, I set aside sections for school supplies, like textbooks. On my spreadsheet, I put aside car needs, grocery needs, adventures, and personal spending. Every category was waited with different total goals, which helped me track my financial goals. Make sure you consider when your student bills are due and have goals to set aside for saving for your next bill.

Tip Three: Spend on memories

Happiness experts say that when you spend on money, you should spend less money on things and more money on doing things with others. So, the lesson to be learned here is to go to Target with your FRIENDS and purchase things. Just kidding. The point of spending on memories, over things is because it will actually leave you feeling more fulfilled. Memories are something that can never be taken away and when you are surrounded by people your happiness levels will soar. Don't forget to make sure you pay your bills too. I would hate for you to say that Radiating Sunshine told you to spend all of your money on memories, remember your bills too!

Tip Four: Be patient

Don't expect to see immediate results in your savings account. It can take years to save a substantial amount of money. However, don't let that discourage you either. If you set attainable and measurable goals and try to hold yourself accountable, you will see changes in your bank account. So, be proud of yourself and don't put yourself down when your savings come in slow.

Every college student is on their own financial journey. Find out where you are and think about where you want to be and when you want to be there. I'm always learning better ways to save and incorporate those in my 2016 Financial Plan.

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