In your early twenties, New Year’s resolutions typically look like the following: spend more time at the gym and less watching Netflix, don’t binge eat (or drink) on nights out, and start papers earlier than the day before they’re due. Financial resolutions often don’t make the cut, but consider adding them into the mix if you want to learn smart money skills that will help you now and in the future.
1. Become financially literate.
Over the summer, I interned at a personal finance magazine in Washington, D.C. that covers topics like saving, credit and investment. Prior to starting my internship, my knowledge of finance was limited to introductory economics courses. Thanks to my time at the magazine, I now know about topics like retirement savings, state tax laws and mutual funds, as well as topics more relevant to students like budgeting and student loans.
You don’t need to fully understand terms like ETFs, HSAs and 401(k)s just yet, but now is the perfect time to begin brushing up on your financial know-how. Start with the basics: Even if you think you know the differences between credit and debit cards or current (also known as checking) and savings accounts, it never hurts to check if you’re right. Other helpful starting topics include financial aid, beginner’s tips for investing in the stock market and filing for taxes with a part-time job. By learning the basics of finance now, you’ll be better prepared for the financial independence that comes with entering the workforce and living on your own.
2. Make a budget and stick to it.
Unless you want to end a night out preemptively by going to the cash point at Tesco and seeing you have a balance of zero pounds, it’s a good idea to have a monthly or weekly budget. Consider all of your sources of income, including financial aid, money from parents, savings and job earnings, and break down your costs. Make sure to include rent, groceries, nights out with friends, school supplies, clothes and whatever else you spend money on regularly.
You can use several online tools to help you make a budget. 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy has a helpful budget calculator for students, and apps like Mint, Level Money and Wally will track your spending and offer tips for sticking to your budget.
If you live in the United States, consider including a Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account), an account that lets you save tax-free retirement income, in your budget. If you start the account at age 19 and contribute, for example, $5,000 you earned over the summer, your savings will reach $52,006 by the time you’re 67, assuming a 5 percent interest rate. This is only counting your original $5,000 investment, not the additional funds you’ll contribute over the years. By starting to save for retirement now, you’ll reap the full benefits of compound interest and could end up with over a million dollars by the time you retire.
3. Take advantage of student discounts.
You can save more money than you realize just by being a student. Clothing stores like J. Crew, Banana Republic and Topshop offer student discounts of up to 15 percent, while museums such as the Newseum in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have discounted student tickets. Be sure to look for deals at local museums, entertainment venues and restaurants, too. Ryman, Disc Depot and the Wax Bar are three St Andrews businesses with student discounts.