From a young age, I have struggled to manage my money, compulsively spending on almost anything and everything that has a price tag. So much so, those days following a direct deposit to my bank account I would receive an automated text message alerting me of a low balance.
Whether it was spending money on takeout or buying a new purse, my need for instant gratification manifested into a series of detrimental habits. My most regrettable splurge, stemming from my “want to be cool” high school mentality landed me buying a car way out of my price range.
I paid ridiculous payments on a car that would “impress.” Unfortunately, the lavish ride didn’t get much use as I didn’t even have enough money to put gas in the tank.
And with college nearing, I knew the stakes of maintaining financial stability only grew steeper. The feelings of inferiority derived from my inability to manage money led me to take charge and fight my lack of financial discipline.
The typical college student is often described as broke, stressed, and hungry. And to be honest, the idea of eating Ramen Noodles every night was enough to scare me into financial discipline. I am currently an undergraduate student studying Biology, and I plan on attending medical school shortly. The overwhelming, dark cloud of student loans that loom over my head quite frequently often feels impossible to escape but is now made plausible with new habits that sustain a bright financial future.
The first step in fighting my lack of financial discipline is categorizing potential purchases as a need or a want. I thoroughly investigate an item’s durability and the purpose it would serve in my daily life before even looking at the price. I have concluded that having problems with money management is not due to a lack of money, but rather the inadequate ways in which one chooses to spend money.
It is for this reason I make a long-term pros and cons list on all purchases I make. It is essential to know if the benefits of the product outweigh the monetary hit. For instance, last year when my laptop took a dump on me mid-semester part of me was tempted to buy a new one immediately to keep up with my school work. But by default of new habits, I researched, made pros and cons list, and justified whether it was a need or a want.
Instead of rushing to the nearest Apple store I found a sale that would occur in two weeks discounting the price significantly. Although it was inconvenient to not have a laptop for a time I sufficed by using the library computers while waiting out the sale. In hindsight, I ended up saving a lot of money by thoroughly considering my purchase and in turn gained financial responsibility.
To me, the most important factor in achieving my financial discipline was establishing a method in which a large percentage of my paychecks are automatically deposited into a savings account. I try to be fiscally responsible and use this savings not only to secure an emergency fund but also to make regular payments on tuition bills.
The idea of accumulating interest on student loans is scary and therefore prompts me to make a dent in the cost of tuition while attending school. Although it is tough being a fulltime student and working to establish financial security, I know in the end it will pay off.
While saving money is crucial, it is also important to reward oneself for acting with financial responsibility. I allow myself monthly spending money that I monitor through an app on my iPhone. The app designates a certain amount of money I can spend on food, entertainment, and shopping. It forces to me to be conscious of my spending by its frequent requests to log my transactions. Using the app is easy and efficient and has worked wonders on my financial accountability.
It allows me to know whether or not I can afford to treat myself to a coffee at Starbucks on my way to class or a meal out with friends. All in all, it is easy to fall into irresponsible spending, but making a money plan and gaining self-control can help to make monumental strides into a better financial future.
Author: Sydney Rehr