Managing my finances as a college student
Being a college student where sources of income are limited, it is hard to define our own financial goals. We are at a point in our life where we pursue our passions, exploring places, and meeting new people, and honestly, these entail costs. We might feel that it is difficult to take control and set a goal when we have limited income and have to pay for a lot of things.
I am currently taking a double degree in college at De La Salle University. My courses, AB Literature and BS Accountancy require me to stay 6 years in the university. During this time, there is always an urge to find side hustles and earn my own money already. I simply do not want to rely on my allowances for leisure and school expenses. Want to start the year with good money management habits? Let me share with you the steps I did on how I fixed my cash flow and earned additional income as a college student. With the right mindset and discipline, I can attest that these tips are actually doable!
On fixing my cash flow:
- Set financial goals
The first thing that I did is to list my short and long-term goals. When I was writing them down in my journal, I did not have specific sources of income in mind for every goal. I just wrote them down to figure out my wants and priorities. Do not be afraid to list your goals, no matter how insignificant or grand they are. It may be gadgets, clothes or books that you want for Christmas, or even traveling the world and buying a big house in the future. These goals will motivate you to strive harder.
2. Create budget categories
To create my budget categories, I just had to look at my lifestyle. The categories are usually composed of income and expenses. I listed my sources of income, which at this moment, are allowances I get from my family, scholarship stipends, and part-time jobs such as tutorials and writing commissions. I also wrote categories for expenses. It can be for needs and wants such as food, leisure, school expenses, etc. It is important to personalize your budget categories because each of us navigates our lives differently. I even have an expense account for coffee shops, just because!
3. Track your income and expenses
This is the tedious part for most people, but I actually enjoy tracking my cash flow. Take note of money coming in and out each day, with your budget categories as account titles. I am making my own excel sheet since 2019 and so far, this method works for me. You can also download apps such as Happynance, or just simply write it in a notebook. It is like having a diary or a journal, but for numbers. Once you learn this habit, who knows it might be fun! Sometimes, I remember what happened or the people I spend the day with when I am reviewing my tracker. It’s a good way to keep memories too!
4. Calculate monthly savings and loss
In my excel sheet, I always get the total of my monthly income and expenses. I deduct the total expenses from the total income to determine if I saved or have a deficit for the month. A positive amount means that you have savings and the negative amount is for loss. I always try to get a positive amount each month. Being able to save takes you closer to your financial goals. But, don’t be discouraged if it is a loss. Give yourself room for improvement.
On earning more income:
To increase your savings, income should be greater than your expenses. But how do we do that? Usually, I cut back on my expenses. But, this is challenging to do when I always crave coffee, or cannot say no to leisure time with friends. This is why I tried to find more sources of income. It is possible to earn money even if you are still a student, especially if you are determined and hardworking. Here are some tips for you:
- Build side hustles
One thing that I learned from experience is we can monetize our skills as early as now. If you are good at drawing or digital art, maybe you can accept commissions from your classmates or family friends. If you have extra time, you can be an academic tutor. You can also work as a research assistant or apply to paid internships. Since I spend almost 6 years in college, I got out of my comfort zone and applied for jobs. I became a financial consultant for 2 years and now, I am an academic tutor for kids. We will never know that there are clients out there unless we are vocal about our services, so might as well try!
2. Learn to invest
When I already saved enough money for an emergency fund and insurance, I feel more confident now to invest my extra money. The advantage of investing is to beat inflation since the value of money is decreasing over time. Choosing where to invest should align with our investment goals. There are numerous platforms such as the stock market, bond market, money market, variable life insurance, real estate, mortgage market, and cryptocurrencies. Personally, I currently have VUL, mutual funds, stocks, and time deposits on digital banks. At my age, I just aim for diversified, liquid, and long-term investments. I am still constantly learning, but I believe it is a great source of passive income in the long run.
On fixing your cash flow:
- Set financial goals
- Create budget categories
- Track your income and expenses
- Calculate monthly savings and loss
On increasing your income:
- Build side hustles
- Learn to invest
In short, I strived to fix my cash flow first. I was able to manage my finances better since I know where my money comes from and where I spend them. This way, I can easily adjust or alter my budget, depending on my needs. If you have the means to increase your income, make sure that you can balance your work with academic responsibilities. It’s important to still have time for rest and leisure because your mental health should be a priority.
The journey to financial independence is a quest and overwhelming for us, young people. But just like achieving any goals in life, the first step is to start. Financial literacy is an essential life skill that we can learn along the way. As a student, do not be intimidated that you are not earning enough. It is not about the amount of money, but the habit of saving and willingness to earn is what will lead us to financial freedom.
Parañaque City, Philippines
January 08, 2022