How to improve your financial health

By Ume Sarfaraz and Amy Grace Drinkwater

Students often focus on their physical and mental health, but tend to forget to take care of their financial health. Once you start your first job or enroll in college, you begin a financial journey of responsibility.

Growing up for some, a summer job provided extra cash to last all year in school, while others relied on doing chores around the house to earn an extra buck. At the time you probably didn’t realize, but you were building financial habits that might stay with you for the rest of your life.

In earning the first few dollars you made, budgeting came into the picture whether you knew it or not. How much should you spend on food? How much for that soda at lunch? Would it be worth losing the limited money you had?

Where your priorities were concerned, habits were developed.

Now that you’re in college, you might be working and/or have student loans to fund your education.

According to Forbes magazine, the national student debt is 1.56 trillion dollars. The average student debt is almost 33 thousand. As we wait for student loan reforms, there are a few fast life changes that you could make today to save you money and set yourself up for a healthier financial future.

Skip the morning coffee

If you’re like the average college student, your life runs on that morning cup of joe. Whether you prefer it icy cold or piping hot, a daily cup of coffee averaging $2 to $4 per day can add up. Let’s say you buy coffee four times a week, at the rate of $2. That adds up to $8 per week/ $32 per month on coffee alone.

If you cut out this habit, you could save almost $50 per month just by making your coffee at home. A simple coffee pot or single k-cup machine could end up saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run. K-cups average $10 for 16 cups of coffee, while the 12-ounce ground coffee bags are around $8 at Target.

Pack your lunch

Another great way to save money is to make lunch at home. By grocery shopping for your favorite snacks and ingredients, you can create simple sandwiches and pair them with side snacks to create cheaper meals. Not only does this ensure that you save money, but it’ll help you create a healthy routine and keep your physical health in check as well.

Start saving

As a young adult, it’s important to take some of your paycheck and build it over time. Consider it your rainy-day fund or savings for a brighter future. While you may be paying off debt or dealing with bills, you should always set some money aside.

Whether it be as little as $5 per paycheck, the money will start to add up before you know it. In the case of an emergency, you’ll be glad you have that stash of cash.

Discover student discounts

One perk of being a student is the student discounts. Students can get discounts for anything ranging from certain restaurants, salons, and barber shops to clothing stores. All you have to do is ask. Signing up to get the discounts is fairly easy. Often times, all you have to do is provide your student email or I.D. card to ensure your enrollment status. According to Google, students can receive a discount on their movie tickets at AMC and Regal theaters. All you need to do is present your student I.D. at the box office.

Companies such as Adidas, Urban Outfitters, Express, Amazon, Nike, and Topshop all offer discounts just for being a student. If you use music streaming services, you can get Apple Music for only $5 per month.

Start building good credit

As you get older, credit history and credit scores can affect your ability to purchase a house, car, or even apply for a loan.

You might ask yourself, what is the best way to build credit? You can start by simply applying for bank-issued secured cards or college credit cards. Some credit cards have no annual fee such as Citadel Federal Credit Union’s cash rewards credit card. Discover, Bank of America and Capital One all offer credit cards for students with no annual fee. This can slowly build your credit history as you make everyday purchases and monthly payments. The only trick is to make sure you budget your daily, weekly, and monthly spending so you don’t end up in credit card debt.

Dave Ramsey has some helpful guidelines for students struggling to maintain their finances on YouTube. On his channel, “The Dave Ramsey Show,” he releases live shows and videos weekly with tips for budgeting.

While it may seem like a lot of work to maintain a healthy financial future, nothing good ever comes easy.

Spending an hour or two to plan and budget can help you save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year. It’s better to start planning now, avoid the post-graduation debt discussion with your financial advisor by starting to manage your finances today.

There are online classes available for personal finance at udemy.com.

Contact Ume Sarfaraz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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