Summer Is The Time To Tune Up Your Finances

You’re most likely looking forward to a nice break after studying hard all year. But summer is also a great time to tune up your finances. Here’s five financial “to-dos” every college student should consider in preparation for a smooth and stress-free fall semester.

1. Review Your Spending Habits

Even with the ability to check bank account balances at any time, many of us forget to review where our money is actually going. People think that as long as they have a positive balance, they’re good to go. But taking the time to examine each of your transactions provides important “mental moments” that can remind you of how much you are spending and on what. It can be pretty humbling to see all those trips to fast-food restaurants or late-night takeout orders in writing. Add up a list of all those things that you really could have done without and imagine how that money would help you pay for next semester’s books or build up your emergency fund.

2. Get in a Saving State of Mind

Many college students think that there is no way to save while in school, but it’s really more about psychological and emotional hurdles that lead to overspending. Next time, you are at the beach or taking a walk in the park, think about two or three mottos that will help you to visualize a more positive financial state of mind such as “I don’t need things to make me happy” or “I have enough right now.” Place reminders of these sayings on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror to serve as daily reminders that you are working toward longer term goals that may require a little more sacrificing right now.

3. Set Some Personal Rules of Thumb

Let’s face it, we all like to shop or treat ourselves once in a while, and it is important to have fun and enjoy some of the money you may be earning over the summer. However, it can easily get out of hand if you are not careful. In a recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Ad Council, over 50 percent of millennials admitted that they were impulse shoppers, meaning they make unplanned purchases of $30 or more on a daily or weekly basis even though they ranked saving as their top financial goal! One way to help avoid these impulses is to set some personal rules of thumb. These “rules” of course will vary depending on how your income, current living expenses and family circumstances. Here are a few examples:

  • Never spend more than $30 a week on going out with friends this summer
  • Never pay more than $40 for a pair of shoes
  • Bike to work at least 3 times a week to save money
  • Only purchase things you really need and only if they are marked at least 50% off the original price

Again, write them down and display them somewhere you will see them every day. Or set them up as reminders on your calendar or other mobile app.


4. Make a Spending Plan

While it may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, you will thank yourself later on if you set up a budget for next semester before it begins. You can use the information you obtained when you reviewed your spending earlier to estimate what your monthly expenses are likely to be, with an eye on keeping those things you really don’t need to a minimum. You’ll also want to add up all of your expected income, including summer earnings, expected financial aid and other support (e.g. from your parents) and compare that to your expenses. Use a spreadsheet or budget worksheet such as the ones provided by CollegeInColorado.com or Mint.com to help you balance your budget.

5. Increase Your Competitive “Net Worth”

You should also be thinking about ways to increase your chances for landing that dream job after you graduate. If you are not doing an internship this summer, be sure to research opportunities for next year. Many internship programs have application deadlines that are earlier than you might think, so check with your school’s career counseling center for advice. Take time to either create or update your resume (and LinkedIn page) and include any relevant skills and abilities you may be developing no matter what job you currently have such as teambuilding, problem-solving or customer/client relations.   Also, make a list of your job supervisors, college advisors and professors who you think would be good job references for you. Be sure to include their titles, contact information, name of the course or job and appropriate dates, and to save it on your computer for future reference.

While summer is a time to relax and refresh, reserve some time for these important financial “5’s” and you’ll be way ahead of the game for next year.

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