If you’re headed off to college this fall, it will likely be the first time you’ve ever experienced so much freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility, especially with regard to money. As you continue to enjoy your summer and plan for your first semester of college, take the time to learn and practice these “adulting” skills. You will thank yourself when you make it through your freshman year without running out of funds!
Learn to read a paycheck. In addition to your earnings, a paycheck will itemize your tax withholding (state, federal, and Medicare, along with local taxes if you’re subject to them). Make sure your income tax withholding is correct (you should be listed as single, for example) so that you don’t underpay for the year. Otherwise you could be facing a surprise bill when you file your tax return next spring.
Manage a bank account. Don’t wait until your first week at school to open a bank account in your college town. Go ahead and do that now, and learn how to manage deposits and withdrawals. Using a banking app on your phone can be helpful.
Plan your bills. If you’re already responsible for a bill or two, such as your car insurance or phone plan, create a system for paying bills. You can use a specialized app, keep track of due dates on a calendar, or any other method that makes sense and feels convenient to you.
Learn to manage credit. If your parents have decided to issue you a credit card for emergency use, discuss the account with them. Learn about due dates, late fees, and how interest is calculated. Paying your balance in full each month, before the due date, can prevent interest charges and surprise fees.
Make a budget. Review your expected income, list your projected expenses, and make a plan for spending on items such as food and entertainment. Remember to leave a little wiggle room just in case of sick days (missing hours at your part-time job), and set aside a bit of cash in savings each pay period (for emergencies).
These “adulting” skills will help you get off on the right foot, financially speaking, as you move out on your own. But you might also need to learn other skills, such as laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, and car maintenance. Tackle those tasks as needed, and they will go hand in hand with your new financial skills.
And yes, it’s okay to budget for some fun! Freshman year is just around the corner, and your learning is bound to extend well beyond the classroom.