My Financial Journey – University and Beyond

My Financial Journey – University/College

When I think about my financial journey, it started much earlier than my first day of University. From what I remember it all began when I was about 13 years old. My mom took me to the bank to sign up for a bank account, and from that day forward they let me handle all of my money myself. It definitely put a focus on personal finance early on and a sense of responsibility when it came to money earned, saved and spent. Working my first part time job forced me to rationalize my spending, like thinking about the amount of hours worked to get that new Abercrombie sweater I wanted. After the first time saving up for one of those $100 sweaters I quickly realized I should probably spend my money more wisely given what I had.

While at University my parents helped fund a portion of my first year of tuition, housing and books – which I am forever grateful. After my first year, I was given the opportunity (and I call it that because it definitely was) to pay for my tuition, housing, food and the majority of my expenses. Focusing on frugality was what really developed my love for personal finance and what inspired me to start my blog Cheap Students.

Financial Advice in 4 Steps

Over my 5 years at University to ensure that I was able to eat, pay rent and my bills I needed to be pretty calculated with my money. As part of my major I did co-op (or regular internships) which provided great work experience, but also I was able to fund my education with the money saved. It could have been quite easy to blow all of my money on clothes, nights out and other expenses, but that wouldn’t have allowed me to pay for school. The 4 points below are financial advice I followed during my time at school and still use today;

  1. Goal setting & making them achievable
  2. Understanding what to spend money on, why and where to cut elsewhere
  3. Always thinking…save more than you spend
  4. Realizing you don’t have to be a Finance major to manage you money

I’m not going to lie I’m pretty proud of myself, especially in regard to the “goal setting” point. I had stepped away from blogging for a bit due to demands at work over the last year, and only recently decided to write a bit of a recap post. I stumbled upon short and long term goals that I had tucked away in an “About” section that I had written in 2013. What blew me away was my laser focus on what was important to me financially in the short term but also in the longer term. Even more shocking to me was that I had followed these goals, despite forgetting I had even set them. 

Final Thoughts

If I could sit down with Lauren from 2009 who was just starting University, moving away from home to live in a strange new city, I would honestly be in awe. Some days I think back and realize I was pretty mature for my age. When it came to things I wanted to achieve, or obstacles to overcome, I found a way to make it happen. The foundation I put down during those years throughout University have allowed me to end up working at an amazing company after graduation, in a field I really enjoy. From a financial perspective I put myself in a position financially where I feel much better off than some of my peers. Could I have done things different? Of course. Who wouldn’t. That’s why we write letters to ourselves 5+ years later 🙂 

What I would tell anyone heading off to University or College, make sure you enjoy your time. Learn as much as you can from professors, from the people around you and from experiences you are about to have. Make mistakes early on, and learn how to overcome them before you enter the “real world”. Financially you need to focus on making the decisions that will make the biggest impact long term. It’s a tough world out there now financially for people born in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Real estate prices are soaring faster than we can earn money and job security isn’t what it used to be. Making it a habit to spend less than your income is the simplest way to think every day, oh and of course goal setting 😉

I also can’t take full credit for the theme of this post as I was inspired by the people at Earnest who is encouraging everyone to share their advice and experiences to help others. They provide student loan refinancing to assist millennials finance their college/university education, so they’re all about helping out.

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