As the oldest of three kids, there was no one to really prepare me for college life.
That made the transition from living at home to attending school across the country all the more exhilarating. Sure, my parents dropped little hints about what it would be like, but I didn’t have the example of an older sibling to fill me in on what it would really be like. The day my parents drove me to the airport for a flight to California from Connecticut, it hit me that I was entering an entirely new phase in life.
One of the most exciting parts about living independently was dealing with money day to day in a whole new way. Suddenly, the decision about whether or not to eat out with friend or make pasta at home took on new meaning.
It was my responsibility to budget—to figure out how to pay rent, buy groceries, split the monthly Wi-Fi and electric bills with my roommates, and have a little left over for fun—and I found the process really liberating. Sure, I had to make compromises, but doing so made me feel like an actual grown-up.
It was a big change, and it happened quickly. But I was happy to take on the responsibilities that accompany leading a more independent life.
Money management is one of those life skills that you have to figure out through firsthand experience. As a college student, staying on top of my personal finances without the safety net of my parents was a task I wasn’t accustomed to.
In high school, I got used to swiping my debit card without taking a copy of the receipt or keeping track of what I was spending every month. Soon enough, though, I developed some good habits that really worked for me, and as time went on I felt more and more fulfilled by my grown-up existence.
Since I knew that keeping receipts would only result in a mound of little slips of paper lining the bottom of my purses and pockets, I decided to write down all my expenses instead.
I started listing every single expense on my phone, which was always on me and therefore more convenient than carrying around a notebook and pen. At first I forgot to jot things down, and I’d rack my brain days later trying to reconcile my bank account balance, but eventually recording everything became second nature. I slipped into the habit of keeping track of my spending.
While I only intended to use the list as a means of monitoring my spending, it quickly helped me realize how many unnecessary purchases I was making.
Ordering out was eating up a chunk of my money over the course of the month, so I committed to spending more time and money preparing meals at home instead.
Turns out cooking for yourself can be super satisfying, and not just because you save money doing it.
I started making grocery shopping a weekend ritual that involved buying healthy food options to last me an entire week. Previously, my excuse for eating out and ordering in so often was that I’d be too tired by the end of the day to go to the store.
But once I started planning in advance and buying groceries in bulk, I noticed that my list of expenses for the week was shorter than before. I felt more disciplined about my spending, and better about myself overall.
I also began talking to my friends about how they were handling their personal finances, welcoming tips and suggestions about how they managed their money and what worked best for them.
Those conversations offered up some interesting insights and tools I began to test for myself.
Talking about money with my peers also helped us connect as young adults. I realized that I didn’t need to call my parents every other day to ask them questions.
After awhile, I started to feel like a much more confident, responsible young adult.
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