It is never a good feeling to check your bank account and realize you have way less money that you thought you did. First, there is the sinking feeling when you see that there is less in the total balance than there used to be. Then, panic sets in, followed by regret. What did I spend all that money on?
So whilte you are in high school, get into the habit of keeping track of your own finances while you still have your parents to fall back on.
1. Credit cards? Use your phone.
It can be really easy to forget to pay your credit card bill, especially if you use it infrequently like I do. But forgetting to pay off even $20 can bring your credit score down before you even really grasp the importance of having good credit. Don't accidentally cheat your future self. Set a reminder on your phone a few days before your bill is due and it shouldn't be a problem.
2. Get a savings account. Use it.
Even if you are not saving up for something specific, there will come a time when you have a sudden and unexpected expense and you will be glad you started setting aside some funds. Many banks have student accounts that don't require a minimum balance but simply require a monthly deposit of $25 (which you can immediately withdraw and put back into checking if you really need to). However, you should avoid withdrawing money from savings for small things. That is what your checking account is for.
3. Be diligent.
While you are at it, get into the habit of checking your bank account. When you don't have a ton of big expenses it can be easy to think that your bank balance will remain at a certain level, but buying coffee every day adds up. Be aware of how much you have so you can scale back when you need to. Most banks let you do this on your phone.
4. Get checks.
You probably aren't paying many, if any, bills at this point in your life, so you might not think checks are necessary. But for those times when you do need them, they will be a lifesaver. When my roommates and I were putting down the deposit for our first apartment, we needed to come up with $5,000 in one afternoon and most of us did not have our own checks. It was a frantic, crazy day that would have been much simpler if we didn't have to use a combination of wire transfers, cashiers checks and cash to pay rent. Also it is only about $25 for several hundred checks, which at this point in your life will last years.
5. Ask for a discount.
Always ask if stores have student discounts. Saving 10 percent might not seem like much but it does add up. And research what businesses, restaurants and museums in your area offer discounts – it may even give you some new ideas for places to go and things to do.
6. Don't buy food you can make.
It is okay to treat yourself sometimes, but you can make a cup of coffee or a salad at home very easily for much cheaper. Don't start buying $7 salads and $4 coffees every day. That’s a waste of money and adds up faster than any other expense I have come across in college.
You know you are going to have to buy certain birthday and Christmas presents each year. And you'll know in February that you’re bathing suit isn't going to fit and you need a new one by summer. Or that your laptop is on the fritz and you may need to replace it soon. Be aware of expenses that are coming up so that they won't surprise you.
8. Budget = treats.
Figure out how much money you are OK with spending each month and try to stick to it. If you go overboard one month, be a little more frugal the next month. If you don't spend it all maybe it is time to for a treat!