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Practical Advice for Managing Your Finances Before College

Learning to manage finances in high school will save you stress in college and beyond. Check out this practical financial advice from a fellow student.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” This statement is simple yet tough to understand when you’re in high school. You may not realize it, but these years are crucial when it comes to financial management. The spending and saving habits we develop as teens form the base for how we manage our finances as adults. We’re on the right track, with about 62% of Gen Z saying they’ve already started saving money. Yet we are also miles away from our destination, with only 24% of teens saying they have emergency savings. So how do you navigate finances in high school? That’s what we’re going to cover now, all from a current high school student’s perspective. 

Find ways to earn and learn

People generally attribute teenagers to being spenders—however, there are an abundance of earning opportunities for young people, including part-time jobs and internships. One mistake a lot of teens make is taking up jobs with no correlation to their future goals, such as working at a fast-food chain or dog walking. Instead of working a job that feels like a chore, find skill-based jobs that will hone your talents and abilities, give you relevant experience, and put money in your pocket. You could take up accounting for a home business or help market a new local start-up. While having any job is respectable and can help you learn important soft skills, as a highschooler, you only have so much time and should invest it to gain relevant experience that will help in the long run. 

Related: The Best Summertime Opportunities: Jobs, Internships, and Volunteering

Track your spending

We’ve all been advised to create a budget at least once in our lives; in reality, that’s easier said than done. No matter how hard we try, budgets are often only followed in theory and never in practice. To combat this, you must track your expenses. I highly recommend downloading a money-tracking app that shows you where you're spending and how much. The numbers never lie, and unnecessary expenses will become easily identifiable so you’ll know where to cut down on spending. When money is in sight, it’s always on our minds. 

Create a savings fund

No matter your age, no one is immune to emergencies and unfavorable circumstances. That’s why a savings account is of the utmost importance. Did you ever keep a piggy bank as a kid? Bring that energy back and begin saving spare dollars and change whenever you can. Once you have a considerable amount saved, you’ll be prepared to pay for any emergency costs that pop up, like a dead computer or flat tire. You could even invest the money or create a college fund. It could also be used to buy something you’ve always wanted or for an experience. Trust me—the joy of finally buying something with money you’ve saved over time is unmatched. 

Related: 5 Basic Financial Strategies You Should Learn About Before College

Stay away from credit cards

While this piece of plastic can make our lives easier, there’s a huge hidden cost when it comes to convenience. Credit cards are like quicksand: They’ll pull you into the darkness of debt even faster than you could swipe the card for payment. It’s very easy to accumulate a ton of credit card debt, as students often don’t keep track of their spending. This puts your entire financial future at risk. In fact, in the previously mentioned report about Gen Z savings, 52% of young adults with credit card debt said they experience some or a lot of stress about it. Try relying on debit cards in high school; these are linked to your bank account and limit how much you can spend to what you currently have, whereas credit cards provide an unlimited line of credit that you may struggle to pay off later. 

Make full use of student discounts

Your time as a student is numbered, so why pay full price while you are one when you don’t have to? Brands like Nike, Apple, NordVPN, and many more offer discounts on items of frequent use for people attending school. Always carry your student ID and never shy away from asking about discounts when you’re shopping. You miss every shot you don't take, so just ask. It’s your right as a consumer to utilize them, and as I mentioned, every penny saved is a penny earned! 

Related: How to Save Money for College as a High School Student

Navigating finances is never easy, especially in high school. But learning to make smart and well-informed decisions is the first step to simplifying them. As teenagers, we’re susceptible to falling prey to the glitz and glamor of social media, but spending lavishly is not cool. Emergency funds are your safety net, and credit cards are the scissors that cut it up. Remember: The financially responsible teenagers of today become the wealth managers of tomorrow. 

Got any ideas brewing that could make you some money? Upgrade your entrepreneurial skills with advice on Starting a Side Hustle: How Students Can Turn Their Passion Into Profit.

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About Risha Chaurasia

Risha Chaurasia

Risha Chaurasia is an Indian teen author and blogger. She published her first book at age 11 called Tales of Twinkling Tweens and her second at age 13 called TRUCE: Novis Initiis. She also runs a financial literacy blog called straight.from.my.pen, works toward encouraging reading among youth, and is aiming for a career in finance and accounting. 

 

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