You may be able to ace the big test after a late-night cram session or get a gold star on you term paper after putting it off until the final hour. But when it comes to saving? Not so much.
In fact, the earlier you start saving, the more financially confident you’ll be. True story. Yet many college students struggle to get in a savings groove. Balancing your studies and social life can get pretty time consuming, after all.
Here are four simple steps you can fit into your college schedule today to build good savings habits with long-term payoff:
1. Understand why starting now is critical
Time really is money when you’re in your teens and early twenties, thanks to compound interest. Compound interest means your money has the ability to start making you more money because you’re earning interest on previously earned interest.
To see how saving small now can pay off big down the road, crunch the numbers with a savings calculator. You’ll find that stashing away money in your college years will make your long-term financial goals far easier to reach than if you wait until your mid-to-late thirties to make saving a focus.
Haven’t worked out your long-term financial goals just yet? No problem. By saving now, you’ll have money in the bank when those goals become more concrete.
2. Choose the right savings account
You need to find a place to put your money (other than below that dorm room mattress). Look for a savings account with few or no fees that offers a competitive interest rate.
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The more interest you earn on your savings, the more your money will compound over time. This compounding effect is how you can accelerate the amount of money you build up in your account without any additional work on your part.
Choose an account with an institution that offers mobile banking and lets you set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings. Make it your goal to open your new savings account within the next week.
3. Start a monthly contribution
Next, set up automatic deposits to your savings account. Set a small goal to start—even a reoccurring transfer of $10 per month from your checking account is better than nothing. Start with what you have and what you can do, and build from there.
Automating these transfers means consistently and easily adding to your savings. There’s no need to schedule reminders each month, and the money won’t be sitting in your checking account, tempting you to spend it.
4. Look for more ways to save
The fastest way to save more is to cut expenses. Look for inexpensive or free alternatives to pricey items and activities, and cut out small expenses that add up over time. While you’re at it, try to limit unnecessary and impulse purchases (online shopping, anyone?).
When you’re ready to do even more, look for ways to boost your income. That might mean working a part-time job or picking up more hours at your current gig. With your newfound savings knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to put that additional cash toward your financial future.