As a Junior in college with a major in Finance, I've always had a nack for saving money. At the young age of 8, I became so obsessed with every dollar I had that I would quite literally wash and iron every bill so that they held their crispness. Beyond that, I would submit every dollar into WheresGeorge.com, an online site that allowed me to track where my dollar traveled. I was fascinated by it's power, it's ability to move so quickly, and where it could get you should you use it wisely. The idea of saving only progressed as I got older. When I was in high-school, I started watching Extreme-Couponing and was immediately hooked. It was truly a hobby I loved. I spent hours clipping and cutting, planning where to go and who had the best deals for what products. My family was of course in support of it, they were the ones actually saving the money given that they bought the groceries. Not soon after, when my sister went to a financial advisor with her husband to plan for their future, I knew immediately it was exactly what I wanted to do. To be able to save for myself was one thing, for my own family another, but to be able to help other families and companies achieve financial independence was something else altogether.
All this time, however, I had never faced any real financial challenges. I was saving money because I wanted to, not because I had to. It wasn't until college that financial burdens actually began to hit me.
During the summer before my freshman year, my parents got divorced. On top of that my mom, whom I live with, got into a very serious car accident that left her unable to work. Those casual shopping days became a rarity, as was eating out or anything else that went beyond the daily needs. I switched very quickly into a new way of life where I had to work for whatever I got. It was undoubtedly an adjustment I hadn't ever anticipated.
Let's not forget that I was also entering college. To know that tuition and housing for just 4 years were going to impact my life for so many years after that was something I don't believe anyone can truly come to terms with. I also don't believe that one should have to. Once I received my financial aid bill, I began researching. I looked up scholarships, potential jobs I could balance during school, but more importantly started learning more about student loans. As it turned out, the scholarship process was not a very successful one. Realizing that I couldn't have a car my freshman year, I also came to terms that my only potential jobs were for ones on campus. From there I got involved with my financial aid office. Working as a Salt Ambassador, I learned the ins and outs of budgeting, student loans, and how to appropriately plan for my future. Because I was earning an income during school as well as when I came home on breaks, I was able to choose immediate repayment for my student loans. I understood that it would be a bit more difficult given the other costs I was incurring during school, but the savings were exponential looking at it from the grand scheme of things. I understand that I'm very grateful to have been able to choose this option, but I won't down-play the fact that I work very hard to maintain it.
Now as a Junior, I've only grown in my dedication towards reaching financial independence for myself, but also learning enough to help others one day as well. Every week I set aside a specific amount of my paycheck towards personal expenses (i.e. movies,snacks,shampoo), my phone-bill, gas, my student loans, and an unexpected expenses fund. The unexpected expenses could be used when something on my car breaks, or any other event that may well, occur unexpectedly. The rest is put into different savings account: car, abroad, christmas gifts. It's such a simple concept really, the idea of saving. And yet, throughout my journey, I've found it's not as popular as one might think.
I'm proud of where I am with my finances, and I consider it a huge accomplishment for my age. Granted I became more involved with them because I had to, but it made me a stronger, more frugal, and financially literate person. I don't know where the future is headed for me, but I have a plan for where I want it to go. Considering that I'm also preparing for unexpected events to occur, I believe I'm a little ahead of the game.
I'm happy with my life. Managing my finances is certainly a part of it, but that's not to say that money defines me. I refuse to let money be a limitation in my happiness or be a factor in where I want to go with my life. Many other people have financial challenges that outweigh costs like student loans and basic necessities. However, I'm at the point in my life where as a student, it's my biggest challenge. It's a huge responsibility and I believe I'm handling it to the best of my ability.