What "Money Skills" Do I Need?


Judy Moseman discusses critical skills for handling finances in college.

I know I'm going to have to manage my own cash when I go to college, but I'm nervous. I don't know where to begin. We never talk much about money in my family, and I don't feel comfortable asking my parents questions about it. What kind of money skills do I need to master before I leave for school? What kinds of expenses do I need to budget for?

Now is a good time to take some responsibility and initiate a conversation with your parents about money. You may all feel uncomfortable at first, but it's very important to talk about how you and your family will handle the cost of college.

Some possible ways to prepare yourself for such a conversation are: take a personal finance class at your high school or the local community college; get a part-time job and learn how to deposit your paycheck and withdraw money from your account; write checks and learn to balance a checkbook; use a debit card and keep track of your debit spending; set up a simple budget plan for yourself and stay within it; learn budget basics by keeping track of your day-to-day expenses in a small notebook; work through a free online course on personal finance like the one available at mapping-your-future.org (click on "financial fitness tools").

When you budget for college, factor in your personal needs on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis for toiletries, snacks, clothing, entertainment, and purchases like CDs or DVDs. Be sure to save at least $800 for textbooks for the year. Also, budget money for church and charitable giving, and for buying gifts for family and friends. You'll want to continue those positive patterns in your spending.

Many students in college are working hard to cover their expenses and manage their money wisely. You can find friends like that and together you'll find ways to be creative and have fun without spending a lot of extra cash.

Written by Judy Moseman

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