COLUMN: Financial planning should start now

Angela Oliver

I’m not so well-versed in money matters. But I am frugal, and I do know irresponsible spending when I see it. Therefore, my fellow collegians, I’m calling you out.

Sure, we all want the freedom to spend as much and as frequently as we’d like. And with money and materialism being the focus of much of our popular music, the idea is hard to escape.

But if we’d snap back to reality and find comfort in the typical college student life, we’d be OK to disagree with Puff Daddy’s 1996 proclamation that “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”

It’s residual check season, so I’ve noticed that some students have loosened the grip on their wallets. And when I hear decadent spring break plans and shopping sprees hinging on the phrase, “When I get my residual …” I wonder how many among them even consider saving their money.

By some divine miracle, scholarships and family support have funded my education. And I realize that isn’t possible for everyone.

But I’d assume most college students have heard horror stories of others being in debt after graduating or even paying student loans well into their 40s.

So why not save? A couple hundred dollars here and there won’t hurt you. Especially if it’s coming out of thousands. And if your bank offers interest, it’ll grow a little over the years.

For most, loans are the only option, but it is possible to get just enough to cover your academic expenses, and no, that doesn’t include trips or expensive clothes.

Furthermore, there are federal loans, such as Pell Grants and other need-based state grants, that do not have to be paid back.

Also, companies like FedEx and Chick-Fil-A have scholarships exclusive to their employees. You may even stumble upon scholarships through churches or other small community outlets. The point is, money for college is out there if you look hard enough.

If loans are the only option, be sure to comparison shop and know what kinds of loans you’re getting. has a great article titled “Six Things to Know Before Taking Out a Loan” that may help you plan.

And according to an Alliance Bernstein Investments survey, those who graduated with debt were more likely to postpone marriage, buying a house, medical procedures and also suffered depression, spousal arguments and compulsive spending at higher rates than those who graduated debt-free.

Remember, dear peers, we’re just a few steps from “the real world.” If we can’t manage our money now, we’ll be up the creek when it comes to paying mortgages and supporting families.

So don’t be afraid to take a vow of poverty for the next few years. You don’t need the newest Jordans or the latest iPad. I encourage you to shop with coupons and have no shame in buying generic brands – Great Value tastes the same, I promise. Plan your budget at the beginning of each week, check your bank account often and frequent the clearance aisles or thrift stores. Their stuff is more original anyway.

Whatever you do, don’t blow your residual checks. If you must spend them, spend wisely and only on necessities.

Wealth will come, but your degree has to come first.

This commentary doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the Herald or the university.