Money Matters: Navigating Personal Finance Before, During, and After College

Money Matters: Navigating Personal Finance Before, During, and After College

This article was written by special contributor Jackson Hartz.

As a college student, I’ve seen firsthand how financial literacy can make a big difference in people’s lives. That’s why I’m excited to share my insights on navigating personal finance before, during, and after college. 

College is a time of great opportunity, but it’s also a time of financial challenges. From paying for tuition and textbooks to managing living expenses and student loan debt, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to personal finance.

In this blog post, we’ll start by discussing the importance of thinking about personal finance before college. Many students don’t start thinking about money until they’re already in college or even after they graduate, but taking some time to plan ahead can make a big difference. We’ll offer some tips for saving money before college, such as getting a part-time job, applying for scholarships, and starting a budget.

Next, we’ll dive into the financial challenges that college students face, and offer tips for managing money during college. This will include advice on using student discounts, avoiding credit card debt, and creating a realistic budget that takes into account all of the different expenses that come with college life.

Finally, we’ll look at the transition from college to the “real world” and the financial challenges that come with it. This includes finding a job, paying off student loans, and building credit. We’ll offer some tips for managing money after college, such as creating a plan for paying off student loans, building an emergency fund, and setting financial goals.

Whether you’re a current college student or you’re planning for the future, this blog post will offer valuable insights and practical advice on navigating personal finance. So, let’s get started!

For a comprehensive guide to navigating personal finance as a young adult, be sure to check out my eBook, Building Your Financial Future: A Practical Guide For Young Adults!

Before College

When it comes to personal finance, many high school students are left in the dark. It’s not uncommon for students to graduate without any real understanding of how to manage money, create a budget, or navigate the financial challenges that come with adulthood. This is why it’s so important for students to start thinking about personal finance before they even enter college.

Unfortunately, personal finance is not a subject that’s typically taught in high school. While some schools may offer a basic personal finance course, the reality is that many students are left to figure things out on their own. This lack of education can have serious consequences, as students may make costly mistakes or fall into debt simply because they don’t know how to manage their finances properly.

Starting to think about personal finance before college can help students avoid these pitfalls. By taking the time to learn about topics like budgeting, saving, and investing, students can set themselves up for financial success in the long run. This may involve getting a part-time job, applying for scholarships, or creating a savings plan. 

Whatever the approach, the key is to start thinking about personal finance early on, so that students can make informed decisions and avoid common financial mistakes.

Whether it’s through self-education, working with someone with more financial experience, or taking a personal finance course, there are many ways for students to start learning about personal finance and take control of their financial futures.

Tips for high school students

Navigating personal finance can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, especially for high school students preparing to enter college. It’s important to start thinking about personal finance early on and develop good habits to set yourself up for financial success. 

In this section, we’ll explore 10 personal finance tips for high school students to consider before entering college. These tips can help you save money, avoid debt, and make informed decisions about your financial future.

  1. Get a part-time job: A part-time job can help you earn some extra cash before college and provide valuable work experience. Although you may be making minimum wage, every dollar earned can be a valuable contribution to your future.
  2. Apply for scholarships: Scholarships can help you save money on tuition and other expenses. Start researching and applying for scholarships early because many of the scholarships out there are quite competitive.
  3. Create a budget: A budget can help you track your spending and identify areas where you can cut back on expenses. Check out this article here for a complete beginner’s guide to budgeting!
  4. Save money: Aim to save as much money as possible before entering college. This can help you cover unexpected expenses and reduce your reliance on student loans.
  5. Avoid credit card debt: If you do get a credit card, use it responsibly and avoid carrying a balance. High-interest credit card debt can be a major financial burden.
  6. Learn about student loans: If you do need to take out student loans, make sure you understand the terms and conditions. Only borrow what you need and explore options like federal loans before turning to private loans.
  7. Use student discounts: Many businesses offer discounts to students, so take advantage of these deals whenever possible. One website to check out is UNiDAYS, which has hundreds of student discount offers available.
  8. Consider community college: Starting at a community college can be a more affordable way to get a college education. Just make sure the credits will transfer to the four-year college you plan to attend.
  9. Start building credit: Building a positive credit history early can help you qualify for lower interest rates on loans in the future. Consider getting a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on a parent’s credit card to start building credit. Check out this comprehensive guide to credit to get started!
  10. Invest in yourself: Whether it’s through additional education or building valuable skills, investing in yourself can pay off in the long run. Consider taking online courses or volunteering to gain experience in your desired field.


Chris had always been a dreamer. As a high school student, he spent countless hours imagining what college life would be like, from studying in the library to hanging out with friends on the quad. But as he approached graduation, he realized that his dreams would require a significant amount of money.

Determined to make his college dreams a reality, Chris set out to prepare his finances. He started by getting a part-time job at a local coffee shop, working nights and weekends to save as much money as possible. He also applied for every scholarship he could find, spending hours filling out applications and writing essays.

As he started receiving acceptance letters from colleges around the country, Chris knew that his hard work was paying off. But he also knew that college would be expensive, and he needed to be smart about how he spent his money.

So, Chris created a budget. He listed out all of his expected expenses, from tuition and textbooks to rent and food. Then, he calculated how much money he would need each month to cover these expenses and started looking for ways to save.

Despite the challenges, Chris was determined to make his college dreams a reality. And with hard work, perseverance, and a smart financial plan, he knew that he could do it.

During College

Ah, the joys of college life! Parties, friends, and freedom – what could be better? Well, there is one thing that tends to put a bit of a damper on the whole experience: money. College students face a myriad of financial challenges that can make the already stressful experience of higher education even more overwhelming. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common financial challenges that college students face, shall we?

First and foremost, there’s the matter of tuition. Every student knows that college isn’t cheap, and tuition costs only seem to be going up. Between tuition hikes and rising fees, it’s no surprise that students find themselves struggling to keep up with the bills. 

And let’s not forget about textbooks – those hefty tomes that are absolutely essential for passing classes. Unfortunately, they also often come with a hefty price tag that can set students back hundreds of dollars each semester. It’s a cruel irony that the very thing that students need to succeed academically is also one of the biggest financial burdens they face.

Of course, there’s more to college life than just tuition and textbooks. Students also have to deal with the daily costs of living, which can add up quickly. Rent, utilities, food, transportation – it all adds up. And if students want to have any sort of social life outside of their studies, they’ll need to budget for that as well.

In short, college students face a lot of financial challenges, both big and small. But here’s the good news: with a little bit of planning and some smart financial decisions, it’s possible to navigate these challenges and come out ahead. In the next section, we’ll look at some practical tips for managing money during college that can help students keep their finances under control.

Tips for college students

Personal finance can be a daunting topic for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for college students who are navigating the transition to adulthood while juggling a range of financial responsibilities. From paying for tuition and textbooks to covering rent and living expenses, college students face a host of financial challenges. 

However, with the right strategies and mindset, it’s possible to manage your finances effectively during college and beyond. In this section, we’ll explore 10 personal finance tips for managing money during college, so you can stay on track and achieve your financial goals.

  1. Take advantage of student discounts: As mentioned in the prior section, many businesses offer discounts to students, so be sure to ask if there’s a discount available before making a purchase. Always check at stores around your school because they are more likely to offer a student discount due to their proximity to the campus. This can add up to significant savings over time!
  2. Avoid credit card debt: Credit cards can be tempting, but they can also lead to a lot of debt if you’re not careful. Try to use credit cards sparingly, and pay off the balance in full each month to avoid accruing interest.
  3. Create a realistic budget: It’s important to create a budget that takes into account all of your expenses, including tuition, textbooks, rent, food, and other living expenses. Be sure to track your spending and adjust your budget as needed. College is certainly a time when your budget can be forgotten about (on purpose or by accident), whether it’s eating out more often than you should or splurging for a ticket to your favorite artist’s concert.
  4. Cook your own meals: Eating out can be expensive, so try cooking your own meals instead. This can be a fun and cost-effective way to eat healthy food and save money at the same time.
  5. Use public transportation: Instead of relying on a car, try using public transportation to get around. Many cities offer discounted rates to students, and this can be a great way to save money on gas, parking, and other transportation costs.
  6. Get a part-time job: A part-time job can be a great way to earn some extra cash and gain valuable work experience. Look for jobs on campus or in your local community. Following the pandemic there are also an abundance of remote internships and positions available to college students. One website to check out that is targeted for college students is Handshake.
  7. Rent or buy used textbooks: Textbooks can be a major expense, but you can save a lot of money by renting or buying used textbooks. Check with your school’s bookstore or look online for deals.
  8. Consider living off-campus: On-campus housing can be expensive, so consider living off-campus to save money on rent. You can often find cheaper apartments or houses that are close to campus.
  9. Use free resources: Many schools offer free resources to students, such as libraries, tutoring services, and fitness centers. Take advantage of these resources to save money on entertainment and other expenses.
  10. Plan for the future: It’s never too early to start thinking about your future financial goals. Consider opening a savings account, investing in stocks or mutual funds, or starting a retirement account. The earlier you start, the more time your money will have to grow. For a complete guide to the stock market, check out this article here.


As Chris settled into college life, he realized that managing his finances would be even more important than he had anticipated. With the cost of tuition, textbooks, and living expenses continuing to rise, he knew that he had to stay on top of his budget to avoid drowning in debt.

But he wasn’t alone. Chris found that many of his fellow students were also struggling with financial challenges, from finding ways to save on textbooks to managing credit card debt. So, he decided to take action.

He joined a financial literacy group on campus, where he learned more about budgeting, investing, and managing debt. He also started looking for ways to earn extra income, such as taking on a part-time job on campus.

But perhaps most importantly, Chris remained committed to his budget. He continued to track his expenses, avoiding impulse purchases and sticking to his plan. And when he faced unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or a medical bill, he used his emergency fund to cover the costs instead of relying on credit cards or loans.

Through it all, Chris remained optimistic. He knew that college was an investment in his future and that the sacrifices he made now would pay off in the long run. And with each passing day, he became more confident in his ability to navigate the challenges of personal finance, both in college and beyond.

After College

Ah, the transition from college to the “real world” – it’s a time of great change and excitement, but also a time of financial challenges that can seem daunting. As you prepare to embark on this new chapter in your life, it’s important to understand the financial obstacles that you may encounter, so you can set yourself up for success.

One of the biggest challenges that many college graduates face is finding a job. After spending years studying and working hard to earn a degree, it can be frustrating to enter the job market and find that there are few opportunities available. This can be especially difficult if you have student loans to pay off, as you’ll need a steady income to make those monthly payments.

Speaking of student loans, they are a common financial burden for many recent graduates. The average student loan debt for the class of 2021 was over $35,000, and it can take years (or even decades) to pay off that debt. This can make it difficult to achieve other financial goals, such as saving for a down payment on a house or investing in your retirement.

Building credit is another important financial challenge for many recent graduates. Without a solid credit history, it can be difficult to qualify for a car loan, a mortgage, or even a credit card. But building credit takes time, and it can be easy to make mistakes that can damage your credit score.

So, what can you do to overcome these financial challenges? First, it’s important to start by creating a budget and sticking to it. This will help you understand where your money is going and make sure that you’re not overspending. Additionally, consider setting financial goals for yourself, such as paying off your student loans or saving up for a down payment on a house.

When it comes to finding a job, be persistent and open to different opportunities. You may need to start with an entry-level job or a temporary position, but that doesn’t mean you won’t eventually find the job of your dreams. And don’t be afraid to ask for help – your college’s career center or alumni network may be able to connect you with job opportunities or offer career advice.

Finally, be sure to stay on top of your student loan payments and build your credit responsibly. This means making your payments on time, not taking on too much debt, and monitoring your credit score regularly. With a little bit of effort and some smart financial planning, you can navigate the transition from college to the “real world” and set yourself up for a bright financial future.

Tips for college graduates

In this section, we will be discussing 10 personal finance tips for managing money after college. These tips are designed to help recent graduates build a strong financial foundation and navigate the challenges of the “real world.” 

From paying off student loans to building an emergency fund and investing in your future, these tips offer practical advice for managing your money and achieving your financial goals. So, let’s dive in and explore these tips in more detail!

  1. Get organized: Start by creating a financial plan that outlines your income, expenses, and financial goals. This will help you stay on track and avoid overspending.
  2. Create a budget: Set up a budget that reflects your income, expenses, and financial goals. Make sure to include all of your expenses, from rent and utilities to groceries and entertainment. This will likely be different than the budget that you set in high school or college due to the change in your income and expenses.
  3. Pay off your student loans: Make paying off your student loans a top priority. Consider consolidating your loans or refinancing them to lower your interest rates and monthly payments.
  4. Build an emergency fund: Start building an emergency fund that covers at least three to six months of living expenses. This will help you weather unexpected expenses without going into debt.
  5. Avoid lifestyle inflation: Don’t let your lifestyle inflate too quickly after college. Stick to your budget and avoid unnecessary expenses.
  6. Invest in your future: Start investing in your future by contributing to your retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or IRA.
  7. Negotiate your salary: Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary when starting a new job. Research the industry standards and use that information to negotiate a fair salary.
  8. Use credit cards responsibly: Avoid racking up credit card debt by using credit cards responsibly. Pay off your balance in full each month and avoid carrying a balance.
  9. Take advantage of employer benefits: Make sure to take advantage of any employer benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and tuition reimbursement.
  10. Learn to say “no”: Finally, don’t be afraid to say “no” to friends and family who may ask you for money. Remember that your financial security is your top priority.


As Chris walked across the stage to receive his diploma, he felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that he had never experienced before. He had worked hard to earn his degree, both academically and financially, and he was ready to take on the world.

But as he looked to the future, he knew that the financial challenges he faced in college were far from over. He still had student loans to repay, and he needed to find a job that would support him as he started his career.

Fortunately, Chris was prepared. He had spent years building a strong financial foundation, from saving money before college to managing his expenses during college. And he knew that the lessons he had learned would serve him well in the years ahead.

He started by creating a plan for paying off his student loans. He calculated how much he owed, what his interest rates were, and how much he could afford to pay each month. Then, he set up automatic payments to ensure that he never missed a deadline.

At the same time, he started looking for a job that would help him build his career and his income. He used the skills he had learned in college to create a strong resume and cover letter, and he networked with alumni and other professionals in his field.

And as he started earning more money, he remained committed to his budget. He continued to track his expenses and save for the future, whether that meant building an emergency fund or investing in his retirement.

Through it all, Chris remained optimistic. He knew that the journey ahead would be challenging, but he also knew that he had the skills, knowledge, and determination to succeed. And with each passing day, he felt more confident in his ability to navigate the complex world of personal finance, both now and for the rest of his life.

Thank you for sticking with me through this post on navigating personal finance before, during, and after college. I know it’s not always the most exciting topic, but trust me when I say that taking control of your finances early on can make a huge difference in your future.

After college, things can get a little trickier. The job market is competitive, and student loan payments can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back! By creating a plan for paying off student loans, building an emergency fund, and setting financial goals, you can set yourself up for long-term financial stability.

So there you have it! Personal finance might not be the most glamorous topic, but it’s one that can truly change your life. By taking control of your finances and making smart decisions, you can create a brighter future for yourself. Thanks for reading, and happy financial planning!

Thank you for taking the time to read my article! My name is Jackson and I am the founder of Money Conversations, a blog dedicated to helping young adults learn about personal finance. As someone who has experienced the challenges of managing money as a young adult, I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and insights to help others make informed financial decisions. I hope you found this article helpful and informative, and I look forward to sharing more insights with you in the future.

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