Starting college is an exciting time. It signals the beginning of adulthood and emerging independence. This is also a time to learn not just inside the classroom, but outside of the classroom in how to make smart choices that impact major parts of your life. Responsible money management can seem intimidating, but it is important to learn because it affects, and will affect, every aspect of your life. There are several essential steps to take that will help you become comfortable managing your finances.

1. Open a savings and a checking account

A savings account will allow you to put money aside for bigger purchases or expenses. Put a portion of your paycheck into this account regularly. The key to building savings is depositing small amounts of money over time; make it a habit to do often and savings will accrue. A checking account gives you easy access to funds to pay for daily expenses, like bills. Don’t hold off in opening these two accounts, as they are fundamental in setting the foundation for lifelong money management.

2. Get a credit card and use it wisely to develop credit

People may be wary of credit cards, fearing that they encourage spending more than you have. However, using a credit card for regular expenses and paying off your balance in time not only encourages good money habits; it is crucial for developing credit. A good credit score (which includes credit history) will be needed later on in life to obtain a mortgage or other loans. Start improving your credit score now to be in an ideal position later on. Use your credit card for groceries, gas, school supplies and similar regular expenses rather than on things you can’t afford.

3. Use mistakes to learn

Reframe money mistakes as a means of figuring out how finances work. Take everything as an opportunity to learn more through experience, since this is likely the first time you’ve managed money without as much oversight from your parents. Spent more than you bargained for on a night out? Went out to eat more than you budgeted? Learning from your mistakes is part of becoming an adult. Use those experiences to understand the value of money, the importance of making smart choices and how to prioritize needs over wants.

4. Actively seek out ways to learn about money and finance

Even if finance isn’t related to your major or you’re not very interested in it, it’s still going to be a vital part of your well-being for the rest of your life. Find out if you can take an accounting or finance course as an elective. Ask your financial institution if they offer any seminars, webinars, modules or classes on money management. Sit down with a financial counselor to discuss your money goals. Do you picture yourself having a financially secure future? The habits you employ now will make a difference.


Just a few simple steps can set you on the path to responsible money management. Make sure to take full advantage of this exploratory time to set the foundation for a financially fit future. Earthmover Credit Union offers free online financial basics courses to familiarize yourself with financial terms and concepts. If you’re interested in discussing your lifelong money goals, give us a call at (630) 844-4950.