Opinion: Students should be required to take a budgeting class

If I am being completely honest, I have spent the majority of my college career not knowing how to handle my money. 

When I got my first job and the money started coming in, I wasn’t sure if I should save it all or spend it all. Of course, I chose the latter of the two, and you can imagine how well that worked out.

A lot of students, especially freshmen, are unaware of how to handle their money correctly. This can lead to unhealthy spending habits and ultimately debt in future years. Because of this, students should be required to take a short budgeting class in order to combat possible money issues in college.

Starting at a university can be frightening for a lot of incoming freshmen. Not all, but many have spent their lives having their parents pay for essentials — food, housing, water and electric bills, transportation and more – so they aren’t used to paying for these things. They therefore have a high chance of spending far more money than they make. When I first started working my freshman year and suddenly had all these things I had to pay for myself, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make the same unnecessary purchases I used to.

First-year students are not prepared for being immediately thrown into adulthood, despite people saying you should be ready at 18 years old. They need a budgeting class to prepare them for this so they don’t overspend.

It is also important for students to start learning how to make long-term, medium-term and short-term goals on spending. Long-term is anything like paying off student loans, medium-term is within one to three years — like buying a new laptop — and short-term would be in months — like groceries, a weekend road trip, or textbooks. 

There are a lot of expenses to deal with in college, and usually students have no idea what to do with them. Learning what really matters to them and what they really want to save up money for can help them to put aside the money for it and not spend as much on impulse purchases. A budgeting class gives students the resources to understand what could prevent them from getting that medium or long-term goal.

Budgeting can also prepare students for emergencies, something their parents probably covered for them growing up. For example, their car can break down unexpectedly, they could get hurt and have to pay for hospital bills or even get fired from their job. Students need to be prepared for things like this because they can happen to anyone.

Emergency funds should have at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. This ensures that if something happens, you have time to get back on your feet and figure things out. A budgeting class could teach this to students so they know what to do, and remind them they will not be able to rely on their parents forever.

I find a lot of students consider at least a few of their required classes to be "useless" for their future. A budgeting class would be a great replacement for one of the core classes, as it is something everyone has to deal with. It can help students handle the transition from high school to adulthood that comes so quickly, especially because most haven’t been prepared at all.


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