Don't worry, there's plenty of time left to be young, to be carefree, and yeah - even to be a little bit broke. You've probably got years before it's time to worry about some of the major expenses most of us encounter, and chances are that your cost of living is as low as it's ever going to be.
That means that this is the time - now, before things get really, really real - to set some goals. Here's a starter set:
Set a basic budget
No, it doesn't need to be a spreadsheet. Of course, if you're into that, an itemized budget is an awesome way to keep yourself in check and to monitor weekly or monthly spending trends. But you don't need serious data entry skills to be good at budgeting; you just need a couple of rounded figures and a willingness to check over your statements every month. For instance, you need to know where your money comes from (and how much) and where it goes to (and how much). Figure out what you can spend on eating out - let's say you land on 100 dollars per month. Now, look over your checking account or credit card statement at the end of the month. Did you go over? Next month, be more careful. You'd be amazed at how few adults bother with this step! Make it super easy on yourself by using a tool like Mint.com (there are plenty of others out there though, so do your research!) to monitor your spending and track your budget.
Pay down debts quickly
This includes, of course, your student loans, which are very often your largest debts. While you're in school, pay off the interest on those loans to prevent unnecessary accumulation. It won't cost you a fortune now, but the savings will pay off down the road.
Ditch the plastic
Credit cards have some valuable rewards programs and can help to build your credit. But if you're carrying a balance from month to month, you're falling for one of the biggest scams in the financial world - paying credit card companies for the "privilege" of carrying around a debt. Make paying them off a priority. If you can't afford to pay off the purchase during the month you make it, don't buy it. Period.
Pick some milestones
Now write them down. Want to save $10k by the time you're 25? Mark it on your calendar app and calculate how much you must set aside each month. Even if you're in no position now to quickly make noticeable strides, it's a good goal, and you'll get there by focusing on it and by sticking to that budget we talked about, minimizing debt, and making a few smart choices.
Want to save on your student loans? Refinancing may be for you. Learn more by downloading our Refinancing Guide.