Money habits to develop before college

Teen girl sitting on couch and looking at laptop while holding Wells Fargo credit card

Just as you graduated from an elementary school cubby to a high school locker, it’s time to upgrade your financial routines.

You’ve likely adopted a number of new habits since you’ve been in high school. From big things like learning to drive to smaller skills like knowing how to style your hair while running to the bus, high school is all about changing and adapting. And, just as you graduated from an elementary school cubby to a high school locker, it’s time to upgrade your financial routines. Here’s where to start.

Open a savings and a checking account

If you don’t already have one, talk with your parents about opening a teen checking or savings account, or both. Then get in the habit of depositing money earned from birthdays, chores, and summer jobs. Use your savings account to put away funds for future goals (such as saving for college, buying a laptop, and having an emergency fund), and use your debit card and cash from your checking account for daily spending money (such as buying lunch or putting gas in your car).

Add your bank account to your phone

In between snapping Instagram pics, spend a couple minutes downloading the Wells Fargo mobile app for your phone. Start logging in and checking your bank account at least weekly. You can set up alerts for notifications when your account balance falls below a certain amount, which is important for detecting any fraudulent transactions or to recognize when you’ve overspent. The app will also come in handy to deposit checks digitally and find nearby ATMs.

Paying your share

When you owe your friend for spotting you lunch money or need to pay back Dad for putting gas in your car, use an app like ZelleSM to quickly send and receive funds. It’s fast and simple to use. You’ll likely be sharing a lot of purchases with friends in college, so it’s good to get comfortable with a service like Zelle now.

Practice the fundamentals

Sure, you’ve seen your parents write dozens of checks and take money out of an ATM innumerable times. However, it can be intimidating to walk up to an ATM and take money out by yourself. Memorize your debit card PIN and have your parents walk you through the steps of writing a check, depositing a check, and taking money out; then practice with them around.

Get familiar with the concept of credit

Your credit can impact everything from getting a job, to renting your own apartment. One way to build your credit history in college is by using a credit card. If you’re unfamiliar with how credit works, learn more by visiting Wells Fargo’s Path to Good Credit site.

Coupon, coupon, coupon

There’s no denying it — when you go to college, Mom won’t be there to buy your favorite study snacks or to treat you to a pre-spring-break manicure. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these little luxuries. Download apps like Honey for your browser, which gathers automatic coupons while you shop online, and frequent sites like RetailMeNot and Groupon. You can also sign up for emails from stores you commonly shop at so you’re in the know about sales and coupon codes.

Know your budgeting basics

Don’t immediately spend your next birthday check from Grandpa on those new kicks. A good rule of thumb is to save 10% of any income or monetary gift. Then track your monthly spending with a tool like My Money Map, where you can categorize your spending and set budgets. If you find that too much of your budget is going toward buying food, work to correct it.

Start a Roth IRA

You may be years away from your first full-time job, but it’s never too soon to start saving for retirement. Talk to your parents about opening a Roth IRA, and aim to put some of your summer wages into the account each year. According to Business Insider, if you put $1,000 into an IRA annually from age 15 to 18 (at a return rate of 7%) and then never add another penny, your account will have grown to more than $100,000 by age 65. That’s not a bad nest egg.

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