Where’s your money going?

Student reviewing phone where is money going

Make sure you know where every dollar is going with these helpful tips.

High school and college are a time to learn — and not just in class. That applies to your bank account as well. You learn which habits to avoid and you learn how to manage your money like an adult.

As you earn more and become more independent, your finances may become more complex. Keep your bank account in mind with these tips and tools that can help you spend and save wisely.

1. Get a head start on your budget

The first tip of monitoring your money is to use tools. Look for a tool like Budget Watch where you can opt to create a spending plan from your existing Wells Fargo accounts. Using your account history, Budget Watch will suggest monthly goals for different expense categories (like transportation, shopping, travel, and more) or you can manually set goals.

It may help to start with the suggestions, take a couple of weeks to see how they match up with your actual spending, and then fine-tune the numbers. Among the benefits of using a tracking system is that it may help you see if one particular expense is really setting you back — maybe you realize 50% of your take-home pay goes to shopping for new clothes — and then you can think about how you can adjust.

2. Figure out your wants and needs

Some things you need in life, like that $30 copay for a monthly medication or a $20 tank of gas to get to school or work each week. But other things — entertainment, restaurant meals, and shopping — can be managed. After you’re in the swing of monitoring your budget, turn a critical eye toward those discretionary expenses and determine what you can trim.

For example, have you been paying $10 a day at the student center for a grab-and-go lunch? Packing a meal ahead of time can save you money — and time in the lunch line. Create a budget to help you cover your needs before spending on your wants and identify where to cut back. Ready to save? Get a college budget worksheet to get started.

3. Use tools to help monitor recurring payments

Sure, $10 a month doesn’t seem so bad for streaming video service. But add that to the other monthly costs — $10 for streaming music, $100 for your spinning classes, $10 for your monthly beauty box — and suddenly half of your paycheck could be gone.

If you have a Wells Fargo checking account, you have access to card controls, which allows you to monitor which merchants you have recurring payments with. Of course, you can also track these patterns with a simple list, spreadsheet, or monthly budget. Take inventory of your subscriptions and make an honest assessment of whether you really need them.

4. Avoid fees by automating

Keep your money where it belongs (in your bank account!). Using automated tools can help you make bill payments on time and avoid fees, overspending, and overdrafts.

For example, see if your bank offers a bill pay service so you can schedule payments in advance of the due date or, even better, set up recurring autopay so you don’t have to think about scheduling payments each month.

You can also use Account Alerts to set up email or text alerts when your Wells Fargo account balance falls below an amount you set, purchases go over a limit you specify, and more.1

5. Pay yourself first

There’s a popular expression among financial pros to “pay yourself first.” This means automatically routing specified savings from each paycheck to a savings account — and later, once you’re working after graduation, into a retirement plan account, like a 401(k). If you can afford it, set a fixed amount to directly deposit into your savings account each month — say 5% or 10% of your take-home pay. Experts generally agree you should aim to have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund.

The payoff

While monitoring your money isn’t exactly the most exciting topic, if you put the work into developing and sticking to a plan now, you can develop good habits for life, kind of like taking a vitamin or brushing your teeth. Monitoring your money can pay off down the road in the form of good credit, a reliable emergency savings fund, and an ability to achieve future goals like owning a home.

Make your money go further

From textbooks to late-night takeout, college expenses can add up fast. Download a college budget worksheet to better manage your money.

Want to read more about building a spending plan after graduation?

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