You graduated from high school – congratulations! With all of the possibilities ahead of you, now is a great time to start preparing for your financial future. As you take your first steps into the world as an adult, here are five money management tips to keep in mind as you build your financial skills.

Open a Checking and Savings Account
If you haven’t already done so, open your own checking and savings account. Whether you've outgrown the checking account your parents opened for you, or you are exploring opening an account for the first time, choosing the right financial institution is just one of many financial decisions you will need to make as you prepare for college and beyond. It's important to research and review requirements for checking and savings accounts. Be aware of the fees and terms to make sure that it's the right account for your lifestyle. One factor to consider is how you plan on accessing the account. For example, if you plan to use cash often and live in an area where most restaurants, shops and food trucks accept cash only, then having access to ATMs would be important to avoid out-of-network fees. SDCCU’s FREE Checking with eStatements account offers no monthly checking fees and access to over 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide. This gives you one less expense to worry about when you're on a tight budget.

Set up a Budget
Starting a budget can help you understand where your money goes each month and how to plan for essentials like food, housing and utilities, as well as save money for future milestones like moving to a new city for college. Although you may only have a few expenses in college, it’s still a good time to track your money. There are many methods to create a budget, including using a budgeting app that connects to your bank accounts or making a spreadsheet with an online template. Find a resource that works for you, and remember to hold yourself accountable to it so you can achieve your money goals.

There are a few popular budgeting methods you can use. Visit SDCCU’s blogs to learn more about budgeting, like the 50/30/20 budget, zero-based budgeting, the pay-yourself-first budget and more.

Set Goals for Your Money
Goal-setting is a worthwhile activity that will serve you well no matter your future plans. Think about what you really want out of your money. Do you need to save for the deposit on an apartment so you can move out of your parent’s house? Do you need to buy a car to get to work or college classes?

A great way to set goals is the SMART goal-setting method. This approach defines your purpose and sets clear objectives to establish success.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:
  • Specific – Define your goal in detail and be as specific as possible
  • Measurable – Decide how you will measure success
  • Attainable – Set realistic goals that challenge you, but are achievable
  • Relevant – Ensure your goal is results-oriented
  • Time-Bound – Set a clear deadline and monitor your progress

Ensure your goals are measurable. Break the price down into amounts that you can regularly deposit so you can monitor growth and track progress. For example, you may have a goal of saving money for a security deposit on an apartment. You have determined that it will cost you a total of $2,000. Therefore, you will need to set aside approximately $166 per month for twelve months ($2,000/12). Watching your savings grow as you advance toward your goal date will keep the drive to save strong. Is the goal attainable? You will want to make sure you can realistically set aside the money you need each month. Remember to have a deadline; without a timeframe, there is no sense of urgency and you’re unlikely to achieve it.

Don’t Live Off of Your Student Loans
Student loans may feel like free money, but make no mistake, you’ll need to pay them back in the future with interest. It is best to take out only what you need to cover your tuition and necessary schooling costs. If you can afford it, don’t use your student loans to pay for your living expenses. To help cover your extra spending, consider getting a job to give you some disposable income. Otherwise, if you choose not to work during school, use holidays and summer breaks to work part-time and save up money to help you get through the school year.

Establish Your Credit with a Secured Credit Card
A secured credit card can be a good option for building your credit. You can apply for this card as you would a traditional credit card. The secured card functions like normal credit cards, except you, must first deposit an amount of money (which is usually at least 20% more than your approved credit limit) into a separate account that is used as collateral. For example, to receive a $1,000 credit card limit, you would need to secure a savings balance of $1,200. Benefits of secured credit cards include:
  • They are a great tool for building credit
  • Build credit history as you make your monthly payments on time.
  • You can also build payment history, which is a record of all your on-time payments. Accounting for 35% of your credit score, paying on time and managing your balance could help your credit score since it is reported monthly to the credit bureaus.

Start your finances off right with SDCCU and visit your local SDCCU branch for assistance with choosing the right account for you. SDCCU offers a variety of accounts, like the popular FREE Checking with eStatements, and provides access to 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs, covering all 50 states. SDCCU’s membership is open to everyone living or working throughout Southern California, including Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. Visit for details.

Visit our Financial Knowledge Blog to learn more tips on setting up a solid financial future or join us for Financial Wellness Wednesdays.