Saving for the Future: College Student Kidist Brown Shares Her Financial Journey

As a college student juggling classes, extracurricular activities and social commitments, financial planning can often take a back seat. However, for Arkansas State University student Kidist Brown, saving money has become essential to her college experience. 

In this exclusive Q&A part of our Summer Financial Fitness Campaign, Kidist shares her insights on the importance of saving as a college student. She highlights practical strategies and the long-term benefits of financial discipline, proving it’s never too early to start building a secure financial future.

What motivated you to start saving money while in college?

I have always dreamed of moving out of Arkansas and traveling after college, so that was my greatest motivation to start saving. After graduating from Arkansas State University, I knew I wanted to move to a different state to continue my education or begin my career. I knew living in cities bigger than Little Rock would be drastically more expensive, so I started saving to afford that new life. I also started saving because I have always wanted to travel during college and after I graduated.  


How do you balance saving money with other financial responsibilities and social activities as a student? 

Understanding your financial abilities is critical to financial independence. I always try to put 30% – 50% of my paycheck into savings. While this is my goal, I understand that some months might bring unforeseen financial needs, so I adjust and put less money into my savings during those months. I also have some of my savings earmarked for financial responsibilities such as bills or unexpected expenses. For social activities, I balance my savings by learning when to say no. In college, there is pressure to always participate in social activities to feel included and to have the college experience. You need to understand what experiences are important to you and save for them. This way, the cost of the activity does not have a drastic impact on my finances. Savings is not foolproof. It takes time and experience to understand what savings you need and how to optimize your savings with investments.


Can you share any strategies or tools you use to help manage and save your money effectively?

Something I have done since I started working was put at least 50% of my paycheck into my savings. I know this isn’t realistic for everyone, but putting 30%-50% of my paycheck into savings is a priority for me.  

I also have different savings accounts for various aspects of my life. My savings accounts include travel, school, car, technology and other unexpected expenses. You never know when your car might need repairs or when your phone might stop working. Setting aside money for these future expenses allows you to mitigate stress when compensating for these expenses. There are many apps to organize your savings, and many banks will help customers create savings accounts that work for them. 

I also used the app Robinhood to start investing. Like Robinhood, many starter investment apps can educate students about investments and start a good foundation.


What challenges have you faced in trying to save money, and how have you overcome them?

Some challenges I have faced when saving money are impulse purchases, social pressures and unexpected expenses.

Impulse purchases are one of my greatest challenges because, in most cases, those expenses seem small, but I can feel their impact when I look at my credit card bill. These expenses occur when I want to try a new facial or hair product or fashion trend. To help overcome these impulse purchases, I give myself a month to decide if this is an item I really want, which allows me to see the value of the purchase and determine if it’s worth making.

Social pressure is another challenge that everyone experiences. This is heightened in college because there are so many social activities, and no one wants to miss out on the college experience. College students often live above their financial means, which will harm them in the long run. Many go into credit card debt and have negative balances, which brings on stress and many financial issues. To overcome this challenge, you must reflect on what is important to you and your financial abilities, and learn to say no. Having control of one’s finances is one of the greatest freedoms. 

Unexpected expenses are a challenge because they are usually necessary, but they weren’t budgeted for and are often extensive. One example is when my phone stopped working this spring, and I had to purchase a new one. While I had savings to buy the phone, I had not anticipated the early timeline of the purchase. While there is no way to mitigate unexpected expenses, it is important to have savings to help make them easier. Setting money aside for unknown expenses will help because you will not have to use your so-called fun money on these expenses.


How has saving money impacted your college experience and future financial goals?

Savings have given me security for the unknown and have prepared me for the future. Having savings in college has allowed me to pay for my social activities and unexpected expenses without draining my funds. For my future goals of traveling and moving out of Arkansas, having savings will allow me to gradually increase my funding and invest that money during college to obtain returns. Having savings and placing them into investments will enable me to grow my savings without effort.


What advice would you give to other college students who are just starting to think about saving money?

Do it!! College is when most people have the least amount of financial responsibility. By saving now, you will create a habit that will benefit you throughout your lifetime. Your savings do not have to drain you, and there are professionals who can help you get started. While there may seem to be a lot of noise right now about money and how you should go about it, know that there are many useful and reliable sources that can help you get started. One thing that helped me start my savings was having a goal. Setting my sights on the future motivated me to start saving and continue to do so. Your reasoning for saving will evolve as you get into different aspects of your life, but the foundation and habits you started in college will benefit the rest of your life.

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