Navigating the world of personal finance and college tuition costs can be challenging, but Money Stacks is here to help. For the month of April, Money Stacks, a financial awareness program run by the Columbia College Student Success office, sponsored the Financial Literacy Month to help students improve their financial knowledge and understand their spending habits.
Consisting of four weekly challenges, students were invited to create an account at www.financialavenue.org and participate in themed learning. Topics included credit and money protection as well as understanding the relationship between college and finances.
“Our goal is to help our student population learn more about their finances and make healthy financial decisions that will set them up … for life after college.” Student Success Advisor Rachel Smith said of the program.
This was the second year Money Stacks sponsored the event for every member of Columbia College. “Our hope is that we can spread this message to our entire CC student population, no matter what venue they are attending,” Smith said.
The idea of creating a budget was the focus of the month’s challenges and lessons, and the concept might have been new to a few students.
“The first step in becoming financially literate is to really understand your money, and this means creating a budget,” Smith said.
But the event was quick to remind students that a budget doesn’t necessarily have to be restrictive. The event’s motto was “Live large on a budget,” encouraging students to really map out their expenses and learn where to cut spending and where to save.
“Living on a budget actually gives you the freedom to spend your money on the things that mean the most to you,” Smith explained, rather than squandering money on minor expenses or losing track of monthly spending and being unable to travel or enjoy a night out.
Of course, when discussing finances and spending, a cash incentive is always great encouragement for participation. Each student who took part in the challenges was entered in a grand-prize drawing of $100 toward their student account. Participants were also entered in a weekly drawing of two $25 gas cards, which were especially nice for commuter students and those driving to class right after work.
Overall the program was a success, supporting the continuing education of students already used to keeping track of a budget while also introducing the idea of financial literacy to those students who lacked certain knowledge about their finances.
“Once students have a budget it is really about making choices that are best for them and continued research (on financial literacy)” Smith said.
Outside of the Financial Literacy Month events, students can learn more about managing their money, financial aid and creating a budget at the Enrollment Service Center or Student Success offices or even from their advisors. Events and helpful links are posted on the Money Stacks Facebook page.