Dear Kid,

In the show Cabaret, there is a song called “Money.”

The theme song for The Apprentice was “For the Love of Money.”

And Pink Floyd has a song called “Money.”

All of which proves that money and music go together like almost any other two things you can think of.

Also that I like a wide variety of music. There are lots of other money songs, but I have to move on and get to the point.

We also learn money doesn’t grow on trees. The songs don’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure we can start with No Currency-Growing Flora as a given.

Which brings us to Mom’s 6 Critical Rules for Money (whether or not you’re in college).

Save up. Not every penny you encounter needs to be spent immediately. Or even intermittently. Money likes to cozy up and take long naps just like the rest of us. That way it can work hard for you when you really need it.

If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. That may seem simple enough, but the amount of debt in our society suggests that not everyone has embraced the notion.

Spend less than you earn. Not always easy. But always important. There is “affording it” and “affording it.” Just because you happen to have a few dollars in the bank does not directly mean you can afford something. It may be that you’re saving up for the aforementioned monetary cushion. It may be that you’re saving for books or food or rent or the utility bill. It may be that you’re saving for graduate school.

Having a credit card does not necessarily mean you can “afford it.” Rebuilding bad credit is more painful than an anatomy lecture (and lasts longer). Use credit judiciously and only when you know you can pay off the entire balance promptly. Unless there is an Extreme Emergency or a really good shoe sale. (I joke. Do not blow your credit on shoes.)

Passions fade. Impulse purchases (when you have the money) are fine for things like a pack of gum or a side of French fries. But think long and hard about bigger purchases. While a super amazing guitar might be nice to have, it probably isn’t a necessity. Heat is. Be careful about giving in to today’s cravings—something even better is liable to show up tomorrow (you should pass on that one too). (I may have to remind myself of this the next time I go shoes shopping.)

Create a money plan. You have a study plan (at least I hope you do). You have a summer plan. You have plans for all sorts of things. Make one of those things a money plan (also called a budget).

Leftover money is not the same as leftover pizza. When companies end the year with extra money it’s called profit. When you end the year with extra money it’s called being smart. When you forget to eat the leftover pizza promptly it’s called salmonella.

(Please throw out the pizza.)

Love, Mom