Organizing and managing finances can be a daunting task for students heading to college for the first time this month and for anyone on the threshold of their careers and adult lives. Check out our financial tips to simplify the process and help lay the foundation for financial success in college and beyond—even if you are a starving student.
1. Beware of Credit Cards: Credit cards can be very tempting with free offers attached to them. However always remember that credit cards don’t equate to free money. Research which credit cards make sense based on your spending needs and paying ability. Spending more than what you can afford can lead to high card balances and costly interest charges. Having a line of credit is not necessarily a bad thing if you are able to use it responsibly.
2. Have a written budget: Making a budget and sticking to it is critical to financial independence. It is important that every dollar coming in and going out is categorized. Otherwise, untracked spending can get out of control. Avoid giving in to your emotions when you want something you can’t afford – find a less expensive compromise or plan to save specifically for that thing.
3. Research before you spend: Whether it’s buying textbooks or buying college meals, a little research goes a long way. Buying books from a bookstore on campus can be more expensive than buying online. You could also consider borrowing books from a library or renting books from online sites such as Chegg.com. Look at the various college meal plans offered and take advantage of student discounts offered at neighborhood restaurants and businesses.
4. Have an emergency fund: It’s smart to have some money saved up to take care of unexpected expenses. Not only will you be less financially stressed if you know you have some money saved for life’s surprises, it will also help keep your budget in-line.
5. Take advantage of technology: Set reminders for yourself on your phone or computers to avoid missing important dates. There are several financial apps available (check out our post on mobile apps) like Mint to help you keep track of bill dates so you don’t pay unnecessary late fees and interest charges.
6. Protect yourself from Identity Theft: Do not share your personal and financial information with roommates or anyone either in person or on the phone. It is important to be vigilant and monitor your financial accounts regularly. College students can have their sensitive mail, like financial documents, forwarded to their family homes.
7. Borrow as little as possible: With the immense student loan debt crisis our nation is facing, it is important to limit your borrowing. Borrow only what you absolutely need in order to pay for college. Explore all financial options before you commit to a loan. If you do need to borrow, be clear about the financial terms of your loan before you sign any loan documents. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or consult a trusted person to advise you.
8. Invest in Yourself: The best financial investment you can make is in yourself. You are the best money-making tool you’ll ever have. Learn skills that will help you move faster toward your career goals. Seek out internships, volunteer and choose your college courses wisely.
These tips may seem simple and old-fashioned, but they’re sure to lay the foundation for a secure and successful financial future for any savvy student.