When you’re in college, you’re likely more in charge of your financial affairs than back when you were still living with your parents. You also have more freedom to decide how and where to spend money, especially if your folks are miles away.
Alas, with that freedom comes the responsibility to spend your money wisely. Otherwise, you’ll end up experiencing the consequences of your bad choices. If you don’t want that to happen, here are some of the actionable financial tips you should know as a college student:
1. Look For Available Financial Help
Did you know that college students can benefit from various relief programs available by state? You can also find scholarships suited for you.
Fortunately, there are myriad financial aid options a college student like you could take advantage of. Some even offer a fast and streamlined online application. Just make sure to check the requirements or qualifications to know whether or not you’re qualified for the program before proceeding.
2. Use Credit Wisely
If you don’t have a credit card, it might be an excellent time to understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. First and foremost, keep in mind that credit cards aren’t a source of free money, which means that any balance you use up has to be repaid.
Unfortunately, it’s said that one of the common college student financial gaffes is using their credit cards recklessly. Once you do this and you don’t pay your bills on time and in full, you’ll accrue late fees and interest charges on top of the principal. And before you even know it, you might be dealing with neck-deep debt. Therefore, never be sloppy when using credit cards, as the costs may mount quickly.
If you’re planning to get a credit card soon, make sure to look around for the best deals by comparing interest rates before you sign on the dotted line. Low introductory rates that may climb up in a few months are typically offered by lenders to lure in uneducated borrowers. So, always remember to read the fine print.
Whenever possible, start with accounts with low limits and use them sparingly by remembering to pay it full monthly. This way, you’ll be able to establish a solid credit history that may continue throughout the years. Having a healthy relationship with credit can benefit you once you start searching for your first house or new car in the coming years.
3. Have a Budget
Another essential financial tip for college students is to have a budget. You have to determine the amount of money that flows your way from various sources, such as student loans, scholarships and more. Then, make sure to estimate your expenses for bills, books and toiletries. Put the categories and numbers in your spreadsheet and balance everything with something left over for savings or emergencies.
Once done, your next step is to commit to sticking to your budget. Staying true to your budget helps you avoid debts. So, when you want to spend impulsively, especially for something you don’t need, always check your budget first. Let your budget be your guide, and never jeopardize your college life by creating debts you may struggle to pay back after graduating.
4. Keep Track of Everything
When you know how to build a college budget, keep a routine that includes the accounting of your finances. By keeping records of what you have left in your account and what you’ve paid out, you’ll have a clear picture of your overall financial situation.
This financial self-knowledge is the key to keeping yourself on track. It doesn’t mean that you need to know every little detail, but having an idea of when to hit the ATM for a few bucks and when you need to rein in your tummy for an expensive meal can make your college financial life worry-free.
5. Get A Job
Although college requires a lot of work, it’s also a good idea to get a part-time job to earn money on the side. The money you’ll earn from working while in college can provide you with discretionary funds. Plus, you can boost your self-esteem.
Many colleges offer work-study programs that allow students to create a work schedule around their schooling. Usually, the pay isn’t that much, yet it can be a huge help for your college expenses. You can earn from stacking books in the library and manning the dorm office on weekends or for a few hours at night.
Look for retail jobs with part-time hours or restaurants that need additional personnel for only certain times of the day. If you work during the summer, be sure to put some income away for use during your next school year. Once you get used to saving and working, you’ll surely do it for the rest of your life.
6. Find Student Discounts
As a college student, you should be a master at exploring different ways to save cash.
Typically, vendors, services, restaurants and local venues near college campuses offer student discounts that can help you enjoy savings during your college days. Some establishments in known college towns do offer regular savings to bona fide college students. You can also look for discounts or great deals online on an abundance of products and services like insurance.
The Bottom Line
The best money habits you start to practice in college can serve you well during your years in the university and into your post-college life. If you don’t know where to get started, always keep the above-mentioned tips in mind and use money wisely.