College is an exciting new phase of your life. Whether you decide to reside off campus or in a dorm room, living on your own can make you realize all the day-to-day basic necessities you need to purchase in order to live comfortably and take care of yourself. From toiletries to cold medication, snacks to weekend adventures and everything in between, tuition and a meal plan don’t mean you’re completely taken care of in college. Therefore, any financial advice can be useful in order to keep your spending under control and avoid unnecessary credit card debt.
Financial Advice for Life in College
Budgeting – Developing a realistic and manageable budget is a lifelong skill that is essential for anyone in college or preparing to go to college. Start by using a budgeting worksheet to get an accurate picture of your income and expenses. By comparing and contrasting your total income and expenses, you will be able to create a feasible budget plan. By sticking to your budget, you will avoid going into any unnecessary consumer debt.
Wisely Choose a Bank / Credit Card – Consider your specific banking needs and services, not just the freebies you’ll receive when you open an account. Think about location. Is there a bank that is in both your college town and hometown? Don’t forget to see if there are any fees associated with your account or card. Use the Bank Account Comparison and Choosing Credit Card worksheets in ACCC’s College Financial Workbook.
Use Credit Responsibly – It can be tempting to make purchases with a credit card when you’re short on cash, but make sure you’re not biting off more debt than you can handle. Racking up credit card debt now can severely hurt your credit score and your chances at obtaining other lines of credit in the future. It can also hurt your chances to rent an apartment. Only charge what you can afford to pay back quickly.
Monitor your accounts on a regular basis – Take a few minutes each day to log into your accounts (including bank and credit card accounts) and check for any suspicious activity. This will help safeguard you against any fraudulent charges and potentially identity theft. Check out the financial advice on what you should do if at any point you fall victim to identity theft.
Save – Consider retail jobs, paid internships, federal work study jobs, and tutoring to earn and save money while in school. It’s important to save for now and for your future – for an apartment after graduation, student loan payments, or a relocation for a job. Get any financial advice you can get from any and all resources available. The saving by cutting back guide from ACCC is a great resource that can guide you.
Use your Student ID for Discounts – Not only will you need it to enter your dorm, the dining hall, and the library, but your student ID can also earn you discounts at hundreds of retailers nationwide. If you are not sure if a company offers a student discount, just ask. Check out the College Financial Workbook for a full list of discounts.
Research the Cheapest Options – From textbooks to meals and clothing make sure you do research online to see what your best options are. Is your textbook available to rent? Is there a used version online or in a store that can be bought at a fraction of the cost? Can you shop more at bargain grocery stores, thrift stores for good deals instead of the department stores?
Be aware of your financial situation – Too many students graduate from college without any idea of how much they’ll have in student loans, or how much to expect to make at their first job. Make sure you know how much school costs per year, what your parents are covering, what you’ll be expected to cover, and budget for rent and living expenses accordingly.
Refer ACCC’s college planning resources for more information.