The bags are packed, you have your class schedule, and it’s time to head off to start your college adventure. We know it can be easy to get swept away by the independence that comes with leaving home to further your education, but before you get to caught up in the excitement, be sure to take a moment to consider some things that you can do with your finances as you enter this new stage of life.
Set a Budget
Take a moment to sit down and write out what your expenses are, and how much you want to allot per category. Establishing a budget is one of the main keys to staying on top of your money and giving you peace of mind. Make note of how much money you have coming in and make a plan of exactly how you are going to spend it. Keep track of every penny you spend, and do your very best to continue to contribute to your savings account, even if it’s a small amount!
You might be surprised to find that there are a plethora of discount opportunities to be taken advantage of with your student ID card. Keep that ID card with you as you go grocery shopping, out to eat, getting your car to be washed, and beyond! Become an expert on the deals available to students and save as much money as possible.
Use Your Credit Card Wisely
Going to college has a way of helping you look into the future. While considering your major and preferred career path, take a moment to think about what you can do to build your credit. One easy way to do this is to use your credit card wisely. Help your FICO score go up by using your Visa Platinum on the essentials, like gas and groceries, and pay it off as quickly as you can. Jade Beckman, vice president of consumer loans at Mountain America Credit Union, advises that “you should always do your very best to stay on top of making payments on your credit card if your goal is to up your credit score.”
Skip the On-Campus Bookstore
One of the major expenses that college students find themselves burdened with is purchasing their course’s required textbook. It’s especially frustrating when you get to the end of the semester and you find that you only used that $180 book twice! Before shelling out hundreds at your university’s bookstore, plug your textbook titles into Amazon or a used bookstore website. Ask some of the upperclassmen if there is a local used bookstore you could sift through or a good Facebook group to check out. You have the potential to save a substantial amount of money, and at the end of the semester, you can use the same resources to sell it to someone else. It’s a win-win!
Keep it Simple
While it may seem fun to go on exotic excursions with classmates or splurge on sushi for your late-night studies, be sure to keep your budget in mind. If you’ve reached your grocery limit, fancy snacks are out of the question and you’ll find yourself preparing some ramen instead. Instead of joining your friends for that weekend trip to Vegas, hang back and take advantage of some fun, free activities around your college town. The time will come for those other activities, and it will come from you working hard in school!
Before resolving to take out a loan for the entirety of your school fees, take some time to look into what scholarship opportunities are available to you. You might be surprised at what you find you qualify for. Take an afternoon and apply to as many as possible-it doesn’t hurt, and even if it’s just a couple hundred dollars, that’s a couple hundred less than your going to have to pay once you’ve earned your degree. It’s totally worth it!
Make School Your Top Priority
What does prioritizing your classes and schoolwork have to do with your finances? Whether you’re paying for your schooling yourself or funding it another way, furthering your education takes time and money. I failed class here and a skipped semester there will start to add up, and not only will you fall behind in your degree path, but there is the potential of losing quite a bit of money. Stay on top of your schoolwork and study for those tests and make the investment worth it!
This is one of the biggest and most exciting rites of passage into adulthood, and you deserve to jump in with both feet and get started. As you prepare for the beginning of your college education, be sure to take the time to set a budget and make some goals to ensure that you are a success in both your studies and your finances. Study hard, save mindfully, because you’ve got this!