If it’s your first time out on your own, you may not have thought much about personal finance. Even if you worked part-time in high school to earn money for clothes, video games or a car, you probably don’t have as much experience in managing a personal budget. These tips on personal finance for college students can help you hit the ground running with financial savvy.
Understand Your Loans
The cost of college is expensive, and it may take various sources to achieve funding. This means that you might need to borrow from private lenders to make up the difference between federal and the total cost of tuition and expenses. It is important to understand that as much as the loans feel like free money, they are not, and you should be responsible in how much you borrow so that you do not struggle later with the repayments.
You might even be able to start paying off some of the interest while you are still in school to ease the financial burden later on.
Make a Budget
With your loans and any other money you have for college, such as savings or scholarships, you will know exactly how much you have to spend each semester, so you need to make a budget to make sure you don’t run out of money. You also know exactly how much you need for such major expenses as housing and tuition, and your discretionary income will come out of what is left.
Make a spreadsheet or download an app that you can easily load expenses into daily, or get an app that will track your spending for you if you nearly always use your debit card. Sticking with a budget might seem difficult and cause extra stress, but it also means you never have to worry about deciding whether you can and can’t afford certain things.
Avoid Credit Cards
Credit cards are the downfall of young college students. Broke, financially inexperienced and watching wealthier—or maybe just more irresponsible—peers spend money on clothes, vacations and entertainment can make it hard to resist this siren call, but you need to do so all the same. Student loans are a kind of ‘good’ debt that you incur in the pursuit of a valuable college degree and higher lifetime earnings.
There is nothing good about credit card debt unless you can pay it off monthly, building up a credit score. If this is your aim, look into getting a secured credit card where you put down a few hundred dollars up front. This will keep you from losing control of your debt.
Look for Discounts
From used textbooks to student discounts, if you are savvy, you should not have to pay full price for things very often. This may be especially true if you are living in a college town, where the economy is dependent upon students. Restaurants and other establishments will often have student specials, and even banks frequently offer student-friendly accounts that do not accrue service charges and offer other perks.
You also may be able to save on many types of software. Always shop around for a student discount if one is not immediately available.