When the times comes for teenagers to leave the nest and enter the world of college, there are a lot of things for both the student and parent to think about. This can be a young adult’s first taste of freedom, and with that freedom comes the responsibility of keeping one’s own finances in order. For those about to enter college, or those who are already enrolled and need some extra guidance on best practices for finances in your late-teens/early-twenties, here are 10 tips to get started.
1. Shop Around for the Best Bank for You
Sometimes when students leave high school and enter college, they continue to use the bank account they opened four years before. However, local banks that are close to campus or larger, national banks may have more to offer than the hometown bank used in the past.
With banks taking to mobile apps, exploring the branches near the college or university where the student is enrolled will provide more value. Besides the ability to deposit checks through phone cameras, bank phone apps also provide enrollment in automatic bill payments and the option to transfer money to a specific recipient. Comparing minimum balance requirements and other bank-specific details helps narrow down the search for the best financial institution to rely on for the next four years.
2. Apps Help Keep Things on Track
Today, there is an app for everything. So whether you or your student needs to start saving money or budgeting expenses, you can go into your mobile app store and see a list of the most reviewed and recommended apps for financial health. These apps help break down monthly finances, budgets to adhere to, and tips for increasing your credit score.
3. Don’t Take Credit for Granted
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Credit follows people for several years after its initial use. When college-age children arrive on their university campus, they may meet several representatives from credit card companies or they may have arrived on campus with their first credit card in hand. It’s best to save these cards for emergencies, and as with bank accounts, shop around for the card with the lowest interest rate and low or non-existent annual fees.
4. Buy Books Secondhand
For overwhelmed college freshmen, heading into the university book store to purchase their textbooks might seem like the fastest and easiest option, but other sites like Amazon.com offer much cheaper options for second-hand books that won’t break the bank and can be sold back at the end of the semester. In a majority of cases, the university library also carries required texts.
5. Take the Bus or Train
It might seem like a great idea to bring a car to campus. However, keeping up with insurance and weekly trips to the gas station can end up being less cost-effective in the long-run. Opting to take the bus by purchasing a monthly bus pass, or catching a ride with fellow students who may live close by, is a great way to cut down on extra-expenses with the added benefit of making some life-long friends on the way.
6. Calculate How Much You Really Need in Student Loans
Submitting college applications is very high on the priority list of most high school seniors. Also high on that list should be submitting applications for scholarships and grants that can reduce the amount of student loans needed, or make them completely unnecessary. Once budgeting is completed for the upcoming year, college students can then go on to take out subsidized student loans with lower interest rates, and should avoid privatized loans that can have much higher interest rates. This will make it much easier once students have graduated from college and the reality of monthly rent, credit card payments, and other debts like car payments, students loans and a title loan sets in. Student loans won’t be as worrisome at that point because there won’t be as much to pay back.
7. Save a Little Each Month
College students might think they can’t afford to save money. However, there are small, daily things that can be done to begin putting away small amounts of cash that will build up over time. Any change given to students, from buying pizza, meals, supplies, etc., can be stored away and then put into machine, like a Coinstar at the grocery store, once a month or deposited directly into their bank account. Change adds up over time, and the final sum can be safely deposited into a savings account, preferably one that earns interest.
8. Get a Flexible Job
Some people may tell you not to work while in school so you can focus on your studies. Thankfully, there are several campus-based jobs students can apply for that gives them time to be present for work while also being productive for class. This includes being a clerk at the library, scanning student IDs, or becoming an RA, or resident assistant, that has an “on-call” based schedule. Putting in several hours makes it possible to make money while also keeping on-top of course work.
9. Take as Many Courses as Possible
Taking more classes per semester, like 5 or 6 instead of 4, will help students take to the graduation stage much faster. A whole year can be cut off of college if additional courses are enrolled in each semester. While this may increase tuition, students won’t be paying for an extra year of room and board and the additional yearly fees all four-year students must contend with.
10. Meet the People Who Will Change Your Future
Doing well in school is, or should be, the focus for each college student, but creating online business profiles, such as a LinkedIn account, and making connections that can develop into career opportunities once graduation is over, creates a clear path for the future of any student. Leaving college and immediately beginning a career in a chosen field can be as important as having a high G.P.A. Sometimes the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” can make all the difference in a recent college graduate.
College students may have a lot on their plate, but any of these small steps, many of which can be taken before the student even steps foot on campus, will make a huge difference in their monetary health during college and several years after. Their future will be more secure because not only did they get their education, but they did it with financial responsibility.