Financial Tips for College Students – Part 1

With summer vacation just around the corner and many college students going back into the job market for a few months we decided it was a great time to put a blog together that would help college students better handle their money. The fact is, with just a little bit of advice and help, personal finance isn’t really that big of a mystery. With that in mind we put together a number of concepts, ideas and advice that we wish we had when we were in college. Enjoy

One of the biggest mistakes that young adults make is, when they finally get out from under mom and dad’s rule, they start spending on all of the things that they weren’t able to spend on before. New clothes, new gadgets and so forth. While this may be enjoyable for a time it can definitely set up a person to have money troubles in the future. Better to seek some financial advice and, if you’ve made the Dean’s list, treat yourself to something but don’t spend everything.

Joining a credit union is an excellent idea. Try to stay away from the ones that are giving away free T-shirts or Frisbees and instead find one in your town that has excellent services and fits your needs as a new saver.

Unless you absolutely, positively need one you might want to stay away from getting your own credit cardin at least for a while longer. A debit card is a much smarter idea and will allow you to have instant access to your money if you need it but won’t let you spend any more than you actually have in the bank.

If you are really keen on getting something, say a new laptop, Xbox or smart phone, you’ll be better off saving for it and paying for it with cash than putting it onto any sort of credit line that the store selling it to you will undoubtedly offer. Keep in mind that they don’t offer these credit lines out of the goodness of their heart but because they realize that most young people won’t pay it off directly and that they will make money in interest fees and possibly late payment fees as well.

Organization and planning will serve you well in the future so start organizing and planning now to keep your finances in order. Both are an important financial skill that you will use frequently as an adult. If you have Quicken on your computer you should also track your spending to make sure that you don’t overdraw any of your bank or credit card accounts (if you have them). This will also help you to see what your spending habits look like and, if they’re not so great, change them before they ruin you financially.

Very few successful adults don’t have a budget to guide them. If you want to be a successful adult as far as finances go you’ll thus obviously need a budget, even if it’s just a simple one. This will help you to not only keep track of your spending but see where your money is going and help you to save more of it than you thought you could.

You’ve probably seen mom and dad putting receipts into shoeboxes and, while this may seem a bit silly, it is actually a great way to keep track of not only what you are spending but also make sure that you are not being overcharged for purchases, even if by accident. Of course you don’t have to go ‘old school’ like mom and dad, especially with the plethora of receipt apps available for your smart phone. Get one of these apps and get rid of the shoeboxes.

As far as campus life is concerned here are a few quick tips on saving money that will help you.

  • Buy used textbooks and, when you’re done with them, sell them back or sell them to another student.
  • Skip going on spring break. Frankly, unless you can afford it it’s a huge expense and there are probably dozens of things that you can do around campus that will be just as much fun and much less costly.
  • Keep your car at home. Unless you live home and commute to campus every day you really don’t need one on most American college campuses. Not having a car will save you a ton of money on gas, maintenance, parking, insurance and so forth. If you need to get around on campus use your feet, a bicycle or find a friend with a car and chip in for gas once and a while.
  • Do you hang out with guys and girls who spend big bucks all the time? If you do, but you don’t have the same access to cash as they do, you’ll be more prone to spend your money and end up much more broke than they are.

We hope that this blog has been a valuable lesson in adult finances. (Yes, we know you’re sick of lessons but this one is important.) Anyway, do yourself a favor and use some of them to hold on to your money, get a handle on real-life finances and get a jumpstart on becoming a successful adult. In a few years, when you’re there, you can come back and thank us.

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