The time you spend in college can be incredibly beneficial. Not only are you getting an education, but you're experiencing first-hand what it is like to live on your own with minimal outside support. While college life can be incredibly exciting, these first few years can have a devastating effect on your financial future if not planned out properly. Here are some financial tips everyone entering college should keep in mind.
Create a Budget
Now is the time to learn how to create a budget and stick to it no matter what happens. You are likely on a very fixed income, based on what you are getting for living expenses from your student loans, from family support, or from what is likely only a part-time job. Make a list of your known expenses, like meals not covered under your university meal plan or gas for your car, and make sure you have enough set aside for these things each week. You'll also want to set a limit on any excess spending you do.
Stick with the Dorms
Many colleges require freshmen to live in the on-campus housing. Other students may prefer the freedom of living in off-campus housing, renting apartments or houses alone or with others. Take a very close look at the expenses involved with both. You may actually find the convenience of living in a dorm to be a bit less stressful, especially during the more intense years of schooling near the end of your degree program. Besides, in a dorm you will not have to worry about the unreliability of others to pay their portions of the bills.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
You were issued a student ID when you started class, so make sure you use it. There are dozens of places all over the country that give discounts to students. Showing your college ID to your movie theater and local restaurant can save you a considerable amount of money – and those are far from the only places offering discounts, too. Always ask if a student discount is available.
Open a Savings Account
Mom and dad won't always be able to bail you out of difficult financial situations. Start a savings account now and you won't find yourself high and dry the day after graduation. It doesn't matter if you deposit $5 or $50 – adding something on a regular basis will ensure you have some cash on hand when you really need it.
Ditch the ATM Card
Your ATM/debit card may make purchases incredibly convenient, but it also makes it easy to lose track of your expenditures. Use your card to withdraw the cash you'll need for the week and then leave the card at home. You'll have a better visual idea of how much money you have left and you'll be less likely to tap into next week's budgeted cash in advance. You'll also want to make sure you are using a bank that does not charge ATM fees. If your bank doesn't have a local branch near your college you may want to consider switching.
Keep a close eye on your finances throughout your college years. Doing so will ensure you don't end up in debt before you have a decent job and will make transitioning to the working world that much easier.
About the Author: Deborah Blair is a full-time writer with a major focus on personal finance. She writes about saving money, credit repair, and finding secured bad credit loans for those with poor financial histories.