As a college student, you’ll find yourself busy with academics, a social life, campus groups, internships, and possibly athletics. Finances may not be a very glamorous topic, but it’s important to figure it into your time so you’re not constantly worrying about money, and to develop healthy money habits. Check out our tips for thriving on a college budget.
- Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica, and…Budget?
Budgeting is crucial so that you understand how you spend your money, and to prevent yourself from overspending in certain areas. Even if you keep a running list of all your expenses for a month, you’ll probably feel like you have a greater sense of control over your finances.
There are many ways you can budget. Keep notes in your phone, make an Excel chart, use the "envelope system," or check out the variety of mobile budgeting apps out there. No matter which you choose you’ll have a clearer picture of the money coming in and going out, and how you can make changes to improve your financial health.
When you budget, you need to be honest about your income and expenses. Make sure you look at your net income, not your gross income. And remember, budgeting does not mean just checking the balance in your account every day.
- Two words – student discounts
They’re everywhere so make sure you carry your student ID with you at all times! Keep track of all the free or discounted activities that take place on your college campus too.
You can find student discounts everywhere including software companies, auto insurance companies, clothing retailers, museums, gyms, sporting events, restaurants, movie theaters, cell phone providers, public transportation, subscription memberships, and more. It doesn’t hurt to ask wherever you go!
- Be sensible about student loans
Do you know how much you owe in student loans and the types of loans you have? It’s important to know so that you’re aware of the interest rates and how much you’ll have to pay back. If you can, make small payments on loans while you’re in school. This could help offset some of the interest on any unsubsidized loans you have.
The biggest piece of advice we can tell you is to only borrow what you truly need. If you find that you do need a little bit of extra funding after exhausting all other resources (federal loans, scholarships, grants), then you may want to research private loans. Private loans are offered through credit unions, banks, and other private lenders. They are credit-based loans that may require a cosigner.
- Make some dough
Why not apply for an internship, work-study position, or a part-time job? Academics are the reason you’re in school and require a lot of time but it doesn’t hurt to work if you’re able to manage your time wisely.
Check with your counselor and professors for possible internship opportunities. Attend networking events and job fairs on campus and in the community to make connections and learn about different opportunities. Not only will you make some money, but you’ll be adding experience to your resume.
College is costly and does require financial planning but you don’t want to be overly stressed about money. Prevent this and thrive on a college budget by establishing good money habits now. Good luck to all students starting school this semester!