If you are on the verge of graduating from college or you have recently graduated, congratulations! For many young adults, college graduation marks a major transition into adulthood and the world of post-graduate employment. It also guides in a new phase of personal finance.
Now that you’re in college, it’s likely that you are in charge of your own financial affairs more so than when you lived at home and functioned mostly as part of your parents’ economic universe. Certainly, you have more freedom to decide where and how to spend money, especially if Mom and Dad are many miles away.
1. Create a Budget
When learning how to save money as a student, the first order of business should be to create a budget – one that is realistic and manageable. You wouldn’t manage a full course load without some sort of calendar/schedule as a student. The same is true for a budget, which is simply a financial plan that is reduced to writing. With regard to budgets, additional financial tips for students would include sticking to a realistic budget.
2. Take Control, and be Responsible
Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to neglect your finances when there are so many other challenges to meet and adjustments to make regarding college life. But you simply cannot begin your adulthood with bad money habits, and college is an excellent place for you to decide to take charge of your personal economy and be responsible with your money.
Even if your parents continue to pay some of your bills tuition, and room and board, for example you should work out a plan with them for shifting your other expenses to your control. You need to have a solid, well-thought-out financial strategy in place from Day One with you at the helm.
3. Know your Financial Aid Options
Most students need some kind of financial aid to help pay for their education. The key is in making the most of the options available to you.
In addition to university-specific scholarships, research whether you qualify for other funding thanks to hobbies you pursue, the major you’re going into, and organizations you and your parents belong to. There are scholarships and grants out there for more than you might realize, and the more you can avoid borrowing to fund your education, the better.
4. Get a Part-Time Job
While for most students, weekends are for sleep and pizza, you are up and ready early morning for work. Wait for the month to end and see the tables turn!
If your college permits, try and secure a job working on-campus and then do whatever it takes to keep that job throughout college. Having a job for the 3-4 years of university will keep money coming in and reflect fabulously on your resume.
5. Keep Track
Create a routine for yourself that includes a regular accounting of your finances. By keeping careful records of what you’ve paid out and what you have left in your account(s) to cover the remainder of your monthly expenses, you’ll soon have a very clear picture of your financial situation.
This financial self-knowledge is a key to keeping yourself on track. It’s not that you have to know every detail down to the last penny, but having a good idea of when you can hit the ATM for a few spare bucks, and when you have to rein in your appetite for an expensive meal off-campus, will make your life calmer and allow you to worry about more important matters like your grades.
6. Boost your Credit Score
There are several ways to improve your credit score that requires little effort and expense. Poor credit scores preclude individuals from the best rates in the market and increase the cost of borrowed funds. Maintaining a solid and robust credit score is some of the best financial help for college students as they move towards an independent financial future. Experian, one of the three largest credit repositories, offers an opportunity to raise your FICO score.
7. Avail Student Discount
Being a student can get you money off almost anything, from a new clothing purchase to a trip to the movies. Check for special discounts on every item you wish to purchase. If you do not see any advertisement around for it, be cheeky and ask for its availability. This could really make a difference in the amount you end up saving towards the end of the month.
8. Rent Books
Instead of buying course books from stores, try these effective methods:
Rent: Many companies offer textbook rentals now, which allow students to use books at a low cost and return them at the end of the semester. Look for rentals available for both print and e-books.
Take used books: The best advantage of being a regular college student is having a student-library at your disposal. Borrow books from the library or buy low-cost used copies before buying new ones. If your library doesn’t allow that, check them out for a 2-3 hour span when you are studying.
Sell back: Keep your books as neat as possible and sell them back to your college bookstore at the end of the term. If your college won’t take them, try a local bookstore.
9. Alternative Transportation
Instead of driving to college and spending money on petrol and parking tickets, how about you try the local metro instead? With the comfort of direct metro lines and air-conditioning at a much cheaper rate, this seems like a more viable option.
If a transportation system doesn’t exist or isn’t safe or reliable, try to work out class schedules with friends and carpool. If you’re close enough, walk to class, get some much-needed exercise.
10. Create Savings Goals
You have a lot of financial goals. You will be faced with big purchases in the near future, if you haven’t been already. You’ll decide whether or not to buy a house or car, among other things.
Think about your future now and create goals to work toward. If you think you’ll be purchasing a home in the next few years, create a down payment fund. If you want be purchase a car start saving for that. Try to save as much cash as you can for those big purchases.
11. Take Identity Protection Seriously
You think you would never fall for the scams but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your identity stolen. The government has seen student loan-related identity theft soar in recent years. Use a free credit monitoring service, keep a check on your passwords, and check your bank account regularly.
12. Credit Freezes
Child identity theft is a problem, and the three big credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have grudgingly begun to allow people under 18 to freeze their credit files. When a file is frozen, creditors generally won’t open a new account because they can’t check the applicant’s credit. That should stop thieves who are trying to impersonate your child.
A credit freeze isn’t supposed to prevent you from adding your child as an authorized user on your credit card. But just to be safe, it’s probably best to wait to set one until after you have an authorized user card in hand.