Off to College - Mastering Financial Responsibility
It’s that time of year again. You’re planning your last few weeks of summer activities, getting ready to pack the car, prepping yourself for good-byes, and buying the necessary school and dorm room supplies. Supplies that always cost more than you think they will.
Financing a college education is far more than just the tuition and housing costs. There are the costs of everyday living – laundry, toiletries, computers, haircuts, seasonal clothing, doctor visits, etc. Then, there are the extracurricular activities – fraternities, sororities, school functions, sports events, and any educational or recreational travel. Costs can get out of control very quickly.
Here are a few tips to help you maintain control of your finances, cut a few corners, and not feel like you’re missing out.
Tip #1 – Bring as much from home as you can – bedding, trash cans, extra hangers, dishes, towels, and shower accessories are sometimes items you can find around the house. There’s no need to buy new what you already have.
Tip #2 – Ask for gift cards for birthday and holiday gifts. Gas cards, gift cards to coffee shops, restaurants and laundry mats will help you get through the daily cost of living and help you budget.
Tip # 3 – Think carefully about getting a part-time job. If the class-load is too much, find employment over college breaks. Consider babysitting, pet sitting, or a seasonal job such as retail during the holiday season.
Tip #4 – When buying your books, investigate buying used vs. renting them. Most of the time you can sell them at the end of the semester if they are still in good shape.
Tip #5 – Ride your bike, use public transportation, or walk.
Tip #6 – Cut out cable, and cut back on your cell phone bill. Use your school computer or campus Wi-Fi instead. You can often watch television shows and movies on your computer for a fraction of what it costs to get cable or a large mobile phone data plan.
Tip #7 – Don’t automatically buy the largest meal plan. Buy a small meal plan and adjust it once you’ve figured out how often you need it.
Tip #8 – Shop where student discounts are offered. In most areas your college ID will get you discounts on purchases. Do your homework and take advantage of these opportunities.
Tip # 9 – Sell what you no longer need for extra cash.
Tip #10 – Use a financial tool to keep track of your spending habits. If your financial institution doesn’t offer one, there are many free apps out there.
Tip #11 – See if testing out of classes is a possibility. Why pay for a class if you don’t need to?
Tip #12 – Consider becoming a resident advisor in your dorm - many get free or discounted room and board.
Tip # 13 – Set up a checking and a savings account. Be sure to use your savings account so you can earn interest on your money.
Tip #14 – Do your homework on grants and financial aid. There are a lot of hidden grants out there, and you shouldn’t automatically assume you don’t qualify for assistance. Check in with a school financial advisor to make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity.
Tip #15 – When shopping for groceries, make a list, don’t go to the store hungry, and consider splitting the cost of meals with a roommate or friend.
Tip #16 – Avoid getting a credit card if you can, as they can get out of control easily. However, if you can pay them in full every month, handle the responsibility of making on-time payments and not overcharge, consider getting a credit card that gives you points or pays you cash back.
It’s to your advantage to get informed, get organized, and be mindful every day of the difference between wants and needs. Remember, you’re there to get education, and that should include learning healthy financial habits (and a little fun).
As always, we’re here to help! If you need assistance with college funding call or stop in today.