Financial stress is a part of life, and college life is no different. Whether a student has parents who pay for many expenses or parents who encourage economic independence, every student should learn and practice some basic financial principles to keep them afloat during school and prepare them for the future.
Learn the difference between wants and needs.
Setting priorities is crucial for financial success. Think about the most basic needs you have: food, clothing, housing, safety, etc. Create a list of must-haves on which you’re unwilling to compromise but be willing to make some sacrifices.
For example, do you really need to buy that $100 shirt from the mall for your first day of class or can you learn to live with a more basic, not-name-brand version for only $20. Think through different categories where you spend more than you need to spend to meet a specific need.
Create a budget
List out the individual expenses you have per week or month. Consider textbooks, school supplies, gas, rent, and food. Keep track of your various expenses for a week or month and organize them by priority. Then list your regular income for the time period and compare the two amounts: expenses and income. Look for areas to cut cost, but also set expectations for and limits on future spending.
If you find that you’re having trouble keeping track of your expenses, there are a variety of smartphone apps that can help, and if all else fails, you can always make notes of your expenses in a checkbook register.
Apply for scholarships
One of the greatest ways students can save themselves money is by taking the time to talk to their school’s financial aid office and research scholarships online. Many organizations and foundations offer multiple scholarships to students within minority groups, with a distinct cultural background, from a specific state, or even with an interest in a certain major.
Doing a little research can pay dividends. Some scholarships do require a little more work than researching and filling out forms or applications. Many companies give scholarships for excellent essay writing skills and proven dependability, but either kind of scholarship can be well worth the effort.
Say no to credit cards
Overspending, especially going into debt, is the fastest way to financial problems. If you don’t have the money in hand or in a checking account, don’t spend it. Banks and credit card companies may bombard you relentlessly offering low interest rates and great deals, but the temptation to overspend is simply just too great.
However, though credit cards can be and often are dangerous, responsible use of a low interest card can help build good credit and set you up for success in the future. Consider making a small recurring payment each month on the card like paying for gas or a single meal. Just make sure you pay off your balance quickly every month.
Use student discounts
From movie theaters to travel websites, many companies offer students discounts for all products or specific items. Don’t be afraid to ask. Students can save huge percentages on many necessities simply by asking about student discounts and showing a student identity card.
Part-time jobs and work-study opportunities provide real-world experience while creating necessary income. Even a busy schedule crammed with classes will have some room for a few hours of paid work during the week.
Consider your interests, goals, and schedule when determining the best fit. If you’re going to use some of your precious time to work a part-time job, it might as well be something that will help you down the line.
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